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I have spent countless hours in the past few weeks trying  to answer this question. In my current classes, I am attempting to come up with a means to grade students that is fair.

I guess that, first, I have to determine what the word “fair” means. A fair grade is one that reflects what a students knows. Knowledge, in this case, needs to be set as some sort of standard. This standard is then categorized into grades dependent on what a student can show he/she has learned. Just thinking about this makes my head hurt!

Is is fair to get a bad grade if a student is working as hard as they possible can, even if they do not get all the knowledge? This is a  good question, and to be fair, I guess I have to say yes, if the grade is indeed showing knowledge. I guess I am thinking that when a student gets an “A” in English, that a college will assume that the student has the skills associated with “A” work. This does not mean that the college will assume that the student worked hard, and therefore, although he/she can’t write well, will still work hard and perform well in college.

This is not the case. A students with an “A” needs to be able to write effectively and efficiently. That student should also be reading at the appropriate grade level, maybe even above.

So I guess, if you haven’t figured it out already, my conclusion is that grades need to reflect what a student knows. The hard part is knowing what standard to use to base this grade on. However, with the Common Core, this is made simpler. A teacher simply uses the proficiency benchmarks as the standard for what students need to know. If they show proficiency, then they deserve the grade.

This, however, brings up another issue. Is proficient sufficient to get an “A” or is proficient just “B” grade work? What does a teacher do with someone who is showing advanced skills? What does that even mean?

I am going to have to think about this one for a bit!

Back to school!

Here is a great video to get you excited for school. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. This will at least make you laugh. To teach, you have to love the profession.

I shared this video with my classes this week. We were using it as a means of studying good argument technique. On top of this, I really just liked the message in the video.

The Grammarly Facebook page had an interesting question for readers today. The asked whether or not cursive writing should be taught in schools. I was quite surprised to see that most of the comments by readers said “Yes, students should learn to write in cursive.”  This totally blew my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is a good skill to be able to write legibly. However, I did learn to use cursive in school, and I don’t think I have used it since. Sure, you might notice some hints of cursive in my handwriting, but I don’t know that I could write a whole sentence in perfect cursive. Maybe I will give it a quick try… I just tried, and, no I cannot do it. I am not sure how to make some of the letters anymore. I think I have them right, but I’m not quite sure.

I think we might be better off, and so would all students, to learn to type efficiently. Right now, I have a bunch of students who can neither write legibly (in any form, let alone cursive), or type efficiently. Many of my high school students still use the one finger method, and many of them complain about how slow they are.

I can see that it would be nice to have a bunch of kids who can write very nicely with a pen, but I am afraid those days are coming to an end. I mean the days of writing on a paper with a pen. I will admit, that I like to write with a pen. When I want to jot down a quick note, I head straight for the sticky note drawer. However, these notes are for me to read and no one else. Therefore, I can write as sloppy as I want to and in any form (and I often do!).

On the other hand, I write on a daily basis for others using a keyboard, and I do this multiple times. Sometimes, I feel like I spend the whole day doing this. This is the skill that is going to help students become successful. This how people communicate now through written word. We don’t write a letter and send it in the mail. We use e-mail. Kids don’t write a note on a piece of paper and slyly pass it across the room. They text.

In light of this, I would venture to say that typing should be taught before handwriting. When a student becomes proficient on the keyboard, then they can learn to write with a  pencil. We’re probably not quite to that point yet, but it’s coming.

Cool video

I shared this quick video today with my students. It leads to a good discussion of what they want to do in the future and how they are going to get there. Mind you, we were working with grammar today, so I tied the video into that by stressing the opportunities that educations gives a person. The narrator does not say to skip school. Rather, he says that a person should pursue a career that is he or she is interested in and passionate about.

Taking some advice from a comment braddo made in my post, 5 technology skills every students needs, I put together a class where students practice looking for information using Google and other internet search tools. The unit was based around the life of Emily Dickinson, since she is one of the poets the class is currently studying.

For the activity, I used the Super Teacher Tools Flash Jeopardy game to get some student buy in. This is an easy tool to use. In about the time it takes to type, a Jeopardy game can be set up complete with sound effects and scoreboard. I swear, put a Jeopardy game on the board, and the whole class is attentive, even if it’s about the life of Emily Dickinson. This, however, was not the focus of the lesson, and really, in the end neither was Emily Dickinson.

What  I really wanted was for the students to do some meaningful research on the computer. Before we started the game, we spent some time talking about good sources and resources on the web. There is a clear distinction between these two. Wikipedia is a resource, a great place to go and find information. It is an excellent resource to find reliable sources. At the bottom of every Wikipedia page, there is a list of sources used to write the page. Many of these have links, and many of these sources have authors. This is one of qualifiers of a good source. An author is not the only one but certainly a good one, and this is what I really wanted to students to be aware of. If they find a source with an author on the web, it is more likely to be reliable than not. There was a good side conversation also about handles like “mrkaiser208″ in a forum. Yes, that is an author’s name, but probably not his real name, so it may not be the best source.

To play the game, the students were split into groups of 3 and 4. Students used  the laptops, so each student had a computer. Then we played some serious Jeopardy! When the question was put on the board, they all started looking for the answer. One of the rules was that every students within the group had to be on the same page with the answer highlighted before the answer could be considered correct. This worked really well because everyone in the group would have to go through the search process to get to the website.

I was amazed at how hard it was for the students to find some of the answers. One question would sometimes take 10-15 minutes to answer. Remember, they couldn’t just find the answer on Wikipedia. They had to find a viable source, so it took some time. The room was dead quiet as the student worked with the occasional, “I think I’ve got something. Search with this keyword.” It was a full class of research, something I have only witnessed a few times in my teaching career! Usually, when the computers come out, I spend a good part of my time monitoring improper computer use, but for this activity, the students were dialed in.

It’s great when a lesson far outdoes the expectations a teacher has when the plans are put on paper.

 

 

 

 

One of the dilemmas every teacher faces when assigning group work is the fact of whether or not the students are actually going to work within the groups. This is the case whether or not students are assigned to groups or choose their own. When it comes down to it, group work in the classroom can be problematic, even though the benefits are sure to outweigh the downfalls. This is the exact dilemma that has been playing out in my mind this last week. I know that the students are going to do the book trailer projects, but I have been unsure of how they are going to go about putting the projects together.

After spending way too much time thinking about it, I have decided that the students will work individually on this project. Here are my reasons:

1. We just finished up a different group project. The students, for the most part, did a great job and worked well together. However, there was some time wasted, as always seems to happen with group work.

2. I want this project to last no more than one, maybe one and a half class periods. Thus, there can be no “wasting time.”

3. I want to see what each student is capable of, something that is often lost in group work.

4. Though group work shows students how to work together, learning to take one’s own ideas and turn them into a creative work is also an important skill.

5. As a teacher, sometimes I need a break from group work. I don’t know if this is the best reason or the worst, but I had to list it. Though I will be running from computer to computer to help individual students, I won’t have the managerial issues associated with group work.

 

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