I began the school year with a two-week review of basics for each subject, then plunged into the curriculum. I now realize that wasn’t the best idea. Why not? Because as we get into the finer details of the curriculum, I am finding that either my review didn’t work, or the students never really knew the basics to begin with.
For example, I recently gave a short essay assignment: Write a one-page narrative. The results were disheartening, to say the least. I realized my students have little-to-no working knowledge of basic grammar or writing conventions. I see now that I should have done a pre-/post-test for the review and spent the following week or so doing remediation for those ever-so-important basic skills.
I have decided to enjoy my break, then sit down to pinpoint those areas that need to be revisited. We’ll spend the remaining three weeks of our first grading period remediating while still trying to keep up with the curriculum maps (let’s just hope I remember my cape!).
While that idea scares me as a first-year teacher, I am confident in my ability to achieve this goal. My main concern is how to recognize when to move on. I struggle with knowing if we are there yet, “there” being that magical moment when students can demonstrate mastery of a skill so that I can progress to the next topic.
I then wonder if mastery is as big as its ego? Do my students really have to master everything? I know I haven’t mastered every lesson my teachers and professors taught me, yet I think I turned out OK.
If my students don’t have to master it, then when is the best time to advance? Is there a specific quantitative measure I can use to tell me when to move on to the brand-new, district-issued data collection binder I now have the pleasure of maintaining along with my plethora of other folders and reports?
I have been working on making sure I use diagnostic tests in some fashion at the beginning of each lesson. I realize I need to be give more daily formative assessments, such as tickets-out-the-door or other written assessments (so I can review them later without having to remember each student’s answers).
However, I am not really sure what to do with all that data. The obvious answer is to develop remediation activities for the students who perform poorly on post-tests and to amend my lessons to meet the needs presented in the post-test.
How do you go about that? I generally create the lesson plan in advance, giving the diagnostic on the first day along with a intro that provides students with an idea of what we will talk about and where we will end up. So how do you effectively change an entire lesson plan the day of or day before you are supposed to teach it, while still appearing prepared—or even better, actually being prepared?
Any tips or advice you can offer to help me bridge the gap from theory to practicality would be magnanimous (one of our next vocab words!).