One thing I tried: For the first two weeks I used the unit title “Who are we and where are we going?”. The goal was to have a short buffer unit that allowed me to meet everyone and collect a little bit of information (both personal and academic) about each student. This was a shift from a past focus on summer reading (which our department and building de-emphasized in terms of graded tasks this year (thankfully!)). In our district’s conceptualization of personalized learning, the learner profile is the central principle, so starting the year here makes sense. I started building some version of a profile in three ways:
1. Day 1 survey: This is pretty traditional and gives me some personal information about each student. I ask what they do (activities, hobbies, clubs, volunteering, jobs), what they like, and what they’re looking forward to this semester. I also ask for a joke and a self-portrait.
2. Reading log: This year I’m going to have students collect some examples that demonstrate their reading progress in 3 areas (volume, speed, depth), and at the top of that doc I asked some basic questions about how they perceive reading and how they perceive themselves as readers. 2 examples:
They also set a goal for the quarter, which will hopefully allow me to check in with them about their specific goal rather than just giving them feedback about curriculum goals. Their reading goals tended to fall into a couple of categories:
Reading speed: “I want to be able to read faster and read more books than I did last year.”
“Be able to read faster, and read for longer periods of time.”
“I would like to be able to read atleast 20 pages in 10 minutes.”
“Learn to read faster and improve my score on reading ACT.”
Enjoyment: “My goal is to enjoy reading more”
“Read a book that I actually enjoy; a book that doesn’t make me bored and sleepy.”
“Read books I will enjoy/ motivating”
“I also think that challenging myself to read higher level books, or maybe some classics, instead of the fantasy novels that I’m used to.”
Quantity: “Read five books i enjoy”
“Read at least 20 mins of an independent novel a night, and try to read a book a month.”
“I want to read at least one book before the end of the quarter”
“Read 5 non-fiction books, take notes on 2 of them.”
ACT: “I would like to focus more on reading for the ACT and getting better at understanding the type of passages and questions I may come across.”
“To do an ACT practice for the reading section once to do an ACT practice for the reading section once”
“Get at least a 32 on the ACT”
A few others: “Learn how to effectively use techniques I see while reading in my writing”
“introduce myself to different genres/expand my horizons”
“To read all the books I am required to read”
“To make my word choice better”
“To read AND understand all of the books assigned to me.”
By doing this little bit of work to build a learner profile I feel like I can better personalize students’ reading experiences this year and tailor some of our work toward their goals.
3. Writing log: Same idea as the Reading Log–a sort of digital portfolio/collection of links to their work that gives space for self-analysis and goal setting (for the quarter but also for the next piece of writing).
What I liked/didn’t like: Taken together, these three things have given me a decent picture of each student. I like that they each have a personal reading and writing goal to help guide our future conferences. I’m not sure the existing log structure is the best format/technology solution (but it’s a start).
What’s next: I still need to think about how to add habits of mind into the profile (and into the fabric of the course). I know some teachers have done great explicit work with this during the first week so I need to see what they did and find some spots to integrate that throughout the year. In my meeting this week with our principal, Bobby Dodd, I realized that I hadn’t really implemented the personality tests/profiles that we worked on in June yet either. Those could possibly be added later in the year or I can beef up this first unit a little next time around.