I have been judicious about planning what virtual learning that I take part in this summer. It is so important that teachers make sure they take time to recharge especially after such a hectic spring and an unknown fall. However, I did know that I wanted to set aside some time for the NFLC Virtual Summit.
However, with over 70 sessions and 12 panels, it can be overwhelming! Also, did you catch the presenter’s names?! So many people that I LOVE learning from! Luckily, I can (mostly) rely on Thomas’ suggestion to focus on my goal. (I am going to sneak some sessions in that are from regional conferences that are a bit far away from Virginia.) To be honest, I didn’t have a goal until the middle of the first day. During the first day and the middle school panel, one consistent suggestion was to give more feedback during distance learning. As I was processing (and tweeting!) my takeaways, I remembered how much I dreaded going through the process of giving feedback online. I felt like I spent a LOT of time giving feedback (and emailing!), and I am not even sure how much my students even used it.
I decided to focus my conference path on feedback including: Laura Terrill’s presentation, Megan Budke’s presentation and the feedback panel. I have a few takeaways now that I believe I can apply to my plan for next year:
- In Laur’s session, I really like how she talked about separating quick presentational writes and polished presentational writes. I have been trying to balance that for awhile. She also suggests having students focus on one part of a rubric for their writing. Then, I can focus my feedback on one part instead of multiple sections of the rubric. This will help me be more effective in specifically what I am looking for and writing about. I also minimized some presentational writing during distance learning because I worried about students’ overreliance on Google Translate. However, a few students said that they missed that aspect of the class. Having students take five minutes at the beginning of a synchronous class to write by hand, then snap a picture of that and submit it, might be the key to working more presentational writing back into our schedule.
- Many times, teachers may wonder what parts of the rubric to focus on when giving feedback. (Looking for a rubric? Check out these from Ohio!) Megan noted that the most effective places in the rubric are language function, text type, and communication strategies to improve proficiency. In the past, I would give feedback on things like comprehensibility and that doesn’t help as much. Next year, I can focus on these three items. Also, as many teachers noted, this is the year to go slower and deeper into topics. If I can have students really improve in these three topics, I will know that they have improved their overall proficiency.
- Next, I realized from both Megan and Laura that I need to encourage my students to self-reflect more. While I had asked them to reflect at the end of the year, I need to get into the habit of having them do so on various pieces of work instead of the year as a whole. This helps me two-fold. It encourages my students to think critically about their work and to help them improve. Finally, it doesn’t require prep from me. That way, I can focus on giving more feedback once they have reflected. One technique that Megan highlighted was having students mark up their own work using highlighters or other symbols. This would be perfect for students to complete after a quick write. I also like that they can do this work by hand then take a picture of it which gets them away from using their computer. (And can’t we all use a break from our computers during distance learning?!)
- Finally, when I was watching the panel, I realized that this year may be the year to distance ourselves even further from grades. As many schools struggled to assess from a distance, they came up with various plans- freeze students’ last trimester grades, give all As, grade pass/fail etc. However, this year we will start this way. There will be no last grade to give. Now we can push to just give feedback and have students really focus on that feedback.
Good news! If you haven’t caught the NFLC virtual summit, all of the sessions are still live through August 31st! It is free and well worth your time- but remember to maximize your success by having a goal in mind that allows you to pinpoint how you will make changes next year.