This is the second of five blog posts I ended up writing when I was reviewing the exam wrappers from our first Module Assessment of this school year. For more details, please see the blog post on Partnering with Students for background information if interested.
The Power of Exam Wrappers: Part Two
Clarifying the Details
Sometimes, the feedback I get on Wrappers is just about dealing with the day-to-day details of what’s okay in class. I think we forget, at times, that our kids have four core teachers (and sometimes up to an additional four paraprofessionals in a class), plus six more “Specials” or “Integrated Arts” teachers that they deal with in a week. That is a lot of managing expectations from different adults! It’s worth going through the hassle of copying, distributing, collecting, and reading the Wrappers to get the feedback that allows me to clarify details:
Sure! We used to not be allowed to have gum in school, but that appears to have gone by the wayside. Gum, mints, snack…go for it!
Sure! When students are working on the core content, my goal is to have them be thoughtful about their choices. Working with a friend? Be sure it is a productive partnership. Working alone? Think about ways to keep yourself on track.
Make one! We have a review day before every Module Assessment and I’d be happy to give some time for a game. I’m also happy to share games across other classes via Google Classroom. Again, I see this as an opportunity for students to be partners, to be co-creating, and, in the process, to be building more buy-in as they see THEIR game, their creation front and center in the classroom.
Sometimes, I learn from the Wrappers that kids have missed the details. For example, I write the date of upcoming Assessments and also of our weekly long-term assignment (Math Blasters) in the same place on the board every week. Ironically, the student who gave me this feedback, that “it would be cool if reminded what day the test is,” sits right next to this announcement, but he had clearly missed all the times I had modeled that students should check this reminder! I’m reminded again of the power of variability, of the ways in which our best practices and best intentions are no guarantee that the students are hearing or getting what we are intending to share. Without a feedback loop opportunity, we will miss having the chance to find out what the students are actually hearing and getting.
Bringing Students inside our Practice
I think students do their best work when they understand the why (see the Guidelines for Universal Design for Learning, 8.1). The student who wrote this feedback is prone to complaining–he complains about homework, he complains about, in this case, the Skill Assessments, etc. When I met with him, I first asked him if he knows why we give Skill Assessments. (I should point out that he is a student who benefits from the Skill Assessments and the retake policy, as he suffers from extreme attention issues and has needed reteaching and a retake on every single Skill Assessment so far this year.) When I pointed that out to him, he asked if he could “change his answer” and I said no, but what did he really mean? As it turned out, he didn’t like the number or frequency of the Skill Assessments (basically, unannounced quizzes on recent material). I showed him our teacher planning calendar and how we needed to have time between Skill Assessments to do the reteaching, walking him through the conversations we have as teachers as we decide when to give the Skill Assessments. I’m pretty sure he is still not a fan, but I did see him to come a less combative stance on why we are doing what we are doing AND how it benefits students, especially him (and others like him). I think it’s powerful to have students start practicing those adult skills of “I don’t like it, but it’s good for me” even as far back as middle school!