When students come back to my class in August, I have the luxury of knowing where they left off in June. Either they were in my own classroom, or they were in the classroom of my evil twin working on coordinated assignments and assessments which let me know exactly what they know. It's fun to meet them on the first day with feedback of where they were and how to set goals for the first two weeks-hit the ground running.
So now we are entering week 3 (2nd full week) and it's time for the students to start setting their own goals. For several years I've been working toward having students evaluate their own performance toward mastery and set goals for how to achieve the next level, and we are making a dent. On Friday, the students took a self-test, evaluated it themselves and set goals with specific tasks that will help them get there. And my job, this week, is to help them get it in motion.
Let me be more specific. 8th grade Latin students must know noun endings in order to determine the use of a noun in order to put it in the right place in a sentence in order to determine the meaning of the sentence. (yes, this can work in the opposite direction too, which is the trick). Students figure out how much they know and where the gaps are. Then, I have to provide the practice, steer them to the right one, and help them measure their growth.
I've consulted "On Common Ground"'s section on Assessment for Learning, pp. 76-77, and was fortified by two statements: "Use. . . assessments in collaboration with students to track improvement over time." and "Assessment promotes growth and then verifies it." I'm convinced that students who develop the ability to assess their own performance in middle school will have a distinct advantage in the future. And I'm all about Latin providing all the advantages that it can.
So, after they evaluated their performance we had some basic-middle-advanced discussions and the goals are, certainly, mixed in how useful they are. How am I going to hone this skill? Okay, first, I'm going to send them to the right practice in wordchamp. Second, I'm going to have to use a simple hand-made chart in the classroom for awhile. Third, I'm delving into how blackboard can help me create groups that have a common goal and organize students into smaller learning communities.
I'm asking lots of questions of other teachers in my plc, including you all, and am looking forward to making a big dent!
On a lighter note, gaping void has become a daily destination for me! I urge you to check out the thoughtful cartoonist Hugh MacLeod!