Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 86: Easy Day for Mr. A!

With the end of the marking period approaching, there is nothing more important than allowing students time to make up the work they neglected over the course of the marking period.

That was only partially sarcastic.  In the past, I had a make-up week because it made for an easy time for me.  I didn't really care if they made up the work, but it was a great way to cover my butt when my failure rates were over 50%.  "I gave them a ton of time to make up work.  If they chose not to do it, that's on them!"

This year, I'm still allowing a ton of time for them to make-up work, but for a different reason.  I haven't moved enough towards Standards Based Grading, but the philosophy is there.  Traditional grading uses grades to punish student for two things that I feel it shouldn't:
  1. Grades are effected by behavior.  This means that students grades go down when they don't turn in assignments, don't participate in class, etc..  There is merit to this if your educational goal is to teach them responsibility and task completion.  These are important skills and they should be taught, but I'm not sure they should be covered under the auspices of content.  There are content standards that talk about perseverance and problem solving, but none that state "students will complete tasks on time."  This may be an oversight, but it's not there.  Along these same lines...
  2. Traditional grading imposes arbitrary timetables on learning. As long as school years are broken into semesters, trimesters, marking periods and the like, we will never get away from this.  To a certain extent, I don't think we should.  We do need deadlines of a sort in order to move content along but I think about tests and ask myself the following question: "If the test is Thursday, why should a student be penalized for mastering the content on Friday?"
SBG takes cares of both of these concerns.  Students have 0's for skills they have not demonstrated, which does impose a bit of a deadline, but once they demonstrate that skill, they receive no penalty for the timing of it.  If they have mastered the skill, they have mastered the skill.  It takes much of the pressure off of students in terms of "I have to know this by Friday!"

Similarly, it adds a different kind of pressure.  Under the traditional grading system, if a student bombs a test, they have little to no incentive to go back and master that content.  They know the test is over and, while it MAY appear on future tests, it most likely won't.  SBG takes off the pressure of "I have to know this by Friday" while having students remember "I still have to know this."

In the LEGO video games, there is no pressure to finish quickly.  There are even incentives to taking your time and exploring the environment. At the same time, completion of a level doesn't mean the end of that level, but allows the player additional privileges, such as playing with new characters and new skills.  There are certain areas in each level that can only be accessed by characters with skills that have to be unlocked throughout the game.
"Only 2 more chapters until I can take my Geometry test as Darth Maul!"

The more I think about gamification and SBG, the more I realize that there needs to be this same structure in education.  Students need to have incentives to explore the current environment if they wish to.  They need to have "unlockables" that benefit them in a direct way as they complete missions, making future missions either easier, or more fun.
One of the reasons why I have been putting off gamifying my class is because I have no idea what rewards to give kids! I would rather they be intrinsic, but I think I am too traditional of a teacher to come up with something viable.

There are simply too many things that I want to do in my classroom...

Except grade.  I don't wanna do that.

On a more specific note, there are two girls who have been ... difficult since the start of the year.  Recently, they have had a change of heart.  I have not questioned it, just encouraged and helped them as much as possible.  While much of the class was pretending to do work while discussing shoes and weekend plans, theses two were working diligently on a make-up test, debating ideas and solutions.

I am so amazingly proud of them.

Also, I have some super cool students...


  1. I am totally going to learn from your example here. Remind me the next time I post some over-anxious, over-stressed thing on my blog that it is time for me to have a make-up day or two. No point in not doing this. I am looking forward to it!

    1. I do it more often than I would like to admit. I wish I didn't have to. I wish that enough students would do their work the FIRST time around, but it does give a nice break where I can still teach, but the prep is SUPER easy.


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