With the year over and now well behind it is high time for some reflection. On my class final I ask students 5 open-ended reflective questions about my class. I usually wait a few weeks and then read through them to see what I did right and what I did wrong. If you don't use any kind of survey with your students I suggest you do. It is, for me at least, very affirming and yet challenging - both things for which we as teachers ought to strive.
Here's some (admittedly hand picked comments) from my former 7th graders:
Q: After finishing this class how do you feel about history?
A: I feel like doing more research on what we've learned.
Day 1 I tell my students that my goal for the class is that they will leave with a love of history and a desire to learn more of it. Most of them come in with no interest (or experience) in it coming out of elementary so if I can shift that I've done my job. I feel like I did a pretty good job on this front this year. It was a challenge trying to integrate a new focus on primary sources while keeping interest high. As that balance continues to shift towards sources and away from "fun" stuff maintaining that goal might be tough.
A: After finishing this class I feel like I know everything about world history.
My poor students. I really do ask them to learn a ton and they rise to meet it. A great compliment, even if it isn't true!
A: I feel smarter because I learned more this year than any other year.
The main reason I give a final exam to 7th graders is to remind them of how much they have learned over the course of the year. When they get questions right that they learned about 10 months prior it is a big boost to their confidence.
A: I feel great. I actually learned something unlike my other school. Mr. Roughton is a fun and helpful teacher. My old teacher would just show videos and scream.
Well, glad I could top that!
Q: What type of activity did you enjoy most?
A: I think I mostly liked doing notes because that's how I would understand the best.
I'll be doing a separate post on the importance of lecture even in a Common Core world but it is always fascinating to me how many of my students answer notes to this question.
A: The activity that I liked the most was taking notes because they were fun and interesting.
A: I liked the CYOA the most because you got to choose the one you wanted out of many choices and plus they are really fun.
CYOA is very divisive. Just as many kids said it was their least favorite as said it was their most. It is just so different from that which they are accustomed. This is why it is important to do many different types of things. Each student is going to be drawn to different things.
A: I really liked the Culture Shocks the most because we got to try different and hard things while having fun at the same time.
Teaching middle schoolers that it is okay to fail is vitally important. (Working title of my book I'll never actually write is Failure IS an Option). Culture Shocks challenge them to do things that are not hard but just not familiar. Watching them fail at performing a Renaissance dance and laughing all the while is a great life lesson that not only engages them but teaches things no other lesson really could. One could argue, quite easily, that the Culture Shocks do not directly teach any standards (Common Core or otherwise) and I wouldn't care. That isn't the point of every single lesson I teach.
Obviously this is just a tiny sample of the responses but they are a representative cross section. As far as other questions go there was less variation in the answers. A vast majority picked the TCI Feudalism simulation as their favorite lab (followed by the Renaissance dance and the Crusades Pilgrimage.) Many still hate the Letters Home assignment because it requires so much writing. That stuff is less exciting to share.
Of course, there is always a risk when you put out student surveys. Sometimes you get answers to the first question like:
A: I feel that this test was useless because many of the questions didn't have to do with every hard country we learned. I feel Social Studies is useless to be honest.
Oh well, can't win 'em all.
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