I’ve been MIA over here on this ol’ blog! Besides the usual back-to-school business, I’ve been having so much fun interacting with folks in the #ShadowCon17 follow-up online course for my “Seeking Students Who Hide” talk back in April at #NCTMAnnual. Shout-outs to Dan Meyer, Zak Champagne, and Michael Flynn for the opportunity to share and for their ongoing support! P.S. If you’re late to the ShadowCon after-party, I think you can still join in and catch up! Click the link above for info!
School is off and running… one of the smoothest starts to a school year that I can remember. Kids are awesome. Our district is focusing on S.E.L. (Social Emotional Learning), as many likely are, so I feel like our staff is more relaxed overall, just knowing that our focus is to be well, and that we’re being encouraged to take time to teach things that fine folks like Jo Boaler are taking the time to teach. Life is good.
I’ve let so many ideas come and go without blogging about them lately, but you’re holding me to this one! 🙂 Here goes – so I saw this tweet by Paul Jorgens, using Desmos Activity Builder in conjunction with learning targets, and I was immediately curious!
— Paul Jorgens (@pejorgens) September 13, 2017
Quick history: In our district’s PLCs, when new math standards showed up in Texas several years back, we created lists of learning targets, used these as we designed assessments and lessons, and ideally used them with our students (hence the kid-friendly I CAN language).
Whelp, my learning targets have been living in PDF form in a Google Drive folder that students CAN access, but I hadn’t been really doing anything WITH them lately. This kid-friendly language was sitting in Drive, and I was willing to wager that exactly 0% of my kids were reading that kid-friendliness.
Enter Paul’s tweet, and me… being me…. I pretty much immediately opened all of those learning target documents and converted each unit to a Desmos Activity Builder checklist screen. With a test coming up this week, I decided I’d launch the target screen for the current unit for each of my Math 8 classes as the first task in our review.
I started class by asking students, “What are learning targets?” and having that discussion first. Then, I told them I was going to give them a target checklist for our current unit. I asked them to read each target silently and individually, only placing a checkmark in the box on their iPads if they felt like experts on each specific target. If they were even slightly unsure, or feeling like they needed a bit more help before our unit test, I asked them to NOT check the box. I assured them that their responses would remain anonymous, and that our goal would be to look at the class as a whole before we began our review, so that we’d know which concepts to give a little more emphasis.
I launched the Desmos Activity, “locked” students on only the current unit’s target screen, and anonymized them. With the new handy-dandy Desmos Teacher Dashboard, I looked for student dots to all turn blue, indicating that every student had completed the task. Once all dots were blue, I pressed PAUSE so student responses would be locked in.
I showed students the results (anonymized) so we could see which targets included every student, and which targets showed a reduced number of students. “It looks like we all feel pretty confident about representing rational numbers as fractions as decimals, but we lost a few students for scientific notation, classifying real numbers, and estimating square roots.”
*Click the link below to see a quick screencast of the results*
After this Desmos learning targets self-assessment, I gave students a jigsaw activity on paper: 8 topics, 8 groups, one unit topic per “expert group”. For the groups that were tasked with scientific notation, classifying real numbers, and estimating square roots (topics identified as needing more work in our Desmos checklist) I let them know we’d need some extra support and help! Each expert group worked through and presented their problems to the class while the other students checked their own work, made corrections, and asked questions of our student “teachers”.
I would have done this sort of review activity without the Learning Target emphasis in years past, but I felt like identifying areas of concern ahead of time helped with focus! Test day is tomorrow, and while I can’t be sure of a way to measure exactly how this learning target reflection may or may not impact student confidence and competence, I feel like the time asking students to consider every target was well spent.
I personally interviewed students about how they felt after using these learning targets as part of the review process. Here are some direct quotes.
“It helped me kind of get reminded of how much things are expected to be on the test. Everything on the learning targets you expect to be on the test, so you have to figure out for yourself if you actually know what you’re doing or not.”
“Sometimes you don’t know how much you know or how much less you know about math, and if you don’t know it, it will just help you focus on that.”
How do you use “learning targets” with students?
Want to grab my draft activity and tweak it for your own use? Here you go!
P.S. It’s a draft! Our PLC still has some editing to do, as you’ll see when you view the screens, but I thought I’d share anyway so you can give this a go and share back about your own classroom experiences!