Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 151: "Why is he failing?"

Today was the last day of testing.  The students were visibly burned out, many falling asleep halfway through, or finishing so quickly that it would have been impossible for them to even read all of the questions, let alone do their best.

Today was also, apparently, parental contact day.  In the past 24 hours, I was contacted by 7 parents with questions about grades and progress of their children.  For many of them, an explanation of how I'm grading this marking period clarified both concerns.

Since my students are not great at note-taking or notebook-carrying, I have been providing them with packets of our work for the past few years.  This saves tremendous amounts of trouble by being able to say "You need your blue book today" and having the kids already have all of the notes and assignments bound together.

This structure also allows students to work at their own pace with me setting grading dates for when I'll mark the work they've done.

Once I grade the material, I handed it back to the students with feedback and they have the opportunity to correct their errors and resubmit.

By this plan, there should be no reason why any student (who wants it) can't get 100% for their class assignments.

I'm trying to emphasize growth mindset and having them work towards improvement seems like a pretty great way to do this.  Students don't worry about getting it right the first time except to save themselves some effort.  In addition, they know that they are the only ones who will eventually know how many attempts they made to show mastery.

There are currently three interesting observations that I've found about this approach:

1) Students receive their books back and want to resubmit one problem at a time. "I fixed this one, can I have the credit now?"  They are having tremendous difficulty waiting until the next grade day.

2) The initial grades looks pretty terrible and I'm finding myself having to explain this process on a regular basis to keep them from panicking about the 10% they currently have.  There never seemed to be this much concern when I was using traditional grading methods...

3) It's MUCH harder for me to understand what's happening in my classroom.  When I give them time to work in class, the students split into groups and either work, or don't.  It's very odd knowing that not everyone is at the same place and that I could be answering questions from the entire section.

This third one has been a real eye-opener for me, mostly because of what I'm seeing in my 8th period.  I have allowed myself to be distracted by the more disruptive students and fallen into thinking that very little was happening in the rest of the class.  This has proven to be false.

It was also underscored today when a parent came in to observe the behavior that his child has been perpetrating in my class.  His presence meant the best behavior of everyone in the room and it became VERY clear who had been working and paying attention.  I was able to answer questions, facilitate discussion and ... teach.

It's always nice to have an extra set of eyes in the classroom.

Maybe I should add more googly eyes to my walls...

In other news, I was interviewed last month for the MathEd Out Podcast and it went live this morning! I got to talk with Adrian Pumphrey about blogging and math education.  Check it out!


  1. I have a similar reassessment policy in my classroom. Students can reassess just about anything and turn it back in. There's a few journals that get turned back in w/ very little changed.

    I make it a little more work on their part to reassess tests. They have to do corrections, write what math misconception or mistake they had on the wrong problems, get it signed by their parents, meet with me to go over the corrections, and then schedule a time to come in and take the reassessment. Seems to really help students clear up their own misunderstandings and prevents students from just thinking 'eh, I'll just retake it later.'

    Look forward to listening to the podcast.

    1. I have that same policy for tests. I would like to further formalize it, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

      They care about grades, but not enough to actually do they require.


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