Live Your Life In Beta

Accidental Experiment

I have this assignment called Writing and Citing that I use to help teach part of the research process to my 6th and 7th graders. This year I added a Screencastify video explaining the instructions and showing how to do the work. Since I am doing this assignment with 4 classes this quarter, and none of them started it on the same day, it turned into an accidental experiment.

For my second period class, who got to W&C first, I did not explain the instructions live to the class. I showed them where the link was, showed them the rubric I’d be using to evaluate their work, told them to ask me for help when they needed it, and to check in with me after completing each small section. For my 1st and 6th period classes, I thought it would be better to tell the basic idea of the instructions, and then they’d have the video as a support.

My 2nd period class is finished with the assignment, and they all did GREAT! They asked for clarification when they didn’t know what to do, and worked hard the entire few days. In the other classes though, there is more of a mix. About half of the kids have been raising their hands to check in with me often to make sure they are on the right track, and the other half seem to assume they know what they’re doing. From observations of their work, I see this is not the case. Some are not attending to the details necessary for the assignment (like using quotes and in-text citations) and need many more corrections.

Here’s what I think happened.

Giving live instructions for this complicated work gave the students a false sense of security about their ability to remember what they were supposed to do at each step. They have been doing the assignment based on their memory of what I first explained to them last week (or Monday…it’s now Wednesday).

My 2nd period class had no option but to watch and pay careful attention to the video instructions. They paused and did each step as the video progressed. The number of mistakes they made is much smaller than the other classes’.

The 4th class I mentioned, they don’t start this assignment until tomorrow! For them, I will just be pointing out the video link, telling them to pause and rewind as necessary, and ask me for help if they still don’t get it. If tomorrow’s class goes well, I’ll count it as evidence supporting my new hypothesis: making students rely on a carefully created video, and asking me for support is better than them getting a live demonstration one time and relying on a video for assistance. I’m really curious to see how it goes.

If you choose to use Screencastify to give instructions, it may be worth a try to experiment with different methods. First priority the video or your live demonstration? Directions written out and steps shown, or just steps shown? Really, this kind of experimentation should be going on purposefully all the time in our classrooms.

Live your life in beta. Keep testing out different ways. Don’t just find what works, but keep experimenting to make things better.

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