July 11, 2016

Landmark Workshop: Organizing

An important theme at the Landmark Workshop was helping students stay organized. All students need to work on this but students with language based learning disabilities need some extra cues to help them with this process.

When students tried to complete their math practice portfolios and subsequently organize their binders each quarter I recognized that students struggled to complete these tasks. Some kids weren't sure which papers were important to keep - putting all quizzes on blue paper (or any color) would help them identify those papers as important, and also help them gather study materials when they prepared for a test. As students filled in their portfolio reflection sheets I noticed that some sheets just said "Activity" at the top and so students couldn't figure out what to put as the title. Most assignments I've typed myself have clear titles (though I do find myself referring to papers as 'that coloring activity' rather than the title which students can read off) but the ones we make with Kuta software have useless titles unless I remember to change them. Organizing binders more frequently than quarterly would be smart.

I use google drive to upload copies of my assignments and the daily notes (thank you smart board). Landmark uses google classroom and some participants were sharing how great it is when students can't claim they lost their work. It's so hard to type math though that I'm not sure how much more I can be using google drive. Perhaps setting up a folder where students could share desmos graphs would be useful at some point? Or for kids who really struggle with organization to scan their work? Possibilities. The presenter also takes photos of student work (at the board and on their papers) to share at conferences or to look back at while planning.

One teacher shared her INB and had an envelope taped in full of cards her students used to practice computation with fractions. Giving each kid a set of digits (a couple of each) and operations would allow us to do open middle problems without any prep. They'd probably get crumpled but at least the kid who has to use the crumpled ones is the kid who crumpled them!

We also worked on long term planning. When students have a multi-step project to work on the presenter has them write each step on a separate piece of paper and then tape them - using a single piece of tape at the top - to a calendar. This way students can lay out their plans, consider their schedules (I never do school work on Saturday) and, most importantly, adjust as needed. Something is bound to come up; that doesn't mean skipping that step or quitting on the whole project, it means reworking the calendar. The presenter only goes through this process with his students on paper once, then has students use other means. A google doc with a grid to copy and paste into? Events in whatever calendar the student uses? Reminders on their phone? Mini assignments in their agendas? Whatever the kids uses, integrate into that system. If the kid doesn't have a system try a few until they find one that works (which could be the cut and tape option we started with!).

Along with long term planning for kids, we also talked about long term planning for teachers. A shared calendar for all teachers of each grade would allow us to be aware of field trips coming up as well as making sure we're not all giving a test on the day before vacation. My 9th grade team of teachers is working on using google drive, a google calendar for the team would be great. It would also be a nice place for students to check to see what's coming up!

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