15 October 2018

Learning over Grades

Finals was last week! Well, we call them midterms, but it's the end of the first semester so I will be forced to give a transcript grade for my classes. Yup, already! We just finished our 8th week of instruction, so on our 4x4 that means midterms!

Last spring I had started Standards Based Grading for my Integrated Math 2 class. I liked the idea of it, but I wasn't happy in the end with how my system translated to a semester letter grade. I refined a little this summer and stared this school year with a modified system. So far, I am so much happier! It was a little difficult at the start since it was something new for the students, so they had some trouble comprehending and understanding. But with constant communication, I feel students are getting it. Some are working hard to improve. They are coming in to ask questions and clarify misunderstandings, though I always wish there were more doing this. Several students have commented that they feel less stressed about math and they are "happy your teaching style stresses learning rather than memorization." Students take an assessment and are provided feedback over points or a grade. The hope is that students are looking at their mistakes and learning from them.

I've tried really hard to focus on the concept and skill, and students learning it- both conceptually and procedurally, and having the ability to explain it. The "explain it" part is where some students really struggle. But, I think it is a vital part of understanding and I will continue to push students into doing it.

I have not perfected this! Heck, I've been teaching 13 years and will never perfect that. But it feels good to be constantly improving and working toward improving. I just wish more appreciated the learning over the grade.

15 August 2018

2018-2019 Goals

I will be starting my 13th year teaching in just a few days (I actually started today, but it took me longer to finish this post 😳). I've had a lot going on this summer, including time to reflect on how I can be a better teacher. Below are my goals for this school year; I hope you will help keep me accountable toward them.

1. Make better connections with students. I really didn't feel I did a good job with this last year. In the Fall I had a student teacher and the Spring I had a lot going on personally. This is just an area I really would like to improve on this year. I want to know more about the students personal life and how I can help them be successful.

2. Incorporate more music and musical cues into instruction. I've let students listen to music on their own when they've been working, but I realize they need to be available to talk and discuss with their classmates. I have also played music on some days for them. Inspired by Ed Campos, I'd like to use songs for various cues - getting up to the board, pairing up, starting and ending class. I've got Spotify and Amazon Music ready to go on my computer (and phone), just not sure which platform will be best until classes start.

3. Not bringing so much work home. This is going to be super tough. I'll be teaching 3 classes (for the first time in like 2 years) and having all different preps (Financial, Senior AVID, and Integrated Math 2). On top of all that, I will also have a period of coaching and curriculum planning for Math 1 & 2. And somewhere, I'll be needing to complete the preparation for my three classes, including one which will be Standards Based for the first time all the way through. - We are only 1 day into the school year and I'm already failing at this, but hopefully I'll get in a groove and planning will go smoother.

4. Not over committing. With what I'm hoping on accomplishing with the above (#3) goal, this will be very important. I enjoy being involved, but I also need to make sure how it affects my home and family time. Personally, I have several things going on this Fall (new fence, garage, roof, solar for house, In-Laws moved in, PT for ankle and knee injuries, and additional medical visits/procedures). It will become so important that I really try to take a deep breath, and the best way for this to happen is to realize what is important and say no to the other stuff! - I've already bombed at this... In addition to Department Chair and Sophomore Class Co-Advisor (which I've been doing), I am a support provider to two new teachers in our District. I've been doing this the past 4 years, but didn't last year for scheduling reasons. Hopefully, everything else that comes at me I have the strength to say NO.

Here's to a great 2018-2019 School Year!!!

04 July 2018

Summer Plans

We've actually been out for almost a month now. I'm just now getting to writing after I've had time to relax and reflect. So here is a list of my plans for this summer:

1. Refine the concept mastery / standards based grading I dove into this spring in Integrated Math 2.  7/23

2. Once I've done #1, I want to look at how I can incorporate it into Financial Algebra. This may prove a little tougher since there are the procedural math skills and then the life skills they learn. But I like the idea of not counting points on the projects!

3. I'm planning to read (and finish! 🤣) Jo Bolar's Mathematical Mindsets. I've had the book for almost 2 years. So far, I'm doing pretty good- I only have 2 chapters left! 7/18

4. Getting the Level 1 and Level 2 Google for Education Certification. I started looking through and completing the Level 1 curriculum. My goal is to have Level 1 complete by mid July and level 2 by the end of August. 7/28 for Level 1.

5. I need to do A LOT of reorganizing and cleaning in my classroom. a) it just needs to be done, b) I will be sharing my classroom with another teacher and it will be there "office" so I want to create a space for whomever it'll be, and 3) inspired by Sarah Carter from Math Equals Love, I will be incorporating a puzzle table into the room. It's actually really cool because I submitted a project on Donors Choose for the table and lots of puzzles and manipulatives - it was fully funded in less than a week!! So I'm super excited to get the items and start setting it up. 

6. Non work related, I'll be enjoying (on most days, hopefully) time with my daughter. She is almost 3 and full of energy, so that will keep me very busy. I like being lazy and she needs to be out running around, so this may prove to be a tough challenge! 

7. Keeping my sanity and working on my health. I started running again back in May. Then I stepped on an uneven part of concrete, rolled my ankle, and fell, landing really hard on my knee. This happened 7 weeks ago and I'm still having some difficulty with pressure directly on my knee 😒. But I'm trying to still do some workouts, just not too much cardio. Other than that, my in-laws just moved in, so I'll be working on that adjustment.

Anyone else have a long list like me?

02 July 2018

Concept Mastery Data

Disclaimer: I am not a Google Sheets expert! But I'm pretty good and able to eventually achieve what I'm thinking so that I'm working smarter, not harder. It takes some time, but Sheets is so valuable and such a time saver.

One thing I need to improve on with Standards Based Grading is the recording and reporting of progress. I had a long, painful process this Spring (you can read about it in this reflection post, #5). As I was looking more into options this summer, I ran across Mari Venturino's post on Tracking Data. She has a Google Sheet she keeps and she did a lot of conditional formatting and "=countif". She uses a binary approach to the mastery tasks with either a 0 or 1. I like how she determines the letter grades, and that was something I was already considering (still working out though). Her Sheet was a good starting point for me. I made a copy and started to adjust to the needs of my class and my students. Since it will include student names (alphabetical!) it won't be something I can share with students and parents. 

I've been trying to meet with students on a more regular basis to go over grades and what they need to be working on, so this wouldn't even work for that purpose. My idea was creating something where I would just need to input 1 set of information (student ID#) and then it would import the students data (scores and current grade). Enter "=vlookup"!!! I copied over some data and went to testing. It works BEAUTIFULLY! I'm so excited about this aspect - this will be a game changer to student conferences and discussions. Data Template. The letter grade assigned is based on the level they are performing at on the concepts overall. Here is the current break down that is programmed into the Sheet (subject to change, but thinking it's pretty accurate for this school year):
A… at least 85% of skills are Got it or better; no score is developing, not yet, or missing
B… at least 70% of skills are Got it or better; less than 10% of skills are developing or not yet, and zero skills are missing
C… less than 30% of skills are developing or not yet and zero skills are missing
F… more than 30% of skills are developing, not yet or missing

For the upcoming school year, I also have plans for students to record their own assessment scores. I liked the document that Everybody is a Genius posted about. I plan to make a few tweaks to it since I don't have a 3+ score. Here is my Record Sheet Template (and a second version that is portrait - I made it so it can easily go in a composition book and only 2 sides would need to be trimmed). The other thing I'm going to implement is having students do a self-assessment on the concepts (I do skills/concepts instead of the actual standard since that isn't kid friendly). I love that Sheets has the Checkbox feature now, so you can see how easy it'll be for students. Here is my First Semester Skills list and my Second Semester Skills List for Integrated Math 2. I like including the Mathematical Practices here since they are such a huge aspect of math. You will also notice I'm trying to not have too many skills, so some ideas are together (like sine and cosine are together not separate).

I also still need to figure out how I will inform parents of student progress. I only have a few more weeks though to try to figure out something!

Standards Based Grading Reflection

The school year has ended! I spent the last quarter using standards based grading in my Integrated 2 classes. Before starting, I spent some time researching and coming up with a system that I felt would work for me. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to get me to dive in and disrupt the grading system.

Below are a few things I did and my reflection on it:

1. Since I was changing this during the middle of the academic year, but at the start of a fresh grading period, I didn't want to make too radical of a change to the category percentages. So, standards/concepts were about 70% of the total grade (before quizzes were 20 and tests 50). The final was 15%, a concept extension was 5, and assignments were the remaining 10%. Reflection: Moving forward, I don't plan to count assignments, but instead have 10% or less for student reflections. Reflections on lessons and self-assessments on concepts. I also will not have the concept extension, so that makes a majority of the grade based on knowing and understanding the standards.

2. For skills, I went with a scale of 0-4, but students could earn a 5 by getting a 4 on two assessments in a row. 0 was for students leaving a skill completely blank. Students could also get a 3.5. Reflection: I'm dropping the 3.5. it was just too much and too confusing.

3. I associated each scale with a percentage in the gradebook. A 5=100%, 4=90%, 3.5=80%, 3=70%, 2=55%, 1=40%. I wanted students and parents to be able to see and understand what grade they had. Reflection: I'll be changing this aspect for next year. I'm going to go more to the idea that to have an A, you'd have to have no score below 3 and a certain percentage of the skills at 4/5. Then figure out B, C, and have no Ds. I'm not exact on this detail yet, but I'll post when I iron it out.

4. Students were assessed (at least) twice in class assessments, usually about a week apart, with highest grade being recorded. After that, students could then request to retake (copy of Form) a concept. I used Shawn Cornally's idea that students could come in once a day to reassess one concept. I was originally hoping I would do more problems on the fly and ask for more explanations, but this proved to be very difficult when I had multiple students coming in at lunch for different concepts. I had to create assessments and have them ready to go for students to take. Reflection: I will still only allow the once a day for one concept. My schedule is more limited in the upcoming school year, so students will only be able to retest at lunch. I'm hoping to make changes to the initial assessments, so those changes will then transfer to changes in reassessments. I still don't think I'll be able to do them on the fly, but I'm going to require some more explanations so I can see if students truly understand.

For the quarter, I had 169 requests to reassess! A few requests were duplicates, but this is pretty accurate. My frequent flyer had 15 (out of 30 skills) requested - I had to have a conversation with this student several times as they were not using class time wisely; this was frustrating. Other than that student, most students took the opportunity serious. I still feel it was a lot for already having a retest in class. It was also overwhelming with the difference between my two class periods - 3/4 of the requests were from my 2 period. Reflection: Rarely did students come see me to get help. They often got help from each other, which I love, but many looked at mistakes, tried to remember the procedure, then hoped for the best. In the fall, I plan to require a little more effort on their part to show they reworked problems and that they understood.

5. Tracking and recording scores become a lot of work! I really wanted students to be able to look up their performance on concepts, so I had them create a PIN (personal identification 'name') and then they used that to look up on the spreadsheet. Main issue was that I didn't alphabetize this since that would be too obvious when they looked at it. I had a paper sheet I recorded all attempts on, then I would type into the Sheet (I'll call it the Teacher Sheet) the score. Both of these were in the same order (not alpha). I then created another Sheet (Student Sheet) that imported whatever I typed. This only listed the students PIN, so this is the one they had access to and would view. Plus side with this sheet is that I didn't have to do anything with it as I was updating my teacher sheet (=Importrange). Here is what the students saw:
So after the second attempt, I then used my alphabetical sheet to record the best score for that skill. Finally, I recorded the score into the online gradebook, for us it is Aeries. In Aeries, I used the sayings not the number. As you can see, this was WAY more work I put on myself. Reflection: I like paper, so I still plan on keeping that since I don't grade in front of a screen. But, I'm only keeping one paper. I'm still going to have a Google Sheet, but this will be for me. I have plans to have a Sheet that I can use for conferencing with students that will bring over the concept scores automatically (more to come on a future post!). I am for sure going to have students keep track of their own scores. Sarah from Everybody is a Genius had a student tracking sheet that I liked. I'm going to modify it a bit, but it is a good starting point. I haven't figured out how to keep parents informed of student progress yet.

6. At the end of the quarter, I asked students their thoughts about this grading. The results are to the right. Most of the students that said they didn't like it gave reasons like it was confusing, they were used to the other way, and that the sayings ("not yet", "progress", "got it") felt less real than the points. It was confusing - even for me. I can understand being comfortable with the usual way too. But a lot of students preferred this since they knew exactly what they needed to work on. They mentioned they liked that they were assessed twice, knew exactly what they needed to study and improve on, and were able to reassesses as needed. Reflection: This is a WIN in my book. This comment sums it up "I feel like this is a good system because it encourages reflecting and improving on work." What teacher wouldn't want this!!! 

Moving forward with this, I know I have things to improve on. I've spent the past month thinking about what needs to be fixed, looking at what others have done, and figuring out how to make this system work better. I'm excited about what I've read others have done and am looking forward to writing about my updates soon!