Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Social Studies’ 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?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

 

 

Read Full Post »

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!

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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:

 

Read Full Post »

I love reading comments for this blog. It lets me know what is relevant and also makes me think about my own opinions on certain matters. However, in the almost 2 years that I have been writing this blog, I have never had a student comment. Read the following comment left this weekend on the blog post 5 Fake Facebook templates and pages for student projects :

Teachers, listen. I am a thirteen year old student in 8th grade. Fakebook is boring. It was OK the first time. Now, being assigned a Fakebook for the 4th or 5th time since last year, I can say it is almost painful to complete. Only use it if most students in your class have never done it before. It is ok if it is used for the kids themselves, but students (except over-achievers or the crazy ones who like schoolwork) don’t like reasearching, and we REALLY don’t like applying something we DO NOT like (schoolwork) to something we DO like (Facebook, or honestly, any technology at all). Please do not make us think of Julius Ceasar when we play 20 questions because we did a project on him. It has been over used. Please move on. Use your OWN imagination. Also, do not make us sing, dance, wear costumes, make plays, post us on youtube, or anything like that. If we aren’t the super-popular type, we do not want our face splattered anywhere. Do not make kids hate you. Also, if any of my teachers realize who I am, this isn’t completely directed at you. Don’t fail me. It was just time someone said this. Thanks.

What a relevant comment, Sidney! I think that there are a lot of good  lessons her to learn, both on the part of the teacher but also the students.

Teachers need to listen to what is being said here. Too much of a good thing can, at times, turn into bored students sitting in the classroom. I will admit that I have been at the front end of doing this before. I find something that works well and will use it over and over. There are, of course, reasons for this. I just have to make sure the reasons are good and well though out.

For example, am I using Fakebook in the classroom because I have already used it several times, so the students will know how to do the project? This is a good reason if I have other good reasons. However, if I am just  using Fakebook to avoid teaching students another way of presenting information, then I am probably being lazy. I am not  being a good teacher.

Using fun and inventive apps is good only when reasoning is backed by a good standards based decision. The same goes for video projects and other activities teacher might use in the classroom.

Just as teachers need to think before making assignments, students need to think about the reason a teacher gives an assignment. Teachers do not generally make assignments up to bore students to death in the classroom. My hope is that teachers have good reason to give an assignment and do so to help students learn.

Sidney, I can see that doing a Fakebook assignment for the fourth time might seem boring, but I often hear the same thing from students when I ask them to read or write an essay. Learning requires, at times, that we do things that might seem boring or uninteresting. However, remember that your teacher has asked you to perform a task in order to learn. This also goes for plays and video projects.

Learning is work, and work isn’t always fun.

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: