Monday, July 14, 2014

SBG Skill Lists

I wrote last year about my initial transition into standards based grading. Two years ago I tried it out mid year as a sort of experiment with my advanced class and we all loved it. So this past year I went all in for all my classes. This included two algebra classes and one geometry classes. Through the course of a couple posts I'm going to try to go through the process I used and how I got things set up. My main goal here is just to get things down in writing for myself. I've been asked to help a couple other teachers implement this so I feel like I need to make better sense of how to explain it. And I figure if I'm writing it down, might as well do it here.
wrote previously about my

I feel that I need to put a HUGE disclaimer out there that I'm not an expert with any of this. There are so many people out there that are much more knowledgeable than me and I read everything they had to say before I started. I would highly suggest doing that. So having said that, everything that I'm going to explain is merely what worked for me and my kids in my school. It doesn't mean this is the "right" way to do anything. But if SBG is new to you, perhaps some of what I did may be a helpful starting place.

The first thing to do was to create skill lists. Before even beginning each unit I sat down with the district objectives and attempted to interpret each one into what I was actually supposed to teach. This required me to put more thought into unit planning than I was used to. It was immensely helpful because it was the first year of our CCSS curriculum and it wasn't as easy as just following a textbook. The objectives and standards took some time to interpret. Also I did not create the objectives. They are a part of the NJ Model Curriculum that we were given to use.

For example, below is one of our first objectives:
Interpret terms, factors, coefficients and expressions (including complex linear and exponential expressions) in terms of context
To try to break it down, I started with the standard(s). My CCSS flipbook and were my most uses resources. I wrote last summer more about how I used these. I looked at sample questions and read the explanations to try to figure out exactly what the kids would be required to do. From this objective I ended up with the following two skills:
  • I can translate expressions
  • I can interpret the parts of an expression
Below is another one. This one objective is kinda huge. In the past, it was two full chapters in our textbook. So there were more skills that I felt needed to be covered here. Every objective varied a great deal with how many skills went along with it.

Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable (including literal equations). Justify each stem in the process and solution
A.CED.4, A.REI.3
  • I can solve multi-step equations in one variable
  • I can check a given answer to an equation
  • I can solve equations involving fractions
  • I can solve literal equations for a given variable
  • I can solve an inequality in one variable
  • I can explain the steps to solve an equation/inequality verbally
  • I can graph the solution to an inequality on a number line
So I did that for each objective, creating a Skill List for the entire unit. I'll share more about this later. On the first day of each new unit I would hand out the skill list and have kids tape it into the back of their notebook. This way I could refer to it as we went through the unit. When a quiz was coming up I could just tell them which skill numbers it was on.

Going through all this required more work of me than I was used to, but certainly worth it. I'm not one to plan things out super far in advance, but it forced me to look at the entire unit which was a good thing. It gave the kids a clear outline of what we were going to be doing. It let them know how far we were into the unit and they knew when the unit was wrapping up.

Sometimes I put a skill on the list that I ended up skipping. Occasionally it got moved to a different unit or sometimes I just ended up grouping it in with another skill. This is ok. Kids are flexible, I just told them we were skipping that particular skill and it was no big deal.

A couple other bits of information is that I didn't do the whole year at once. I started last summer and just took care of the first unit for algebra and geometry. And also on that note, last year was the first year I've ever taught geometry. Luckily I had a friend to work with that has taught geometry before. With a new course I was not comfortable enough with the material to be able to break down the objectives into skills. I don't think that I could have really done them alone so I was very grateful to have someone to work with. Just something to take into consideration if you're in a similar position. I would suggest reaching out for help if you're not completely sure.


  1. First! I just need to say how super excited I have been getting emails that you blogged this last week! You are just an inspiration and I love reading {and copying} your ideas! Thanks for that! I have conquered ISNs so I think I am ready to start SBG. I will be soaking up all I can and this post gives me a great starting point!
    No. 2 Pencils

    1. Aww I'm glad you've found some things that you can use! And way to go with ISNs! I love them so I love to be able to share them with other people. If you're interested in more info I'd suggest checking out Shawn Cornally's page on it if you haven't already. So much wonderful info!

  2. Thank you! I am smack dab in the middle of this same process right now, and it's a huge help to read someone else's experience navigating these waters. I love your very simplified "I can" statements. Mine are still a bit wordy...I need to revisit them. Thanks for the tip on how you have the kids use the skill list in their ISNs. I've been trying to decide how to handle that. I'll look forward to the rest of your posts on this!

    1. I've seen skill lists where people explained them a bit more that were awesome so there are tons of different ways that work great.

      Having them keep the skill lists in their ISN was actually a bit of a change from how we started out the year. Originally I had them keep the list in their folders but the issue was then they couldn't refer to it on their own without getting their folder. This way it stayed with them until the unit was over so I liked that.

  3. Sarah-

    I am loving this SBG "series" you are doing. Going to try out SBG this year and this is getting me excited!

    Thanks for posting your thoughts and methods on the subject.

  4. One question. If a student gets a score on a quiz, do they get that same score for each skill covered on the quiz?

    Or do they get a few different scores on each quiz-one per skill?

    1. That's right, different score for each skill dependent on how well they understand it.

  5. Glad to see you back blogging again. Missed you!

  6. This is SO helpful! I'm tackling a hybrid version of SBG this year (I'm not prepared or certain enough to jump in all the way yet!) and these posts are great! I love your skills lists. Thank you, thank you!

  7. Question: do you plan to post about how you grade using SBG? I mean, do you strictly assign scores 1-4? Do you still give points for things like homework? Thanks!

    1. Yep I wrote about that here: I stopped giving out points for anything else like homework or participation and all that stuff. Occasionally there's a project or something I'll put in but not all that often.

  8. Love this post. Would you be willing to share your skill list you created or post them on teachers pay teachers. I will also be teaching algebra and geometry and would love to use this idea with my students. Thanks!