Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 69: Heheh..."69"

Started the day off with a 2 hour delay, which is always a nice way to start.  I did not, however, use the extra time wisely.
Expo REALLY needs to make a "cartoon Caucasian" colored dry erase marker
Their answers are getting better!

Yesterday, the geometry class took it's first foray into SBG.  We took a unit test that was developed by the amazingly brilliant @Algebrainiac1.  It didn't go that well, but it showed the students what they should expect.  We went over it together and today, they took a quiz that was broken into specific skills.  It's fascinating to see, as I grade them, that certain kids are amazing at certain topics while completely lacking in others.

I started an Excel spreadsheet to color code and track the proficiencies of the different skills.

I'm pretty excited to go over it with the kids tomorrow after I grade their quizzes.  It also highlights for me how much work I have to do if I want all of my classes to be on SBG when we get back from Christmas break.  Here's my basic list:
  1. Identify the Common Core Standards that correspond to the skills in the next chapter in each class.
  2. Translate the skills into "I Can" statements for learning targets
  3. Write up LT handout for students to track progress
  4. Separate quizzes into skills
Ideally, I'd like to have all of this done by the end of the semester to make a clear midterm with the skills that the students should have acquired by then.

For the first time this year, it feels as though I have an actual goal beyond "Make the class relevant and interesting." I've been wanting to do this for a while, but have been putting it off out of fear and laziness.  I have lots of irons in lots of fires and have justified putting this one off.

Maybe during the break, I'll do a Google Hangout with other pre-algebra teachers and organize the LTs.  Anyone want in?

I also wanted to start a Google Hangout book club to read Teach Like A Pirate.  Who is in on that?

All Hangouts will be scheduled during naptime for my children.

My favorite answer on today's quiz:

I don't often reflect on previous days, but something happened yesterday that made me think.  A student who had been out on Game Day returned to school and the following conversation ensued:

Student 1: "What'd I miss yesterday, bro?"
Student 2: "Bro! We didn't have school yesterday!"
S1: "You know what I mean! What'd we do on Friday!"
S2: "Nothin'. We had a free day."

I don't know how I feel about this.

On one hand, I want him to recognize that it WASN'T a free day.  What we were doing was directed play with a specific purpose.  I want him to tell his friend about the amazing games that he played and all of the cool things he did.

On the other, part of the purpose of Game Day was to covertly teach students logic and reasoning.  He was learning all of those things and I don't know if I care that he knew it.

I'm torn, but it still rankles.


  1. First - definitely agree with the "amazingly brilliant" algebrainiac descriptor. And generous. And patient. And, did I mention that this is her first time (or least first time in a long while?) teaching geometry.
    Second - how are you going to convert that beautiful spreadsheet into A's, B's, C's, etc. I am in the same boat that you were yesterday -- I totally see the benefit of SBG but am fearful of implementation.
    Third - Maybe just starting with your geom class would be better, to get a grip on how you are going to manage retakes?
    Fourth - SBG assessments are so clear, they appeal to my engineering nature, but sometimes I wonder if they are too clear. I mean - isn't part of the assessment that the student knows when to use what tool? If right above the problem, it tells them "I can use slope formula", isn't that giving away part of what we are trying to assess?

    1. There are tons of things out there about converting from SBG to standard, so I'm not too worried about that. I'm thinking 3.5-4 is an A, 3-3.5 B, 2-3 C, 1-2 D, >1 F.

      With the geometry kids, I'm not too worried about retakes because I can give them a general "Come up with a way to show me that you know this" and most of them will. Not sure about the pre-algebra.

      I agree with your last point, which is why when I write mine, I'll list them by skill, but not elucidate what that skill is on the test, just on the feedback. If they remember by skill number, more power to them!

  2. I'm curious about your excel spreadsheet. I've developed one that I use this year for my first foray into SBG as well. Would love to compare! Check out the file in this folder https://www.dropbox.com/sh/srjtv87rmyd15jq/Cp2rpZklHq
    my email is in the file if you have any comments and if you want I can invite you to the folder so you can share yours as well.

    1. So, I looked at your and it scared me mightily. It's amazingly intricate and involved and I don't know if I could do that with as many students as I have.

      Mine is a simple spreadsheet with some conditional formatting. :-D

  3. mrsreilly....I have the similar misgivings about SBG. One problem I am having is that I feel my job as an Honors Geometry teacher should be to extend students towards non-traditional problems. I try to put those "zingers" on every quiz/test....something that is just a little beyond the scope of the unit, but still feels connected to things that they have learned. I assign those kinds of problems on HW but you know kids...they only REALLY try a problem if you hold them accountable. I just wonder how people deal with this in the SBG world. Right now my pinky-toe-dipping is giving students with lower scores the chance to earn a higher grade. Even that was hard for me if I am being honest. I know I was being too old school and essentially grades were "punishing" kids who didn't prepare for a test. Justin, your goals are laudable. I don't know if I will ever have the time but I do think SBG would fit better in my regular Geometry class. For good or bad, I feel like I need them to get more motivated to just learn some of the basics and SBG might just be the ticket for that.

    1. I completely sympathize with this! I feel there are certain skills that are important that SBG doesn't evaluate, such as deadlines and preparation, but I think there are other ways to do this. Plus, I think it also depends on your goals for the class.

      If your goals are content and critical thinking, then SBG might be a good way to go.

      I also think there's a way to assess multiple skills with single complex problems as long as they are well designed. You should hit up me and @algebrainiac1 on Twitter and we can talk about setting up skills and problems for geometry for next semester!

      I'd love to have your input!

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  5. Data is the answer, but to effectively use it, teachers must think about it as a way to accurately communicate what a student understands and where a student needs more support.
    It is very common for a LA/English teacher to have routine conferences with students regarding books they are reading and working with the student on refining their writing. In my experience (staff developer and teacher) that most math teachers do not regularly set up routine conferences to review progress on skill attainment. The data chart you created Justin, is an excellent tool to begin the conversation. A conversation might begin with some self-analysis of abilities and then a share of the evidence of understanding. Next, goal setting, what skill would the student like to focus on and what learning partner might be able to help them achieve that goal? Utilizing the "experts' in your classes, you may want to set up mini-centers for a day where students can have another learning experience about the concept/skill they would like to improve upon. (i must say, it's harder to write this than to explain!).
    My point is too often teachers use data simply for the end purpose of grading.


    1. This is absolutely my plan! I told them today that part of the reason for the skill list is to help identify experts in certain skills who can help other students. On top of that, I can differentiate activities based on students who are weak in certain skills. Even with this first quiz, it's amazing to me to see how my thinking about class organization has changed.

      Plus, the students who earned 1's on certain skills can clearly see what they know and what they don't.


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