Each topic of study begins with a planning meeting. The lesson plan calendar and due dates are displayed and students are introduced in a general way to what we will be studying. The planning meeting is short, perhaps only ten minutes, and helps orient the class to the next series of events. At the planning meeting or shortly thereafter, students choose from a menu of high order tasks the one which will be their final project for the topic.
There are two broad categories of this final topic task: students may choose to learn a small amount about a lot of things in the topic or to go into depth on a narrow aspect of the topic. The rubrics for each of these tasks have been developed and statistically analyzed to ensure each task is about the same difficulty. Sadly, the majority of students choose multiple-choice as their final test. There are a very few who enjoy debate and five-minute class
presentations. A smaller number still enjoy writing extended historical fiction pieces. Each ten weeks there is a progress meeting. The progress meeting occurs soon after the interim examination. I present to the class how they performed on the interim and a comparison with how classes in the recent six years have performed on the test. I present my analysis of the questions on the test that gave most students trouble and if there are serious problems, we devise ways to deal with them. One semester, for example, there was a class that performed poorly and I displayed a chart showing a higher than average percentage of incomplete and missing work.
This turned out to be a key reason for poor performance on interims. Sometimes a particular topic posed difficulty on the test and I plan a “reteach” or some other remedial plan.
Topic Reading Task
The textbook provides students the generic background information they needed. Students have two full silent
working periods to get the reading assignment mostly completed, with the idea that working time in class would
give them the rest of the time they needed.
The purpose of the reading task is to create a complete study guide in the most effective manner.
Students choose from text difficulty levels and take notes from assigned pages in the Cornell Format note taking method. This provides the background information for the topic of study and this information will likely not be covered in the teacher’s presentation. Students may also take notes from the teacher presentation series, though most do not since the presentation slide show is available online.
For students in grade seven just learning Cornell notes , there is the alternative of a more supported reading task offered at a reduced maximum score. I will provide an outline of the target text for students to use in taking notes. The maximum score on this is 76.
As a demonstration of the effectiveness of the procedure, I conducted a study of student performance from interim exam 2 to interim exam 3 in 2013. 17% more students passed the third interim examination from the
second. The mean score went up 6%.
The probability that the improvement was not due to random chance or other variables is 83% (Jones, May 2013).
Some students want to be able to take this task home or to study hall. Only in very rare cases is this recommended
because many students procrastinate. This is one of the most important learning tasks in the course, but also
among the least popular. Too many students performed poorly in the class when they were permitted to complete this task on their own and when the due date was not set before writing the
This task provides important background for the topic. As a general rule, only skilled, reliable students in special circumstances will be allowed to complete this task on their own time. I completed an in-depth study of this task in 2014 that supports the design of it and the practice of restricting the task to an in-class activity (Jones, February 2014).