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Archive for the ‘English’ Category

My class is currently reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I did a little poking around and found that there were quite a few different web-based study aids out there, many in the form of games. I don’t know that I would use these for hours on end in the classroom, but they may provide a great 10-minute brain break that will help students review what they have read in the book.

The List:

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This post has been a good year in the making, and I am not even close to being done with the project in a way that I can be thorough or complete with my thought. However, I do want to share what I have so far.

Last year, I attended some training with the Marzano Institute in relation to using proficiency scales. I can’t even get into that here in one blog post. There is a lot to think about, but the following chart is the result of that training, and I use it almost every day in the classroom.  
This is the grading scale I use for most assignments in my classroom. You will notice that the lowest grade a student can get on the assignment is a 2 out of 4, or a 50%.

Some people may be groaning right now. I get it. I see the reasons why this looks like I am trying to “make it easier” for the students. But this is not the case. Rather, I am making it fair.

Let me explain.

It is not easy to fail on a scale like this unless a student does not turn in work. Then I still give students a zero on the assignment. On the flip side, it is also not easy for students to get a 4 on most assignments in my classroom.

Take writing for example. Today in my class, students rewrote a paragraph for me where they were showing their ability to correct or edit a few different grammar mistakes. On an assignment like this, I do not mark how many they miss. Rather, I look at their work and give them a grade based on where they stand on the scale: advanced, proficient, low proficient, or basic. I rarely have a student in the below basic category on this assignment.

For me and the students in my class, this makes sense. They know where they stand on the assignment. It also works well when for our Standard Based Report Cards that are aligned to the Common Core.  Students really like the scales because the seem fair to them.

This is what I have observed after having used this scale for the last year:

  • I have lots of B- and C students.
  • It is hard to get a solid A in the class. if a students does this, the grade reflects that this is truly a student who is performing at the “advanced” level.
  • I do not have very many students fail the class. If they do, it due to a lack of turning in work.
  • I do give deadlines, but student grades cannot be penalized for being late when they are tied to a standard.
  • Grading like this takes a huge shift in mindset.

I would love to hear the thoughts of you who have used similar scales. What works. What doesn’t. How did students, parents, administrators etc. respond?

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Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about Fakebook projects in the classroom. It is my most popular page. However, there has been a bunch of change since that time in regards to social media. What I found is that most of my incoming Freshmen don’t even have a Facebook account and because of this, they had a hard time working on a project that revolves Facebook.

Que the Social Media Project. This project allows students to choose a social media platform to work with that they are more comfortable with. Basically, I set it up similar to what I did with the Fakebook project, but with a lot less guidance. I let the students choose at least one platform. However, I urge them to combine several, and this also includes text messages. This allows those students who are not really into the whole social media thing also have a chance at being successful with the project (You would be surprised at how many students in a class this includes. Not all of our students are glued to a mobile device like we think.)

This project really does work the best if the instructions are vague. This is what I give the students.

Instructions:  

  1. The goal of this project is to show that you understand the play by presenting it in the form of social media. Students will choose one or several different platforms to work with (Facebook, Snapchat, Text Messages, Instagram, etc…).
  2. Choose a character who will “own” the platforms. This will be the student’s “main character.” Students will observe the story through this character’s eyes. It would be a good idea to create a page where the characters are defined in some manner.
  3. Minimum Requirements
  4. 6 Friends who should be used throughout the project
  5. 6 posts per Act with at least 2 responses/comments for each post

– There should be at least 18 total posts per act!

  1. Grading for this project will be done using the attached proficiency scales. The grades on these scales will be taken into consideration for the final grade. However, hard work and creativity will be taken into account for the final grade, which will be given at the teacher’s discretion.
  2. This project is worth 12 Assessment points.
  3. The project should be created using either Google Docs or Google Slides.

Here is a link for the instructions in Google Doc form: Click Here!

That’s it! The students just seem to run with it. At first, it looks like a ton of work, but once students get rolling, it really doesn’t take them that long. Of course, we are doing this with a Shakespeare play, but just like the Fakebook project, this one can be used for countless classroom applications.

Big Question: How do the students create the pages?

That is the beauty of this project. Leave it up to the students. They will find a bunch of different ways to make it work. I don’t worry about too much, and the projects always come out great. Let them be creative!

As far as grading goes, notice that it is mentioned in the instructions that students will be graded using a proficiency scale. On this particular assignment, I use proficiency scales for the following standards:

RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11.12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a  complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

W.11-12.3d Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

If you are not sure how a proficiency scale works, look for a post on that soon. It is something that I have been working with quite a bit over the last year, but it there is just too much there for this post.

Basic Info on Proficiency Scales: Click Here!

 

 

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Grading projects can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number one rule teachers break when grading a project is that they make it too complicated. Actually, this is probably the case for most of the headaches that teachers have.  I can’t say it any plainer:

Make it simple!!!

Here is a simple rubric that can be used for most projects done in the classroom. I also like this one because it can be adapted quickly (if that is really called for) to meet the needs of a particular assignment.

Remember, and I want you to repeat this 3 times, “I don’t have to grade every single thing a student does in my class.”

Life just got a whole lot easier!

Link:  General Project Rubric

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One sure fire way for a teacher to burn out is to spend hours and hours pouring over student papers. Grading has to be one of the biggest culprits of killing teachers. Anyone who has spent much time in the classroom as an instructor has done it, and anyone who has lasted long in the classroom has figured out a means of enduring it. But a teacher does not need to put up with all of this tedious grading for hours on end.

Some seem to think that this is the lot of a teacher. I have worked with many teachers in the past, some having worked for decades, who feel this is just the life a teacher has chosen to lead. Somehow, they have figured out how to manage the hours of work.

I’ll be honest, I am still not now what I consider to be seasoned teacher. I still do not have my first ten years down. However, I do know this; if I had to spend several hours a night grading papers, I would not still be teaching at this point. I probably wouldn’t have made it through the first few years.

The Problem

Being an English teacher, there is plenty of grading to do. Papers are the big time eaters. There is nothing more depressing to a first year teacher than a pile of 100 student essay, all written to the lofty 5 page length requirement, laying on a desk next to an extensive rubric that grades for everything from style and voice down to the last poorly place comma. Of course, reading the papers isn’t all that bad. The hard part is making comments and marking the rubric and then rereading the paper to check for grammar errors. This takes time. I have worked with teachers in the past who take up to a 1/2 hour per paper graded. With a 100 papers, this is some serious time, most of which has to be done outside of normal school hours.

I’ve been there. I’ve done it.

But now I have seen the light (I’m trying to see how many cliche’s I can use!).

Read these next few words knowing that I will explain what I mean in the next few paragraphs. Grading papers, especially student writing, is overrated.

Just ask any student: “How many of the comments did you read that I spent hours writing knowing they were words of great wisdom that would make you a better writer?”

The answer for 99 percent of the students I have worked with is, “None. Well I did look at the grade at the top, but after that, none.” Teachers are killing themselves by hours of grading and commenting when the students are not even paying attention.

The Solution

Don’t grade so much. This means something different for every teacher. This is what it means for me.

When grading anything that resembles a test, I use multiple choice bubble sheets. My school does not have a scanner to grade these, so I have improvised by using the Catpin Bubble Sheet Generator. I just make a bubble sheet for the test. Then for the answer key, I use a hole punch and make a master. I then use this to grade the test. I can do a whole class in less than five minutes. No more looking back and forth at a master test or answer page. Just overlay the master, mark those that are wrong with a marker, and count up how many the students missed.

This,  of course doesn’t help with writing projects. Here is how I handle the grading of papers.

To start, I plan class activities in such a manner that I will have some time to grade papers while students are working independently and quietly in the classroom. My plan, in most cases, is to have the papers graded, within one class period (we are on the block) before the students leave the room.

The biggest change I had to make in my grading style was to get over making comments on the papers. Anymore, I don’t even write a word on most papers I grade. I read the paper one time through and then go to the rubric. On a sticky note, I record the grades according the rubric. I then tuck these grades into a separate pile, mark the paper as graded with a check, and move on to the next paper. Except for the check, there are no other marks on the paper! Remember, the students are not going to read them.

I can feel the cringing and screaming from all you seasoned teachers. Students need feedback! Well, we’re not done with the papers yet. Let me restate that. The students are not done with their papers yet.

Usually, in one of the next few class periods, I give the students back their papers with a rubric. They grade their own papers by analyzing what they have written in comparison to the rubric. I have many different means of doing this. Sometimes, I also give them some exemplar papers to read before they read theirs, so they know what a top notch paper looks like. When they are finished looking over their own paper, I show them the grade that I gave them. They then compare what I observed when I graded their paper to what they found.

The students give themselves their own feedback. I do not have to tell them a thing. This is students being critical of their own work and becoming better writers. In my experience, students like this means of grading. Students often comment that they like getting a paper grade within a week instead of waiting for a month, which is going to be the case if a teacher spends a 1/2 hour on each paper.

Cutting down on grading does not mean that a teacher is slacking off on the job or that a teacher doesn’t care about student learning. It just makes sense. On top of that, it keeps me sane!

 

 

 

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I don’t usually think the best place to go for great teaching resources is on a school website. Often, they are clunky, and the link pages they usually list are disorganized and cumbersome. There is one school website, however, that I have used over and over again over the years: the Greece K12 website.

Today, I was looking for rubrics for a speech unit. I wanted one that was simple but that would still cover the standards. I looked around and then thought I should google “speech rubric greece k12.” Sure enough, the first hit was a whole list of rubrics, and one of them was a speech rubric. It was exactly what I was looking for. To make my day even even better, the rubric was created in a Word document, which means I was able to download it to my computer and edit it to fit what I wanted for my class. This rarely happens with rubrics.

The page I have used the most on this site is their excellent, organized list of graphic organizers. This is a resource that every teacher, no matter the subject, should have in the toolbox.

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I am working on a plan for summer school. It’s coming up quickly, and since these students are those who have already failed English once, I want to try something with them that is a little different. I want them to blog.

In the past, I have used blogs extensively as a tool in the classroom but not blogs that were directly written by the students. One of the reasons that I have not had all students in a classroom write their own blogs is the time commitment involved on my part. Reading through 100 blogs on a regular basis seems like a daunting task.Granted, I would not have to read every single blog every day, but even just setting up that many blogs is some serious work.

Summer school will be the perfect place to try this out because the student numbers are limited. I work with the same group of students for 4 hours a day, and there will not be more than twenty students. This should make managing the blogs easier. I can work out the kinks before trying this with a larger number of students.

My hope is that each student will start a blog on a topic that really interests them. To find material for their blogs, students will also have an RSS reader set up where they can read daily about their topics and then post links and information that they find interesting and pertinent. Hopefully, this will get them excited about reading and writing. Okay, excited may be a strong word for students who are spending their summer in my classroom, but at least maybe they will be engaged in their work.

That is the hope 🙂

 

 

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