April 2, 2015


My students journal at the end of every class (usually a couple sentences to reflect and wrap up). We have a weekly schedule for questions this year. I love our block schedule for the reduction of transitions, but I did really miss seeing kids every day and being able to build routines off the days of the week. Having a double block (90 minutes every day) means I'm use day based routines again, and in the process I realized they work just fine for my alternating day PreCalc class, the cycle is just Tuesday, Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Monday: What is your goal for the week?

I've done quarterly and semesterly goals in the past but my co-teacher reminded me that 9th graders need to focus on the short term. Some kids say things like "Do my homework every day." Other kids are aware of an assignment they need to do so they will set a goal to get a specific task done or come after school. Still other kids know there is something they need to improve so their goal might be to focus better in class. Then there are a few kids who set goals outside of math class (make money, sleep). Those are good too!

Tuesday: What did you notice? What surprised you?

I love notice and wonder. When I have a particular problem that I want students to notice from, that prompt is sufficient. It just seems too vague to leave all on its own as an end of class question. Sometimes kids notice something about math. Other days kids notice something about the class: "We were all focused today!"

Wednesday: What did you wonder? What questions did you ask?

This question has the added bonus of allowing me to emphasize how important questions are for learning. Many of my students need to build their advocacy skills. They also ask questions about why class runs the way it does that I'm able to answer when I respond.

Thursday: What is one good thing that happened this week?

For a few weeks I included the subtitle "Every week may not be good, but there is something good in every week." Now they all know better than to say "Nothing." It's fun to hear the little bits of excitement - new puppy, visit with family, making money shoveling snow...

Friday: Did you meet your goal for the week? How or why not?

Too many students have forgotten their goal by the end of the week. Which says a lot. If nothing else, this prompt is a reminder that they have goals. It also means that I have some extra motivation to both read and return Algebra's Monday journals by Friday (PreCalc does a full cycle on one sheet and hands them in at the end). I usually read them during my lunch duty (every other day) but frequently forget to hand things back. Papers can linger in the "things to hand back" folder for a while.

The weekly schedule covers the first question each day. The second question is specifically related to the content of the day. For example, this week we started talking about exponential decay so I asked students to come up with as many different definitions for the word decay as they could. (Making connections to solidify meaning!) Way back in 2012 I listed many of the types of prompts I use.

A really important aspect of this process is the open lines of communication. Sometimes kids ignore the prompt and tell me why they're mad at me. I write back. Sometimes kids set a goal that is way too low. I write back. The PreCalc sheet has a spot that asks "Anything else you want to share?" and sometimes kids do. I write back. It's also a nice spot to put a note when kids had an extra great day or having been sliding lately and I want to give them a push in the right direction. Mostly I put smiley faces or write "True!" but even that is validation that I care enough about what they shared to read and acknowledge it.

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