Friday, June 27, 2014

The Pulse of Student Learning

Do you have your fingers on the pulse of student learning needs? 

Here are six vital signs you should look for:
  1. Weight:  Is the learning load too light, too heavy or spot on? 
    1. Be it too light or too heavy, you (the teacher) are responsible for what and how you serve up the lesson.  If there is too much on the learning buffet, it is up to you to take some off.  If there is too little being offered, most students will seek something other than what you are offering (aka off-task behavior).  
  2. Temperature: Does the cultural climate of your classroom embrace all learners?
    1. Do you make it a priority to establish/maintain student teacher relationships every day?
    2. Do you embrace failure in order to help students learn forward?
    3. Does your class embody unity, responsibility, honesty, respect and grit?
  3. Pulse:  Are you going too fast or too slow for learning?
    1. Are formative assessments embedded throughout the lesson?
    2. Do you use opening and closing activities to prepare for and/or assess understanding?
  4. Pressure:  Does the lesson take into account appropriate levels of rigor/relevance?
    1. Is the unit scaffolded according to the levels of taxonomy or depth of knowledge?
    2. Are learning activities tiered for various levels of readiness?
    3. Can students easily connect the content to the world beyond the classroom?
  5. Respiration:  Are students panting to keep up or perhaps are they breathing deep and heavy from being comatose?
    1. Are there opportunities for students to move forward when ready? Do you always have available to students the next steps in the learning process? Are there anchor activities offered to challenge student thinking?
    2. Are there opportunities for students to slow down when needed?  Do you always have available to students notes from the lesson to reference for support?  Are there manipulatives available for practice? 
  6. Pain: Do you acknowledge levels of comfort by facial expressions and/or outcries of celebration or frustration? 
    1. Are cooperative learning groups the norm rather than the exception?  Often times, it is the moral support offered by other students and/or peer teaching moments that helps students gain understanding and calm frustrations.
    2. Simply ask students how well they understand the content.  Announce something like this:  "Class, using the vitals check sign (which of course you have some version of posted in your room), hands up 1-6 to show me how you are feeling about the lesson right now?" 
Just as there is no such thing as one prescription fits all patients, there is no such thing as one lesson fits all students.  After every vital signs check, descriptive feedback is key to helping both the teacher and the students learn forward.

*To read more about descriptive feedback, check out my post below by clicking the title: