A few fortunate weeks in Thailand with the family was simply a great holiday gift. With the calendar ticking away, it’s time to gear up for the second semester and this begins with a look back over student feedback at the end of the first. What information did they provide to me about themselves and the classes?
Note – This year was a bit of a change in that I returned to teaching math and science. I have two groups of students for these core classes and the subject alternates daily.
Not surprising is the mix – students are so varied! What some like, others detest. What some need more of, others think is too much. Where is that sweet spot? How do I weave in enough practices for each student without them feeling bogged down?
First – bed times. Am I surprised as to how late these students are going to bed? The majority are heading to bed at 9:30 or later.
Next up was a look into classroom community. For me, this is an important aspect. My ideal is a class where all students feel super supported by each other and myself. It’s a constant work in progress. I would love to always see “rarely”. The other class was similar. In one class, there is still quite a bit of work cut-out to develop a strong community. A teaching partner and I have been spending more time on team-building games, conversations and supportive comments to build this community. More in store for 2016!
A couple of the written responses that lined up with “rarely” include:
- Well, I don’t really enjoy math, it can be confusing to me and I don’t like calculating numbers.
- I’m not that interested in math and someone of the questions are hard for me. I don’t understand a lot of the questions.
Take-away: I need to reach-out more to those students who are not interested and not enjoying things. It was also interesting tracking the comments to find that these students were the ones the least interested in math talks. They want more projects and less discourse.
I find it interesting that some of the “rarely” answers fell off as the questions shifted a bit.
How do you learn? I try to often vary types of learning experiences in my class and asked a series of questions on how they learn best. Again, results from the two classes were fairly similar.
So, do I take it that my students just love learning and that most ways work for the majority? Reading a text book began trending more towards an unsuccessful way as well as at-home projects. Classroom conversations have a good group at the “3” but I hope to continue working on that. Text-book reading and at-home projects took little time over the semester and the possible message is that work at home (in general) is not one that students appreciate. I’ve almost phased out most homework and will continue. It’s almost gone!
Here are the results that I feel the best about! I am so happy that students feel that they can ask questions and get support. Now, I need to keep reaching out to those students who feel that math/science is not for them.
Progress in Science – in general students feel that they are making progress and are challenged. Up next is a step into geology. Typically students are split in their interest and challenge of this topic though I love teaching it – one of my science favs!
What would you like to see more of in science?
- Group Conversations
- Using concepts in real-life situations
- -Labs and teacher explanations/classical teaching
- I would like to do more of experimenting because it can help you understand better and also it will not be boring.
- More projects, because I learn best when I put my skills into real life problems.
- We could do more labs, but also watch more videos. I usually learn better while watching a video or doing a lab, than just reading a textbook. When doing a lab, I’ll also collect evidence to help support or refute claims.
- I think we should have more reading materials since this way makes it easier for me to understand.
- I think we should do more labs in class to help us understand concepts and get that ‘ahah’ moment when we finally put things together and understand it rather than as a fact.
- Putting the information we learned into one model (ex. the review for science test hexagons or food to fuel online model)
Watching science videos
- -I think having more lab experiments help me learn and it’s also fun!
-Group discussions and class discussions both are really helpful to me in science.
-When Mr. Frank introduces a new topic, I think he should add in more examples of the thing. For example, carbohydrates: we know that glucose is the simplest form of carbohydrate, but what others are carbohydrates? I think this will make me have a clearer image of the object.
- Have time to work and research by ourselves. If there is a time where we have to understand a new science word or a new concept, then maybe there can be time for ourselves to look for the new information. Sometimes, the teacher can offer us a good website or can introduce a small video to keep us going.
- I would like to watch more videos. No matter how disgusting they are, they really help me learn about what happens and I get a bigger idea of the subject. I really liked that video we watched about food traveling through a baby’s body because it helped me see and understand the digestive system more well.
In science, what would you like to see less of?
- Labs (funny the things that end up on both lists)
- The things i want us to do less of is sitting in the chair and just talking.
- Less reviewing by talking, and more activities.
- I think we should do more activities and less class conversations because most of the time, I don’t really understand what the others are talking about and it gets kind of confusing.
- I wish we could cut down on online simulations, since I think it kind of takes away from the hands-on experience.
- TESTS! They make me really stressed and sometimes that affects how I learn.
How about math? From the comments, some of the students are not feeling fully challenged.
Student math comments:
- I would like us to do more of problems where we work as a group, because I think that in math, I work better in a group.
- Similar to science, each class is varied and there a an array of activities to do each day, so I think there isn’t anything that we should do more of since it’s already a huge variety.
- More activities to help us understand the concepts, and longer time to understand them before the test comes.
- I would like to have more worksheets in class to work on independently.
- I would like us to do more of teacher talking and explaining.
- Last year, my math teacher used to do this thing to teach us new concepts. He would use the smart board and without saying anything, would try to teach us the concept through his drawings. While he was drawing, we were allowed to think out loud about what he was doing. With him doing those drawings, I used to learn more quickly because I am a visual learner. It helped me improve a lot in math in 6th grade.