Why again?

One of my goals for this year is to be much more consistent with making sure students know why we’re doing what we’re doing. Specifically the purpose of assignments. I think this is especially important since we’re not grading anything – in my experience kids will only hoop jump for so long if there’s no extrinsic motivator (ie. grade) attached to something. To be clear I think this is important all the time, but it specifically means for me there are zero “cause I said so” instances.

Well, it’s not even the end of week 2 yet and I’m already not doing so hot with said goal. Oops. One of my students’ first assignments was to make a timeline of their mathematical history. While we discussed the integrated nature of our courses on the first day, I didn’t specifically put the purpose of the assignment on the handout. I should have known that anything we did in those first few days just sort of added one more piece of information to the huge pile of overwhelming information and experiences that are the beginning of grade 9. Good thing it’s early in the year and there’s lots of room for improvement. Extra good thing I had several boys think they were funny by posting their grade 9 mathematical event as “Made this timeline. Not sure why, but it was pretty fun.”

Before I handed back their timelines for improvements, I revisited our integrated model and the purpose of the assignment and got a huge chorus of “OOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhs.” The idea that work they do in math “counts” in the social studies class they take across the hall is still a little confusing for them, which I think is likely a much larger commentary on our school system than I’d like to get into for this post.

In the future, to keep myself really focused on the purpose of what we’re doing I’m planning on:

  1. Writing which outcome we are working towards on the board in a visible location. (This shouldn’t be difficult but I always forget.)
  2. Using unit outlines for the students. On the front is the outline, and on the back is what I have them self-assess with during the unit. I wish this one was prettier, but I was running short on time and I just couldn’t bring myself to put clip art of a calculator on it.
  3. Including a purpose statement on all assignment sheets. I hope this will be helpful for students not only as they’re doing their assignments, but as they go to curate their portfolios.

Anything else I’m missing?

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