I have already written during the first week of school about my excitement as I embarked on a paradigm shift in how I, and my students, think about, and record work (grades, activities, reading reflections, etc.).
Three weeks later my excitement has turned into obsession!
I am SO happy this with new process, that, for a lack of a better, less "buzzy" phrase, it feels as if I am leveraging a Google Sheet template as a "Metacognitive Portfolio". A process that, after years of tinkering, really, actually, forces "thinking about thinking" and curates work effectively.
Not something I read on a blog (like this one) or something I was told to do at a workshop or faculty PD session.
What I mean is this: Rather than recording grades in our grade book, students keep track of their own progress on standards, while I keep track of progress on a paper sheet, and update quarterly.
BUT in addition to standards tracking, students are tracking ALL of their work in a Google Sheet using sub tabs.
One tab is for tracking standards performance (autogenerated colors help students reflect reassessment needs). One tab is for links to their activity slides (click here for a previous post about this process). Finally, one tab is for students to track, in a structured way, reflections on class readings.
Thus, the three things I grade: standards, activities, and readings, are now curated easily, in one place, for students to not only reflect on performance, but also catalog work.
One place for students to gain awareness of performance, build pride around their body of work, and develop appreciation for their readings curated over the course of the year.
Simple. No website. Easy. Effective. So far...
Plus, I don't have students coming and asking "what is my grade?". I rather have students asking, "have you graded that yet so I can update to my sheet."
It keeps us both honest in the best possible way.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, whenever I need to access student work, I go to ONE PLACE to access it ALL! Grades, activities, readings, etc. I love it!
Less tech. Better tech.
Click here for the template I pushed out on the first day of class for them to track. They shared it with me, I made a folder of their sheets, and thats it.
I have ALL their work. No folder, just a sheet. I love it! (Can you tell I'm excited??)
See images of the system below, along with an embedded video of me reflecting, in an overly excited way after a day of teaching, on the process. (Note: this might not be life changing to any of you, but I have to share it. Simpler=Better IMO. I have tried so many things and this...this my friends...is something I'm truly pumped about!."
It's like REFLECTIVE PRACTICE CHRISTMAS or something. :)
I have written in the past about using Google Slides as a lab reporting tool in my courses. Since writing about this process last year I have COMPLETELY embraced this method.
As a I wrote before, images, video, diagrams, etc., can all be captured easily, live conclusion presentations are seamless, hyperlinks to other resources to enhance conclusions can be added, and students can easily alter the template fonts and design to match their own vision for the report (so much more can be said).
This school year I have decided to streamline the process, adding instructions, embedded video, and rubrics to the slide template students will work in. Click here and here for a few template examples and here and here for associate student products.
A short post, but given the efficacy of this subtle instructional strategy, I felt it was worth sharing again!
Ever since I read amazing physics instructor Frank Noschese's writngs on Standards Based Grading (SBG), I have been obsessed with figuring out a system that works for me.
This 2011 blog outlines my initial attempt.
This 2018 blog outlines one of many subsequent revisions.
Today, day 1 of the 2019-2020 school year, and my 19th year in the classroom, I find myself reinventing the SBG wheel once again. I am committed to the process, or some eventual variation of the process for three primary reasons:
Each iteration is catalyzed by some aspect of the above three rules falling short.
Either I have, as my first attempt in 2011 demonstrates, overcomplicated the grading process (4.7/5) trying to place a 5 pt scale on a 10 pt scale, or as my 2018 post demonstrates, overcomplicated the student communication piece, forcing students to record their performance on a ridiculously complex spreadsheet.
Good intentions...bad result.
I think I'm on to something this year! At least that little pedagogical voice in my gut senses I'm on to something. Here's the plan:
I am hopeful that the combination of simplified, more overarching standards, a more simple and structured way for students to track performance with color codes, and limited recording of public grades with maximum student individual recording of standard performance, will be a system that works for me this year!
The joys of reflective practice.
About three months ago I did something I often do but I am embarrassed to admit:
I assigned a "sub lesson" when absent, asked students to submit evidence of completion, and then...
...wait for it...
DIDN'T EVER LOOK at the document!
Yes, I suppose it's a combination of my confidence in the accountability created by having students submit images via a collaborative google doc, and the pure hecticness during the school year. More of the later.
Anyhow, here I am, sitting at some random cafe enjoying my summer and cleaning up my Google Drive, and I stumbled upon a Google Doc that contained a sub assignment I had asked my students to do when learning about balancing ionic compounds.
I have been striving to incorporate more inquiry into my sub assignments, and this was my first stab at it.
A little bit about the lesson:
My 4-year-old twin boys were gifted a set of HUGE, generic legos, and I had a thought! See image below:
While my kids quickly realized that they were not "real" Legos and went on to doing whatever 4-year-old twin boys do, I saw a potential sub lesson!
In my chemistry class we had just got done learning about the Periodic Table of Elements and how positive and negative ions form. I had yet to introduce the idea of ions transferring electrons to form balanced ionic compounds. Hence, the entry point for inquiry!
I was to be gone the next day of class, and I decided to cut all the legos into blocks of 1, 2, or 3, bumps (not sure what the correct term is?), that, in my mind, represented the +1/-1, +2/-2, and +3/-3 ions. It is a common activity to have students form ionic compounds by fitting them together correctly.
But, my students did not know this. Hence, the entry point for inquiry!
After placing all the pieces in the center of the room, I emailed my sub the following prompt:
Ask students to model the formation of Ionic Compounds using this document. Ask them to insert images of their models into the document.
To be honest, I had know idea what they would produce, as the prompt was very open-ended in general, let alone for a sub assignment.
Back to the point of this post. When I looked at their responses...today...I was blown away. They completely nailed the activity. Shame on me for not even following up with them the next day in class...It is so easy to lose track of the most important things as a teacher at times.. Embarrassing, but true.
Below is screenshot from the shared google doc where they uploaded their responses:
Pennies made after 1982 are ~ 95% zinc with a plated copper exterior. Thus, a penny contains two metals and can, if manipulated properly, be converted into a battery. See video below:
This video is LEGIT, and upon seeing it, my gut was to provide students with this video, the materials, and let them go at it as an introduction to our unit on energy in Biology class. (Mitochondria metaphor, etc.).
Then I remembered the research on curiosity! The goal is to intentionally withhold the IDEAL amount of information.
Peak interest, but create suspense. Provide enough information as to not demotivate, but leave enough out as to keep the learner guessing.
The below "inverted U" graph of Curiosity vs. Knowledge (knowledge confidence), provides a great visual.
Inspect it carefully.
Have all the info. Not curious. Have no info. Not curious. Withhold the ideal amount. Curious.
So, back to the initial activity. I fear that if I give students the above video, as awesome as it is, the activity will transition from science to "arts and crafts".
I fear that by providing the video, I will provide too much information, push students to the far right of the "inverted U" and minimize curiosity.
DESPITE how engaging the activity is!
The engagement lies not in the video quality, or the task, but the anticipation of what will happen.
The frustration in not knowing exactly what will happen, or how to do it.
The tension that is built when the instructor perfectly provides and withholds.
The cognitive reward the learner receives when that tension is revealed.
We all love solving riddles.
This is the true "Call to Adventure".
So here is what I'm going to do instead.
Step 1: Tell students that electrons can flow spontaneously through a material when two different metals are connected through a conductive solution.
Step 2: Tell students that pennies after 1982 are platted with copper.
Step 3: Provide students with the exact materials shown in the screenshot from the video above. Include the video title "How to Make a Penny Battery from Start to Finish" in the below image as a strategy for pushing students directly under the "inverted U" shown above.
Step 4: Challenge students to light the LED using only the materials provided in the above image. Remove internet privileges to ensure that information is strategically withheld and students do not look up the above video.
Step 5: Play the above video.
Step 6: Treat this as the first two"Es" (Engage and Explore) in the 5E Learning cycle. Continue on with lesson. Etc., etc.