School has just begun for a new year here in British Columbia, and the question for all teachers is this: Do you know where your students are? (I confess this particular way of wording the question comes from a public service commercial from many years ago. It went, “It is eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” Does anyone else remember those announcements?)
My version of the question does not refer to their physical whereabouts, of course, but where they are in their learning. This definitely applies to all subject areas, but, as usual, I am most concerned with teachers knowing the learning levels of their students in math. It is easy to just jump into the textbook or materials for the grade group and not take time to do some initial assessment, but it is far better to take the time for those assessments and learn just which students are behind in particular strands/topics of mathematics. Don’t assume all of your students are on the same level. If a student is behind at the start of the year, it is very hard, even nigh unto impossible, to ever catch up without some intervention.
Find some assessments in your school or make some simple ones of your own, but your year will go better if you take the time to know where your students are.