Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grading Smarter Not Harder Book Club - Unit Plans

I have linked up with Jen Bradshaw of Teaching, Life, and Everything in Between and others to do a book study on Grading Smarter, Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  I am really getting into this book.

My school system has devoted much time in the past talking about assessment and grading -looking at both formative and summative aspects.  It is a topic I am very interested and believe in, but still need to work harder to feel comfortable and accomplish.
Unit plans are one of those things that I have thought about doing for my students, but have yet to do.  I am determined that I am going to select one of the subjects I teach and work on them for the remained of the year.
We as teachers use unit plans to guide us all the time, but how many of us actually hand a student-friendly version out to our students?  I can say that I never have, and do not know of any of my colleagues who do it regularly.  Honestly though, I am really liking the idea.  Don't we all like to know where we are headed, so why shouldn't our students.  

The author discusses various types of learning targets:  knowledge, reasoning, skill and product.  They do not necessarily all apply to everything we teach, and some just lend themselves better to particular subject areas or content.  Whenever possible, we should provide our students with examples of the types of learning targets in which they will be assessed.  
Because I am a self-contained 3rd grade teacher, I teach a little of everything:  reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and a little of anything else that should pop up and need to be addressed.  In saying this, I guess all four types of learning targets are applicable to my classroom.  They all apply to all the core subjects in some way - maybe not in every unit.  This all depends on how the content standard are worded and how in depth the standard expects us to dig.  

In order to teach most anything, we need to establish a knowledge base.  Reasoning also tends to fall into place with the core areas I teach.  However, depending on the specific content, we may address it with a skill or a product - sometimes both.
Yes, I do think that students should have the opportunity to observe and analyze the work of others (students and/or others) before they embark on their own work.  Do I do this all the time, NO!  I know that I work better myself after seeing a model.  It actually allows me to see where I need to go - much like the unit plan, and what is expected of me.  

I know that some people think that students just "copy" from these models, but my opinion is if they take the time to recognize and copy a good model, at least they have had the experience of what good work looks like and had to read or examine it so they have learned at least a little of what I wanted them to learn.  Another argument that often arises is that individual student creativity is taken away, but I disagree.  I think that looking at a model enables me to be more creative.  I always wanted to shoot for better than what the model was, and I have watched students do the same thing.

I am trying to build a collection of previous projects that we have completed, but often times I am chaining things up some, and I don't feel that it will match what I want.  Unfortunately, I just have not taken the extra time to create models myself either.  This is an area that I want to really improve / increase.  
I know we have to start small and build our way slowly to our goal, but how do others find the time to do everything?  I create my unit plans, and I need to convert them to student friendly versions, but it is so much simpler to say that I will than actually carrying that out.

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