Connecting the Dots: Follow-up

Disclaimer #1: I am currently in a post-conference hangover—that day after high where you are just buzzing… and then the two day after low where you don’t even want to adult. I was just nerding out with 19 other K-12 literacy folks from Beijing to Oman to Laos at Riffa Views International School in the Kingdom of Bahrain. I am part of a literacy coaching cohort and we meet 5 times over a year and a half. This group of individuals challenge me to be better and remind me of the value of making CONNECTIONS

ncteDisclaimer #2: I am feeling a little DISCONNECTED from my students at the moment [insert major teacher guilt here]. With all the happenings this month in and out of school I will only see my classes half of the time that I should. And with AP and IB classes, that is a significant chunk of time. The balance of teaching and professional development can be a tricky one. However, I am excited for Baltimore and NCTE next week where I will CONNECT with the MovingWriters team for the first time in person!

The Follow-up…

In my previous post, I discussed the benefits necessity of setting up a process for formative work and revision early in the year. As a high school English department, we created a process that is used across grade 9-12 to ensure consistency and transparency.

A reminder of that process:

The process (Linked Here) is for the IB and AP classes at my school. However, we also have a version for grade 9 and 10 (Linked Here)…it is similar, just a bit less intensive.

There are two parts to :

  1. The Formative Process—to ensure students are handing in their best work (not just a first draft) when an assessment is due.
  2. Revision—to ensure a more effective (and efficient) process to improve their work and develop their self-directly learning skill set.

[There is also a safety measure in place where students are not able to participate in the revision process without first completing the formative process requirements.]

Image result for Q & AWhen I published the last post I was in the midst of the first full round with my IB Language and Literature class, and I had a few wonderings. And now that I have completed the process, I have some answers:

WONDERING: How many students were going to take advantage of the process? 

Out of my 35 IB students, 9 completed the full revision process. 25%, not bad for the first round.

WONDERING: Were the students who took the opportunity to use the process going to find it beneficial?

I did a little anecdotal survey for this, and I am happy to report that all 9 of them said this process was useful. One student said that “having the steps laid out helped [her] to see the end goal and that kept [her] motivated to complete them all.”

WONDERING: Were these 9 students going to show more of an increase on their next in-class summative in comparison to the other 26? 

This was the data point that clinched it. Every Single One of those 9 students increased their overall score. Connection established! 

And that was all within a 4 week period of time. Out of the other 26 students, 25% of them also increased their score. This could be attributed: (a) a better emotional state, (b) the class debrief, (c) student sample activity, and (d) students taking their own initiative to watch YouTube videos on “how to score an IB 7 on the paper one”. (I love how when they say they did this, they do so sheepishly, as if I don’t know they exist – haha)

This leaves 50% of students who pretty much stayed at the same level. I am hoping that by showing them the data of those initial 9 students, they will make the connection between this process and their success.

Why does this matter?

Image result for memoryNeuroscientist Catharine Young (in this Guardian article) discusses that “the most successful construction of a memory takes place when new content is linked to prior knowledge. Allowing students numerous opportunities to analyze and reflect on new content” will take information from short term memory into long term memory.

I also recall hearing the acronym R.E.M connected to this concept…and I am not referring to Rapid Eye Movement or the band (age dependent)…I am referring to Relevance, Emotion, Meaning. And now you will hopefully remember this, too, as I have accessed some of your prior knowledge…you just made a connection!

We can tell students over and over that they need to practice applying new skills and strategies, we can tell them over and over that they need to make new content meaningful and relevant to their own context. But if they don’t experience this meaning making, if they don’t feel it themselves…then their understanding will most likely stay in short term memory.

Image result for connectionsIt is our job is to provide multiple opportunities for long term connections to happen and then to NAME it when it does. I use this language in my classroom, often as a closing activity I will ask them to tell a partner: “How did you help move something from short term into long term memory today?” It is a mindset—students taking the responsibility to engage in their learning process.

How do you provide opportunities for meaning making? What connections do you focus on? What processes do you have in place to help students revise their work? Share your ideas with me on Twitter: @readwritemore

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