Building a Successful Middle School/The Meaning of Focused Practice
Our mantra in middle school, “you can do, and you can re-do, but you can’t not do” is really taking hold. Students are recognizing that teachers require evidence in order to properly assess their students’ achievement. And teachers don’t want to have just work turned in, they want the student’s best work. We believe that the work assigned (formative assessments) is valuable and deserves authentic and timely feedback. The feedback helps the student make adjustments to their focused practice (see high school article in this issue).
Teachers and students should know (based on their formative assessments) what their focused practice should be in order to be well prepared for the summative assessments. Our question to students should be: “Are you practicing in areas you need to improve upon?” To understand more about what focused practice is, imagine a tennis player and his or her coach. Through practice and instruction with their coach, strengths and weaknesses are apparent through timely feedback. Skills that are weak become the focused practice. The player hones in on those skills needing practice before a tennis match (the summative assessment). Simply asking students if they have any homework is too vague and implies that the work to be done is simply a task (and that it should only be done at home!). Our focused practices are those portions of our work that we are focusing on to improve.