Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I am in the middle of FIP Your School (FIP=Formative Instructional Practices) training in my district.  FIP training consists of watching a couple of online modules and 2 days of workshop training.  Our first training day was 2 weeks ago.  The facilitator was a third grade teacher turned presenter.  As a former third grade teacher, I felt connected to the presenter and tried to soak it all in.

One thing that stood out to me was a technique Kelly (the presenter) used in third grade math class.  When working on a math lesson, she had 3 different activities out for students.  They had to self-evaluate where they were with the particular skill being practiced and decide which group they should go to.  One was an "enrichment" or higher level skill activity, one activity provided practice of the skill, and the third group was with the teacher, who provided extra learning support.  If at any point during the math lesson students needed to move to a new group, they were able to do so.  I couldn't wait to get back in my classroom and try it out.

A few colleagues said "in kindergarten?!?".  Yes, in kindergarten!  We have been self-monitoring using "thumbs up, thumbs sideways or thumbs down"for a few months to tell me where you are with a skill.  When returning, we had been working on subtraction for about a week.  I explained this activity through thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down.  If your thumb was up, it meant that you knew how to subtract and you had to try to "beat the timer" (building fact fluency).  As a first time trial, students had 3 minutes to complete 10 problems.  Once completed, students went to a subtraction game on the computer.  A thumbs sideways meant that you thought you could subtract on your own, but you definitely needed some practice.  These students had the same problems but went to table on their own and worked through the problems. Manipulatives were provided and students could ask one another for help.  Thumbs down meant that you were very unsure about subtraction and needed help to complete subtraction problems.  These students stayed with me and were helped as needed.  If at any time you though you needed to move to a different group, students were free to do so.

I had a very proud teacher moment when 2 students in the "thumbs sideways" group came back to my group and said "I think I need your help".  You get it; you knew when you couldn't do it on your own! The students with the timer did quite well.  Those with me got the help they needed to complete their assignments.

Fast forward to today.  I put a piece of paper out and said, "If you think you are ready to subtraction on your own (complete the short cycle assessment for math), write your name on this paper."  I had 10 students write their names down.  Of those 10, 9 complete all eight problems accurately and the other student missed 2.  I was pretty impressed with their self-monitoring skills.

If you stuck with me through all of that, thank you!  How do your students monitoring their learning?

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