Monday, April 25, 2005

"Thinking About Your Own Thinking"

I love reading Erica Jacobs' column in one of our local papers. Jacobs invariably brings me back to my own days as a high school senior, and then she tweaks my teacher-heart with her practical wisdom. It happens every time!

This last week, Erica writes, “Trees are in bloom and students' eyes have become shifty: to the window, to the person sitting to the right, to the Game Boy surreptitiously being played on the left.” Don’t we know it! As a means of recourse, this sly teacher brings up the use of self-evaluation as a tool for hooking distractable, unmotivated students who would rather NOT be doing work.
“But be sure to include a self-evaluation. They will try harder to please one another and
themselves than they ever will to please you.”

I am reminded of a project I undertook in the spring of 2002. It was the end of my two years of masters work, and my team mates and I were frantically putting together a paper to describe the various strategies we implemented in our classrooms. I was analyzing the results of several strategies that had made a difference in my students’ learning, when it became clear that the simple change to include a self-assessment form with each lesson had made a small but noticeable improvement in grades. Using a smiley face picture rubric, my second graders were asked to “think about their own learning” by monitoring their own attitude, effort and achievement after each academic workshop time (3 times a day).

I remember being struck by how self-reflective 7 year olds could be.

All these years later, Darren really stands out in my mind. Struggling to overcome severe ADHD, inconsistent medication schedules, and a violent, abusive home life, D. often spent workshop hanging upside down from his chair with little interest in whatever we were doing. When the self-eval form was introduced to the mix, he often took it upon himself to try to complete the activity. He was his own best critic, and when I pulled myself from the singular role of managing him, he found the resilience to manage himself. More often than not, he tried. Sometimes. Well, at least 50% of the time.

I am left to wonder why I didn’t bring this technique with me into the following new school year. After all, it had worked for several kids. D. moved on to a new teacher, and perhaps the little ones who stayed with me seemed too immature to tackle this kind of self-evaluation technique. But I see now I need to pull my files and explore again the value of this very cool strategy. I have a few second graders who just might be ready to “think about their own learning”.

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