Monday, March 4, 2013

Standards Love

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After reading about standards based grading since summer I finally drank the kool-aid in January and got hooked.  I started off fairly small with it, and even now I know I'm not implementing it as fully as many other people are.  I expect though that like anything else, it will continue to develop the longer I stick with it.  Baby steps.

So although it hasn't been all that long, I have noticed some changes already.  I've also noticed some things that I was doing that needed to be changed.

For starters, assessments have become WAY less stressful.  I don't think it's that kids are taking them less seriously, it's just that they know I'm not trying to "get them."  If they mess up or just need some extra time to learn something, it's ok.  Scores are flexible...more of a work in progress instead of concrete.

A couple times I've had kids absent a day or two before a quiz and typically I'd let them wait to take the quiz until they were ready.  Instead now I tell them to try the quiz to see where they're at and we'll go from there.  So far none of them have objected in the slightest.  Often students are actually asking me for more topics on their quizzes sometimes when they feel like they've improved on something.  Last week I had planned to do a quiz on only two topics, but ended up including two older ones as well because they asked for it.

My favorite thing by far is that slowly but surely, my kids are learning the importance of practice.  A couple weeks ago I gave a homework assignment that was to do 6 out of 13 problems on a worksheet.  It was a puzzle type one that I like because it's kinda self-checking without actually giving them an answer key.  If they get an answer that isn't one of the possibilities they know something went wrong.  So I hand it out (on a Friday) and tell them they only have to do 6 problems.  Upon handing it out I heard comments like:

  • Can we just do all of them?
  • I'm just going to do them all because I really need to practice this a lot
  • I'm gonna do them all because I need to know what the joke is
It was awesome.  Some of them were voluntarily choosing to do additional "homework"...on a Friday no less.  And I say "homework" because at that point it wasn't really homework per-se, they were opting to do more work because they knew it could help them to improve.  I told them that they were only required to do the original 6, but if they personally felt they needed more then of course they were welcome to.

I've also given a couple of homework assignments that are for them to do whatever they want.  Anything at all, but the stipulations are that they need to choose problems (usually from the review sections in our book) where they can check their own answers.  All I check is that they have something done.  They are to use their SBG skill list to help them choose where to focus their efforts.

Along those lines, I've realized that I haven't been doing nearly enough to help them out.  Yes I am always willing to help them before or after school, but often it just isn't all that feasible.  It really got me to thinking and led to a revamped website and a class Livebinder (more on that later).

My goal is to create a resource that is crazy helpful and jam packed full of good and helpful stuff.  I showed it to my kids today and they were pretty excited about some of the stuff.  As I was showing them one girl said that she didn't really need to practice what we're doing right now, but she wanted to go on just to play with some of the stuff that looks fun.

All year I've been struggling with this class and and a seeming lack of motivation so I'm thrilled to find something that seems to be working.

3 comments:

  1. more, More, MORE! I would love to hear more about this! I am really struggling with my classes not wanting to do ANYTHING: homework, practice, study. I am just not sure how else I can help them but it sounds like you've had your own "aha" moment and I would love to share in that!

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  2. My homework has been similar! This year, many of the assignments have been to choose 5 odd (so they check their answers in the back of the book) problems from a certain page. I recommend students who are struggling to start with the lower level problems. Those who think what we are doing is simple, try the later problems. And then I have some students who do more than the required amount. Yay!

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  3. I know things are crazy this close to the end of the year. When summer hits and things settle down (is that first year teacher wishful thinking?) would you be willing to share your Algebra SBG concept lists? Our district is heading in an SBG direction, of which I'm in full support. I want to try but it was too much to figure out my first year. I've read a bunch about SBG but I'm intimidated by trying to start my concept list. The other Algebra teachers in my department aren't convinced yet and so aren't willing to work on this until its mandated by the district.

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