Friday, March 20, 2015

Stack It!

Whether students are turning in assignments for credit, turning in assignments for feedback, or turning in assignments to be checked for completion, the process used by a teacher needs to be fluid and be an effective use of the teacher's limited time.  Some teachers use baskets, folders or drawers. I have found the best use of my time and space is Stack It!

I am a firm believer that students learn more while working productively in groups, so my classroom systems and procedures are designed to maintain the group productivity and allow me to reach every student, hopefully on a daily basis.  After my students finish the correction process, which is no joke and will be laid out in a future post, I say, "Stack It."  These two words are a set of procedures for my students that should take 60 seconds to complete.

Step 1: Finish your last correction and make neat stack of assignments on the table group. Neat means all facing up and the same direction.

Step 2: Put your pen away, take out a pencil and a clean sheet of graph paper (all of my assignments are completed on graph paper). If we were working an investigation the previous day that had not been completed, students would take this out instead of a clean sheet.

Step 3: Put a heading on the paper, put the pencil down and wait for instructions for the next activity/investigation.

The transition time from corrections to work is a time-sucker for new and veteran teachers alike.  Practicing this process with students and maintaining the 60 second expectation saves a great deal of learning time.

Then as students are working on that day's activity/investigation, I am "forced" to stop by every group and "grade" the previous assignment. I put "grade" in quotes because my policies change from year to year, or class to class.  At times credit is helpful to motivate students, other times just feedback on their work is needed, or I just keep track of who did or did not compete the work.

No matter what I stop by every group, look at their work and use what I see to guide my instruction in the coming days.  If I am giving credit, it is usually given for effort toward learning. In other words, did they attempt every problem? Did they write sentences when asked? Did they make corrections and not just change answers? If the answer is yes to all three then credit is earned. If one or more is missing, partial or no credit is earned.

All in all, Stack It saves time, "forces" me to stop and talk to every group, everyday and informs my instruction.

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