Helping Students See Strengths and Weaknesses

Each week I set up both Math and Reading practices for all my students to do at home. Not all students do the practices, mind you, but they are always available. In fairness, some of my students don’t have internet access. Also in fairness, when my students are in my GT class, they are missing work in their regular class that they will have to make up as homework. Adding homework to homework is often not the best way to excite kids for additional learning opportunities. So what can get them excited?

Students often have no idea what all those checks and X's add up to.
Students often have no idea what all those checks and X’s add up to.


One strategy that has worked well with my students has been to give them the tools to recognize their own areas of strength and struggle. For example, I have them log into ScootPad and go to their learning paths. They always marvel at how far they have come, looking at the number of units they have completed. They also love to see their “beehive” as they call it. While they chip away at a set of skills with each practice, they don’t notice or realize that each question builds towards something. And they rarely take the time (or realize the means) to see what they are building towards: proficiency and mastery.

What better way to see progress than a green “hive” staring back at you? It imparts a feeling of instant success! And what better motivation to improve than realizing there is a red “hive” in the mix? I have many students who stare at the red hexagon as if it were a black hole: their face reveals shock, and confusion. As if they had no idea that those little ‘x’s’ at the end of a practice over time actually meant anything.

“Ms. Anthony?” some will question, “I don’t understand. Why is this score so low?”

Others will come over somewhat despondent, as if they have been “discovered” or “found out.” “Ms. Anthony, I know I’m not doing well on this, but I just don’t know how to do it.”

While it can sometimes be difficult for them to acknowledge a challenge, the opportunity it presents for me is well worth it: having kids own their learning and invest in their own outcomes.


Dr. Anthony

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