I find that moments of "asynchronosity" are becoming more and more common in my classes this year as I continue to weave in mastery learning and student-centered learning. During these moments, when students are working on various assignments and activities, based on their current needs in the classroom, I've been able to actually sit down and TALK with individual students for an extended length of time! It has amazed me how powerful these two to five-minute conversations can be. Here are some examples of how I've used this time:
1) Verbal Assessment. Students in my Biology classes take and retake small quizzes on content until they reach 100% (with remediation and reteaching in-between). I was astonished to find that there are students who occasionally struggle with multiple choice questions, but can verbally explain their thinking just fine. So I've started giving verbal assessments to students who haven't reached 100% on a quiz after two tries. Out of my 50 Biology students, about 5 or so usually need this type of assessment, so it doesn't take a terribly long time to accomplish.
2) Project Evaluation. After the Biology students' Food Webs project rough drafts were due, I scheduled some class time to sit down with each student and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their projects thus far. I asked the students to complete a self-reflection before meeting with me, and then during each conference, we were able to start by discussing their thoughts on their project. This took about three class periods, and I had to be creative in designing something else that was engaging enough for the class to work on independently while these conferences were happening. In the future, I'd like to record the conferences, however, because when the project deadline approached it turned out many students had forgotten the details of our discussion!
3) Notebook Conversations. Students in each of my classes complete all of their classwork in their science notebooks. Although I love the organization this provides for the students, it is a pain for me to take home 50 notebooks to look over every weekend. Last weekend I was just too busy to finish all of the notebooks I wanted to read through, so I decided to look through the notebooks WITH the students while they were working on other things for class. What started out as a time-saver for me ended up being a really great way to have a conversation with each of my students. I talked over each their entries, gave them feedback on their work, and had them make corrections right then and there (usually they go back and make corrections on their own, and I look them over when I collect notebooks again). Being able to talk through some of the misconceptions with students in the moment was so valuable for me because there is often a disconnect between what they're thinking and what they actually write down on paper.
Even though some of these techniques took quite a bit of class time, I feel like the investment will pay off in the long run. I'd love to hear ideas from you about how you "meet" with individual students and create time in your classes for these types of interactions.