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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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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One of the challenges in doing video projects with students is having enough cameras for every group. Often, there is one or two cameras for an entire class meaning there are a bunch of students standing around waiting to use the camera which is frustrating for both the students and the teacher.

If students are allowed to use the technology they already own, the sharing of school cameras will not be a problem. This week, two of my classes are making videos to demonstrate satire. I have 9 groups filming and not a single one of these groups is using a school camera. The majority of them are using either an iPod or an iPhone to do their recording.

I’ll admit, I was a little bit skeptical at first. I expected a bunch of shaky film work with barely audible soundtracks, but the result of the videos was outstanding. The pictures were clear and crisp and surprisingly stable, at least as stable as most student made videos even when they are using a tripod. On top of this, the audio was loud and clear, even better than a few of the actual video cameras that we used.

Teachers and administrators often look at the technology that students bring to school as a distraction, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it can be.  However, not using the technology that students have at their disposal is asinine! The students have it. They have paid (or their parents have paid) a lot of money for it. Why not show them how to use it productively? Why not put it to good use? I do know this from personal experience: when students get the opportunity to use their own technology as a tool for learning, they become totally engaged in whatever they are being taught. Actually, when this happens, they take great ownership in their own education.

First, teachers need to be educated in how to use the technology that students use. Those iPods in the student pockets are not just a fancy Walkman (I bet you haven’t thought about one of these for a while!). They are tech powerhouses, almost as powerful as the desktop computer or laptop you are reading this on right now. Though this video is a few years old now, it gives a great overview of what can be done with an iPod in the classroom:

 

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Examples are the best way to show students how to make a Fakebook page. The problem is that making one takes time, something that is a premium for most teachers. Here are a few sample pages that will help get the creative juices flowing for students. From the looks of them, most of these were created by students, so there are some grammatical errors, as well as errors in some of the content. However, these should give students a pretty good idea of what is expected.

English:

History / Social Studies

Science

Music

P.E. / Health

 

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Earlier this week, I wrote about using Prezi Meeting with a middle school class. One of the challenges we faced was figuring out how to post the links, which were insanely long to try and type in, so that other students could access the links. Here’s what we did.

1. Create a pirate pad (or equivalent). Go to piratepad.net

2. Click on the big frog

3. Once the pad is created, copy the URL for the pad

4. Paste the URL for the Pirate Pad to a blog or web page where all student will have access

5. Now, have one student in each group set up an active Prezi presentation and make sure you are in edit mode

6. Click on the “Meeting” tab at the top of the page

7. On the drop down menu, click “invite to edit”

8. A box will come up with a special URL for that Prezi. Copy the URL

9. Now, go to the Pirate Pad page and paste this URL along with a group name. This is important if several different groups are going to use the same Pirate Pad.

10. The rest of the group can now go to the Pirate Pad, copy the URL for their group Prezi, and past it in the address bar. The students will then be taken to the appropriate Prezi to work collaboratively as a group.

I think this will do it! My middle school students did this several times this week, and it worked great. The best thing about it was that they all got to participate in the construction of the project, which gave them much more buy in when it came time to present as a group.

If you try this and think of another step I may have missed, please let me know, and I will do some editing. Thanks!

 

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This week, one of my classes has been working on a website using the Lifeyo. That might not seem like something worth writing about, but what is cool is that they are all able to work at the same time. They all log into the site and are able to add content to the site.

These students are in my Current Issues class, and I have asked them to go out on the internet and find different current events from around the world. They then write down the title, author, and a two sentence summary on a Word document. After that, they cut and paste their “event” onto the website which has several pages named after different classifications of world news that the student came up with like education, crime, and government.

I have 12 students in the class, and they are all able to get on at the same time and post their events without much trouble. Sometimes it does get a little messy as events tend to be place on top of each other. However, this is quickly fixed after everyone is done posting.

Basically, we are using the website as a place to post the student’s assignment. By doing this on the internet, the project is much more real for the students, and their engagement level is quite high. To be honest, they are loving it!

There are lots of applications for a project like this in most any classroom. Here are a few more ways to try this in your classroom:

1. Math: Have students work out problems and post the instructions on the website. Your class could have their own “Math Instruction” site. I am guessing that this would also serve as a good reference for them in the future.

2. English: Students could make a “Grammar Guide” site. Each student could find one grammar rule (or be assigned one), research it, and post the rule along with examples. Maybe they just all find examples. There are lots of places this could go.

3. Science: The teacher could give a topic and have the students go out and find information relating to a topic to post on the site. This is a great way to pre-teach a topic!

 

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Video projects do not have to be limited to older students. Young students also benefit greatly from the process of writing and acting in their own production. This video was produced with a group of first graders. It is an excellent example of how video can be used to not only help students learn a concept, but help motivate them to do so.

A project like this serves several different functions:

  • Students learn the names of the planets
  • Students learn vocabulary, especially orbit, since they perform that action at the beginning of the video.
  • Students learn key facts about the planets.
  • Because the video is student created, students will be motivated to watch the video over again, reinforcing the concepts they learned while making the video.

While this video project was focused on science, the same thing can be done with any subject. Just getting out a camera will motivate the students to work and help them learn.

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