Saturday, January 17, 2009

End of Marking Period Reflections and Homework

Friday was the end of the marking period, and the mid-point of the year. It amazes me how quickly time has flown in my first year at this school. I'm still getting used to the 80 minute block schedule, and always adjusting my lesson plans on-the-go as I learn how much learning and instruction can actually fit in that 80 minutes compared to what I think should fit in! A perfect example is the novel we are reading: The Pearl. I had planned to have it finished by the mid-term, but we are only half way through. I think the students are really "getting it," though, so I don't want to sacrifice their learning for speed. I certainly appreciate the patience the students are showing with the novel -- digging deeply and trying to understand it, as it is a difficult text. I anticipate that the next novel done in class, which will be done in small literature groups with little teacher intervention, will be read much more carefully and deeply as a result of the care we are taking together with The Pearl. After all, everything we do together is done with an eye towards building students' skills as independent readers, writers, and thinkers.

Regarding the mid-term exam... I think parents and students will find the grades on the exam to be lower than they had hoped. As I grade them, the general trend seems to be that students are earning about one letter grade lower on the exam than they typically earn for the marking period. This is not true for every student, but it is my overall observation. In other words, if your child is usually an A student, you might reasonably expect to see a B on the midterm exam. I want to tell you in advance that I feel that mid-terms in middle school should be viewed as a learning experience for the students, as opposed to simply a reflection of what they know and are able to do (though it does certainly give you some evidence of that as well). For instance, the students are learning how to review, how to study, what to study, how to persevere through a long test, what they know and don't know from the content of the course, how to handle test anxiety, strategies for approaching a timed test, and what to expect on a midterm exam at the high school and college levels. Please discuss the exam grade (and the approach to the exam) with your child and help him or her to reflect on what was done well and what might be improved upon or changed in preparation for the final. I will be doing this in general terms with the whole class, but can also do it in specific terms with any student who wants to discuss it with me after school.

Regarding homework for the weekend... I was out of school on district business on Friday, and left a homework worksheet for the two classes I have before lunch. As always, green sheets are due. Students should be reading a FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION novel for marking period four, and details and dates for projects will be posted this coming week.

Thank you, parents, for all you do.