One of the most contentious areas in middle school is work completion. When I first began teaching I was of the mindset, I need to get kids ready for high school. If their homework is one day late, the max the student could earn would be 80%, two days late: 70%, three days late: 60%; more than three days late: teacher discretion. Retakes–no way, they had their chance; they should have studied. Or when I did allow retakes the maximum grade a student could earn would be 70%.
In effect I was using grades as a punishment. Equally troublesome was the fact that this system created a tainted report card. I’m supposed to be reporting academic progress not academic progress with two scoops of behavior and a cherry on top. Now I’m not only questioning my overall grading policy I’m starting to rethink how I assess.
There wasn’t a single turning point. It was an evolutionary process. However two author/educators who caused me to reflect are Thomas Guskey and Rick Wormeli.
Several years ago Guskey came to our district and presented a talk, Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning. He discussed the merits of standards based grading and a narrative report card that separates behavior from learning. His book and talk nudged me to reconsider my practice. Over the next five years I continued to contemplate grading and assessment. Guskey’s book led me to Marzano’s Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading and that is where I am today.
Wormeli has been equally influential. Chapter 8 from his book Fair is Not Always Equal is particularly compelling. Why Do We Grade, and What About Effort, Attendance, and Behavior?
He contends there are six reasons why we grade:
- To document student and teacher progress
- To provide feedback to the student and family, and the teacher
- To inform instructional decisions
- To motivate students
- To punish students
- To sort students
“Notice the dividing line between the top three and bottom three…The bottom three reasons cross a line. When we grade to motivate, punish, or sort students, we do three things–we dilute the grade’s accuracy; we dilute its usefulness; and we use grading to manipulate students, which may or may not be healthy” (p102).
I’m still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
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Once again I’ve altered my plans from last year. I suspect before school starts on the 25th the plans will have changed again. This year I’ll need to be especially flexible and rethink learning experiences since our 7th grade will be 1:1 iPad.
We have students for 10 fewer minutes each period on the first day of school in order to issue lockers, hand out assignment notebooks and the like. Because time is limited the kids will complete a brief cooperative group and communication challenge called You Want Me To Do WHAT? (see page 10). Students create a prototype out of miscellaneous supplies, complete a write up, then hand the directions to another group to recreate. This is my first time doing this activity but I’m looking forward to trying it out.
Classroom norms and expectations will be discussed in social studies and reinforced in math. I’ll note what went well yesterday and what didn’t. After the lecture burst, students will share a bit about themselves using an activity I found on A Sea of Math. It’s called Figure Me Out! The students use the numbers in their life–birth year, house number, etc. and create expressions using rational numbers. I modified the directions a bit to include a criteria for success.
If there’s enough time I’ll have students swap their Figure Me Outs so they can figure out each other! If not we’ll get to it on Wednesday.
Continuing with getting to know you, the students will complete A Create Your Own Graphing Story iMovie. This is something I did last year (minus the video). I show the “How to be Interesting” book trailer, then follow it with a brief presentation on graphing stories that include several examples.
Pre-assessment on integers and wrap up the iMovie.
Students will have a four day weekend so I’ll have time to look over the pre-assessment and hit the ground running on Tuesday.
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At one point in last night’s #Eduread conversation on “A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching” the topic turned to choice–with a particular focus on homework problems, tasks, and assessments. After some pondering, I’m now thinking we just scratched the surface when talking about choice.
There’s another type of choice that Miss Calcul8 pointed out in her intervention post. We’re now below the surface, but that still doesn’t include all the other choices students make throughout the day.
What does choice afford us?
Choice empowers us.
My point is that if we want our students to become confident, competent learners we must allow them to develop a sense personal power–providing them with the resources, the opportunity, and the capability to influence the circumstances of their own life.
So how do we empower students to believe they can:
- do what they set out to do
- handle what’s ahead of them
- get whatever they need in order to do what they must
- feel they are in charge of their life, can make decisions, and solve their own problems
Certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can do our part to help students build a positive mental model of themselves. A model where the student feels he has a mission and purpose, knows where he’s headed, knows how to organize himself, etc.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing how I’m applying particular strategies in my classroom as I attempt to create confident, competent learners.
Instead of providing a narrative summary of this week’s #Eduread article, here are my diigo in text annotations on “A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching.” Sometimes it is more powerful to see what the reader is thinking as she encounters each passage. If you want to add your own annotations, I think all you need to do is get a diigo account to add them.
The only shortcoming I found was on the topic of intrinsic motivation–which turns out to be a major focus of the article.
To that end, we have developed a comprehensive model of culturally responsive teaching: a pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity… The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation.
The authors claim, “When students can see that what they are learning makes sense and is important, their intrinsic motivation emerges.” I think that’s a very limited view and argue that motivation has to be sustained. Had the article been written fifteen years later (2010) it could have referenced Daniel Pink’s contribution with respect to autonomy, mastery, and sense of purpose. Those three conditions sustain one’s motivation.
What I loved was the definition of engagement. Typically we associate engagement with fun, or the need to be intellectually challenging. While it can include those elements, engagement is directing energy in the pursuit of a goal.
Let me know if you shared your observations either on diigo or your own blog. I’m interested in what you think.
This week’s #EduRead is the topic Constructive Struggle from the article Faster Isn’t Smarter. Author Cathy Seeley states students should be challenged with more complex problems. I agree. End of post.
What spin can I offer on this article? For one, I wish James Tanton was Cathy Seeley’s editor. He’d ditch the title and rename it, “Nutting Things Out.” His word choice speaks volumes about his approach to math. While I imagine the two would both vote for more math complexity, the Seeley read is a tad highbrow and offers no concrete suggestions on infusing more complexity. I’m a fan of Tanton. His playfulness and enthusiasm are infectious. Watch one of his videos and you’ll get a google of ideas on nutting your way through things…
as well as engaging in intellectual play.
In addition to the problems posed in Tanton’s videos and books, Dan Meyer and Michael Pershan recently discussed less scaffolding as a means to make problems more complex. Yet another alternative is Marian Small’s book More Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Mathematics Instruction which offers Open Questions and Parallel Tasks.
Suggestion 1: Open Questions
A number pattern includes both -3 and -13 as terms. What might be the general term of the pattern?
Suggestion 2: Parallel Tasks–students are presented a task and can choose one of two options
Can -3087 be in the pattern described by the given pattern rule? How do you know?
- Option 1: The pattern rule is: Start at 9. Keep subtracting 3.
- Option 2: The term value is 4 times the term number +3
So now you have more resources for
Constructive Struggle. I mean nutting things out and intellectual play.
The other day I posted a work in progress–an assessment menu for adding and subtracting integers. Matt Coaty’s comment inspired me to explore how students would share their understanding, as well as develop assessment criteria.
Today I’m unveiling a new and improved version. I’ve taken the idea of a literary book club meeting where students bring a discussion tool to talk about a novel and have turned it into a “Mathematics Symposium” where students bring activities they’ve created about a concept and share their mathematical understandings with the group.
Here’s a revised 2-5-8 menu with descriptions of the criteria for success, suggested product ideas, and a check on whether students have met the expectations, or if they are not yet there.
Each student will have up to ten minutes to share their activities. When the group is finished they will assess each other using this two sided rubric/checklist. If a student marks any area as superlative (italics) they are to indicate on the reverse side what distinguished it from the other choices.
To determine a “final” grade, I’ll review the artifacts along with the students’ input. I’ve successfully used this format when I taught literature and it was quite successful. I’m looking forward to seeing how this translates in a math class.
For the past couple of years our math curriculum committee has been focusing on creating performance based assessments with leveled problems. Now that we have a clear vision of the standards and what we want our students to know and be able to do I want to start offering some variety, some choice.
I’m toying with the idea of offering choice once per quarter. Here’s a 2-5-8 menu I created for adding and subtracting integers.
In addition to the differentiated content, I like how this format requires the student to do much more thinking and problem solving because they have to come up with their own scenarios and problems. Even the Knowledge and Comprehension levels ask students to think.
One element that is missing is differentiating by product. What options do you suggest? Ideally they shouldn’t take hours to assess. Also if you have other activities to suggest or other input please comment.