After some late spring reflection, I thought about maybe telling the students ahead of time what they should know and be able to do by the end of the chapter, but that still put a few ants in my teacher pants.
Ants in the Pants. Anyone else have this game as a kid?
photo by jagrap, used with creative commons license
My reaction to my own idea: If you tell them ahead of time what's going to be on the test, isn't that like putting a cheat sheet in their hands? They won't need to pay attention in class! They'll just memorize the right sections and won't have to work at all! They won't learn any more than they did before, they'll just have an easier time figuring out what to memorize!
Maybe, maybe not. When I stepped back to reflect on my ants-in-pants reaction, my underlying assumption seemed to be that there was only ONE right answer to an objective to be mastered. One correct Definition, One correct Diagram, One Ring to rule them all. But that didn't make any sense, because I had always been trying to tell my students that I wanted to hear their explanations in their own words, not the textbook's.
If laying out the objectives would be the equivalent of a cheat sheet, then my objectives are still too tied to the textbook. If my objective can be demonstrated or answered by parroting a definition from the book, then it's probably not that great of an objective. My breakthrough came when I realized that there can be more than one way to demonstrate mastery of a skill or content goal. More than One Way! Differentiation! (mmmm, edujargon)
Up Next: how this became my students' final projects for the 2010-2011 academic year.