Friday, April 5, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #4

My previous three posts highlighted the importance of some fundamental teaching practices that we implement in our classrooms at Veritas:
-planning unit and daily lessons with the end in mind, before planning activities
-writing clear, student-learning-focused learning targets
-sharing learning targets with students

As we continue to review the Four Foundations 'Top Ten', we come to #4: 

"I make it a habit to plan frequent formative assessments to check for understanding during lessons."

Formative assessment, or checking for understanding during learning well before any tests or grade-book scores are taken, is an essential practice that great teachers use routinely. Teachers need to know how close students are to grasping the learning target, and students need this feedback, as well.

To be effective, checking for understanding must be frequent, involuntary, and all-inclusive. All students need to be checked frequently. Just  calling on eager volunteers who raise their hands gives both the teacher and the other students a potentially false read on the understanding of all the class. 

Formative assessments should, of course, be connected to the learning targets. This connection not only guides what is asked but can also influence the means. For example, a learning target that calls for students to "recall" or "list" will be easily checked by an exit pass. A target of "evaluate" will require something more--some kind of discussion or extended written assessment will be needed. 

For more on checking for understanding, see The Four Foundations of Great Teaching (pages 10-15).


Friday, January 18, 2019

Four Foundations Top Ten Habits #3

Making learning targets clear and sharing them with students is fundamental to good teaching. Students who understand what the learning is about are more engaged and better focused on the learning (as opposed to the activity or the grade) than those students who are not clear about the goal or target for the learning. 

Next on the Four Foundations 'top ten' list is:

"I make it a habit to share the learning targets with students."

Sharing the learning target must become a reflex, a habitual practice. As teachers, we should feel uncomfortable with proceeding with the lesson until we have posted (at least in secondary classes) and shared the learning target.

There is room for variety in this, of course, but the principle is foundational: learning targets need to be shared with students. In elementary classrooms it may look different depending on the abilities of the students and the subject. In secondary classrooms, however, it will probably mean writing the LTs on the board and making sure students understand them before engaging in the lesson.