Friday, November 30, 2012

Teacher Identity

I am struggling with who I am as a teacher . . . it's an identity crisis!!

Look, I am not the hardcore teacher who says "my way or the highway" and all students will learn this material this way and if you don't get it, oh well.

I understand that students learn in different ways and at different paces.  I know some students enjoy repetition & worksheets, while others crave hands-on activities.  And then there's technology - lovers, haters, and whatevers.

We are a 1:1 tablet school now so I feel the pressure to use the tablets consistently in class.  But I struggle with the daily routine of creating quality online material with all the links and whistles.  Then, I know I need to differentiate in my classroom . . . ahhhhhh!  Oh yeah, and then there's COMMON CORE (echo echo) looming around the corner.  And new teacher evaluations for the state of Ohio.  And . . . IDENTITY CRISIS!?!?

Project Based Learning - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Technology = flipped class - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Standards Based Grading - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Follow the textbook one section at a time - dislike this with a passion.  Is that the teacher I should be?
Lots of assessment and feedback - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Work more closely with my colleague next door - she's awesome and has great ideas and she's so stinking organized it's sickening (but she's not me and I'm not her) - Is that the teacher I should be?

With all these questions and more circulating in my head it leads to . . . bog down.  I freeze, I end up tripping my way through lessons which are inconsistent & I'm sure frustrating for some students.  IDENTITY CRISIS!

Don't get me wrong . . . I truly enjoy teaching and the students are learning and are showing maturity and all that great stuff (as much as 9th graders can!).  But, I feel like I am short of my potential as a teacher.  But, I don't want to put all my time and effort into a certain teaching identity and find that it was a waste.  I want my identity to motivate me and my students.  I want to be energized.

And I want my students to enjoy math and to feel some ownership over their learning and progress as a math student.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My New Assessment Plan

I am trying to really turn my focus in class to assessment.  The idea is to get the students to focus more on what they know and not so much on "how many points did I get"?  I am trying to work on some type of structure for me and for the students to follow.  The steps incorporate multiple feedback steps for students to help identify problem areas and areas of strength.

I am hoping to tweak this over the next few weeks leading up to the end of first semester (and Christmas break!).

Here is what I have so far . . .  do you do anything similar? different but works?  thoughts/suggestions?

My Assessment Plan

1.  Feedback Assessment - check for right answers / circle wrong answers

2.  “Fix it” Assignment - watch video / complete form explaining mistake / create “good ones”

3.  Feedback Assignment - “review assignment” - teacher comments

4.  Graded Assessment - grade that goes into progressbook

5.  Individual Reassessment (if needed)

Monday, November 26, 2012


IDK - that's the response I got today on my Parallelograms Pre-Assessment.

The students had to find slope of a line on a graph, slope of a line given two points, and then do the same using the distance formula.  They also were asked to sketch a parallelogram on a coordinate axis and explain why the shape was a parallelogram.

IDK - that was the answer I got the most on the pre-assessment.

That's not what bothers me or even caused me to write this blog post . . . IT ENDED THERE!

There were no "freak out sessions" or "how do I do this?" or "show me how to do #2!".

Did I miss something?  Where's the intrinsic motivation?  These students are "ahead" of their peers . . . ?

So, I worked with one student who actually knew how to complete the problems (referencing the pythagorean theorem!) and another student asked for help with her polyhedron project.

Yet once again . . . it is me who is stressed and frustrated with the progress of the students.  The students are just hunky dorie!

Let me think about what to do . . . IDK!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Assessment - Tried something different

I have been reading all of what Shawn Cornally ( @thinkthunkthank) has to say on assessment and standards based grading.

This week . . . my plan was to try a different angle with this week's assessment in Algebra.  I gave the assessment Thursday . . . graded the assessment but only made comments and circled areas of weakness or mistakes.

No points, no percentages, etc.

Then, I emailed each student so they knew how they did on each problem (standard).

Friday (today), the next day, I gave the assessments back to the students.  Then, I had the students do the following:

1.  If they got the problem correct . . . then they created 1 problem on their own and worked the problem out (showing me that the first time was not a "fluke").
2.  If the student got the problem incorrect . . . then they created 2 problems on their and worked them out (giving them multiple opportunities to show success).

The student could ask questions, but only about the original assessment from Thursday (the one with comments/circles) which helped students focus on their weaknesses and make connections to help them create and complete their own problems.

Things went really well overall.  Good discussions, students seemed to make progress and better overall understanding.

Issue:  How do I put this in to the gradebook as a percentage?  Do students who got the problems correct on Thursday earn a higher percentage than those who needed Friday to find success?  Or, does it really matter when they show success?  Success is success, right?  Do I make another assessment as a final follow up - maybe only the ones who needed the Friday strength day?

Pros - I love email and the ability to give immediate feedback to students.  This has been an issue for me in the past and something I want to improve upon this year.  Also, the assessment style I used took the focus off the points and percentages and rather on knowing the material - win in my book!

Cons - it takes a lot of time to email each student individually (but I think it was worth it overall).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SBG tidbits - quotes of interest!

Shawn Cornally (@thinkthankthunk &
-taken from blog post "I Make My Own Bacon:  How I Learned to Love Assessment"

"This is why a philosophy like SBG is so important for a more natural classroom. When assessment becomes more than a grim reaper of grades, and becomes something both students and teachers welcome as information gathering, that’s when you’ve made it. You’ve made the currency of your classroom about learning, and the points are just placeholders. Hallelujah."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Assessment - There's got to be more to it!

I have been really interested in Standards Based Grading (SBG) and Standards Based Assessment and Reform (SBAR) . . . over the summer I got all into the twitter chats and subscribed to numerous blogs via google reader.  So this school year, so far, I have focused my grading (or gradebook more like it), but now feel a void in my current set up.

My struggles come from the fact that I have students who are not good at some skills, but I have not truly given them an opportunity to become better at their weaknesses.  For instance, I workout and I keep a log of all my workouts so I can see my progress . . . in April my bench press was about 185 lbs. while now I am over 200 lbs. . . . there are programs that can take my lifts and let me know if I am a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter based on my strength.  I can see where I am weak and can focus on those areas in hopes of making them strengths.

Re-assessment.  That's what I am missing . . . also I think I am missing great opportunities to communicate with my students what I feel is their strengths/weaknesses.

I am currently focusing my attention on one "guru" of SBG:  Shawn Cornally (@thinkthankthunk /  This guy is awesome and his posts are not only informative but amusing.

Something that has caught my attention from his posts is the idea of on-going assessments . . . I have been assessing my lifts since the spring.  I didn't just lock in a final weight mid-summer and call it quits.  Now I do have cycles that I lift through, then re-evaluate where I am and where I want to go.  In the classroom . . . how about I keep the standards/scores from first quarter and continue them in the second quarter allowing students to work on previous standards that they struggled with.

This would give a more overall picture of the student's ability in class . . . because that's what I'm supposedly assessing.  Right?  Not who is responsible with regards to keeping a notebook or completing homework assignments . . . my ultimate goal is to create the strongest math student I can.

With my school going to gmail and all students having an account I am looking at ways to really communicate with students about the standards, about opportunities to take weaknesses and turn them into strengths, to push my stronger students to higher levels and bust through plateaus.  Plus, how many times have discussions or surveys or exit slips given you a deeper glance into the thinking of your students?  I know I need those one on one interactions with students where the formality of a quiz or test are not evident and the student can speak candidly about the topic at hand.  Email is a great buffer for this . . . what a great way to find gaps in understanding and to develop an action plan moving ahead and to build trust and support with/for your students!

Think about it . . . it's the end of May, end of the school year, and each of my students gets a list of all the standards we have covered and gets a break down of weak areas, strong areas, areas of average strength.  Wouldn't that be more valuable to my students?  What does a C with a comment of consistent effort in class do for the student or parent?

I really want to attack this idea . . . I think my teaching fits well with this idea . . . I think I need to put more time into my feedback for students and begin to create more conversations about the progress of each of my students.  I think the time and effort will be worth it.