A comment on one of our most recent posts asked:
How do you manage to have EVERYTHING for the whole year prepped ahead of time?
I'm struggling to stay about 4-5 lessons ahead of my students... this is in part because of my team. We have common assessments that we create during our PLC time (roughly 4-5 lessons ahead of when we plan to give them) and sometimes, throughout the course of the semester, our experiences determine that we need to add, remove or rearrange a few learning targets to meet the needs of our students!
Additionally, I've 2 students who are just plain outworking me! They're quite persistent and as soon as I've completed a lesson, they're working on it and have it finished (and, yes, mastered) before I've got the next one ready!!!
I love my self-pacing (as do most of my students) but am definitely looking for ideas to help improve things for next year.
I've had some conversations recently that addressed some similar questions or concerns so we figured we would dedicate a post to answering those!
How do you have EVERYTHING ready for the whole year?
I most definitely do not have everything for the whole year prepared ahead of time. I wish I did and I'd like to get there someday but that day is not today. I try to stay about 3 lessons ahead of my students but I do not have to work in a team to make common assessments so that allows me some freedom to stay ahead of my students who are currently working. Sometimes that just doesn't happen though! I have had a couple of times this year when a student would let me know they are ready to take the assessment for goal number __ and I didn't have it done. At this point I asked them to email me that they were ready for the quiz so that I had a digital reminder to get it completed when I went home that day. After they send the email they have 3 options: keep working ahead and start to study for the next goal, help another student study for their goal (this student must not be taking an assessment), or work on their math project. Adding the math project this year has been a life saver in multiple ways. It allows me some extra time when I feel like I am drowning in work. I don't feel like a bad teacher when I don't have the assessment finished for a student 100% of the time because I'm not stopping them from working. The project has so much more engagement and ownership because they are 100% in charge of designing what their project will be. I also love not having to look at the same project or repeating the same directions/guidelines 1,203,920,409,459,345 times. If you are looking for something other than busy work to give to students when you just don't have the next thing done, I definitely recommend a student led project.
What do you do when students aren't working?
You do the same thing you would do if students weren't working in a traditional class period - whatever that means for you. I've talked with some teachers who have said that's the student's choice and if they want to waste time it's on them. Others would ask students who aren't working to leave the room. Whatever your strategy is in a traditional classroom, do the same thing in a self-paced room. The nice thing however is that you can have individual conversations a lot easier without calling attention to a student because everyone is doing their own thing.
How do you grade so many tests or make sure they don't just tell each other what is on the test?
I use Canvas to create my self-paced course. It allows me to make question banks filled with the types of questions I would ask for each goal but will pull only the amount I ask it to. Basically, I could have multiple students sitting next to each other, each taking the same quiz but none of the same questions. Canvas grades the quiz immediately giving feedback to the student so that they know if they need to do more work or are ready to move on. If they pass the quiz (12/15=80% or higher) then they show it to me and I enter it into the grade book immediately. Our school also has GoGuardian which allows me to monitor their screens or restrict them to specific sites. This helps me to catch students who may be cheating. At my previous school we had lockdown browser which locked students into Canvas and kept them from going to any outside sites.
How do you test things like graphing?
There are some goals that just don't lend themselves to the test setup on Canvas. I do create paper tests for those goals. I create multiple versions of each and get really good at grading them quickly after a few tries! I've considered making them multiple choice tests but right now I just think having them graph the problems are more important.
Do you give partial credit on Canvas tests?
Not unless it is blatantly obvious that the students knew what they were doing. I encourage students to do the work on paper so that they can check their work. If I see that they have the correct work and answer but just mis-typed something in the computer I give them partial or full credit for the answer.
What other questions do you have about self-paced classrooms? I'm more than happy to answer them with what I do in my classroom. It is 100% not perfect but I am trying to do what I think is best for helping students master math! Bring on the questions and good luck with the last month or so of school! :)