Everything I needed to know I learned in …

…my daughter’s kindergarten class.  Well, not really.  But, I did learn a lot from volunteering a few hours a week last year.  Most of it is not applicable in this post, but here is one strategy that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher used that I admired and will be trying out tomorrow: personalized goals.

One of my helpful tasks in the kindergarten classroom was to update the folder each child kept at school.  In the front of each child’s folder was a page with three goals on it.  Some students were working on learning their lower-case letters; others were working on putting spaces between words when they write sentences.  The range of abilities reminded me a lot of my aural skills 1 classroom: you’ve got to help the people who arrived with less access or exposure to the topic get caught up (without frustrating them!) and you have to keep the people who are currently ahead of the curve challenged.  And keep everyone in the middle learning too…

We have a wide range of experience levels, abilities, work ethics, and open-mindedness in the classroom.  Some students were very close to passing out of the class; others would benefit greatly from a third class meeting a week to help them catch up to their classmates.  And it’s hard to create a setting where everyone gets something out of every class.  So, I have an opportunity tomorrow to work with and speak with every student one-on-one. In addition to assessing the short assignment they prepare and perform for me (and hopefully hearing their fundamentals), we are going to sketch out some personal goals for every student.  I will be seeing 36 students in fifteen-minute appointments (yes, that’s 9 hours), and have the forms ready to go.  I’m going to keep the forms, photocopy them so that we both have a copy, and return them during Wednesday’s class.

I’m hoping that by giving attention to the diversity of strengths and weaknesses in the classroom that the more experienced students will take more ownership of their learning and the weaker students will feel more enabled, since they will leave with some accessible (first) goals for the class.

[Why am I doing 9 hours of appointments tomorrow?  Because I cancelled classes today so that I could observe Rosh Hashanah.  It was worth it.  Of course, tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, but I still think I’ll think it was worth it after those 9 hours of appointments.]

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Post-Course Reflection (19 Dec 2012)

I like this idea, but I really goofed up using it. The exercise of having a discussion with students about personal goals was valuable and worth repeating. But I lost a ton of bang-for-the-buck when I didn’t follow up later in the semester.  I needed to have passed back out the forms we filled out together to have students reflect on how their personal goals were going; whether they wanted to change them, how they can better accomplish them, and what I can do to help facilitate their learning.

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