Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Brain Dump

How should I include problems covering 2-3 concepts?
I think I'll call them Power concepts. These would be required for students who want to move to a higher level of math in 9th grade. I'll list these under a problem solving standard and they will count as 10% of their final grade. They can only take Power concepts when they have mastered the related concepts. This will be good for the high level students who take little time on their weekly quizzes because they master everything as soon as I give it to them.

What should I do about the kids who get a C on the midterm?
An idea:
If the score on a particular concept on the midterm or final is less than 3 (I have a 5 point scale taken from Kate Nowak)and the previous concept is score of 8, 9 or 10, it becomes a 7/10. Their grade will drop. If they receive a 4 or 5 on any concept on the midterm or final, nothing changes. If they get a score of 1, the score changes to a 6/10. Students need to prepare for the final and midterm and mastering concepts but not being able to retain them is a big problem. I will allow them to use their notes on these exams. I think I will add a retention check sheet for their student record.

Students don't care about "old" concepts. Some do and that is great but I have had a cut off point at the end of each trimester. Standards should be cumulative. I have hated not counting standards that are on previous trimesters. Trimester 2 will include all of the concepts from tri 1 and trimester 3 will include all of the concepts from tri 1 and 2. if they drastically improve on concepts, I could even request a grade change for a previous trimester. Any midterm or final should also be cumulative.

What should I do about the end of tri push to improve their grades?
I graded about 75 reassessments yesterday. (I allowed them to do them in class because I have been somewhat unavailable after school) It is still frustrating that this is about the points to them not just the learning but they are learning.....hmmmmm... I think a signup sheet..... If people sign up for a spot and don't show, it will be easier for me but not nice for their classmates who wanted to come, oh well..

Other end of the year woes:
Students have checked out and won't really listen to me or learn from me much anymore so I'm not too hopeful about getting much mastery on the last few concepts.

What about homework?
A lot of kids do a terrible job on it, whether or not it is graded. I think I will check it and write a score in my phony grade book (#correct)and give feedback on my weekly Edline reports but I won't include it in their grade. 

My real grade book will consist of concept scores (Spreadsheet) and I will enter sum of the top 2 scores in our school grade book.

grades next year:
90% concepts
10 % Power concepts and other things I decide that I want to grade. A team test now and then, an involved problem or project they work on that strengthens their understanding of the core concepts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let the Grades Fall

Last night I updated my students concept scores and I've decided that next year I need to have the score in the grade book be the last 2 scores on on each concept. I have many students who have the mindset that they can take a test and forget it and they are not studying for these quizzes. It's too late to make the change now and it wouldn't matter for the last 3-4 concepts anyway because we're almost out of time.

I am really happy though, when I look at their grades and now I know that the grades mean something. The grades are definitely lower in my Geometry class so, as I suspected, I was guilty of grade inflation.

Another thing I am pleased with are my students who are achieving mastery on almost every concept and never did well in math before. My general observation is this: my Algebra class is doing better than my Geometry class. I think this is because kids got on the advanced track by being game players and they didn't really know how to learn. The Algebra kids feel like they have a way out and they may have felt trapped (and probably stupid) because they were not good at the game. Now that it means something, they can do it. I love those kids.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What They Have to Say

I had individual meetings with all of my math students yesterday, just to check in and see how they're doing. In Geometry, I wanted to find out what happened to them on the midterm. most of them brought no notes, many of them rushed through. I asked if they had enough time, they said "yeah" and they were done early. "Well, why did you rush?" I asked. "I don't know just to be done." Many could not do skills they had previously mastered, they forgot and didn't bring their DPM (definitions and properties manual or their DPMs were not useful because their notes were bad.

I'm trying to remember how I got last year's class to love their DPMs. I remember that they fondly called them their "dippum" Hmmm.... There's an apathy with this class that I can'figure out. I think I will reintroduce concepts after the midterm if I see low retention across the board. If they've previously mastered it, they get a free "5" and they just have to do it one time to get their stamp.

I like the idea of a cumulative concept quiz for the midterm and final and including concepts from earlier in the year that are not part of their new concepts.

Hard week. In Earth Science, they're doing their Energy projects on Monday. I do not feel as confident about their readiness for this as I think I did last year and I spent a lot less time preparing for it.

I wrote this on the weekly email to parents this week....
Students are asking for extra credit and my answer is an adamant “No.” In math, students can raise their grade by learning the concepts. They have a weekly opportunity in class on Concept Quizzes and can come in and reassess on any concept as long as they can prove they have done some work towards learning that concept. When they come in outside of class, I ask them to show me their homework or tell me what they have done to learn that concept before allowing them to reassess. I have had to turn several students away when they have come in with no proof that they have done any work toward learning the concept. I call this the “video game” approach to math; just keep trying until something works or you get lucky (that works on video games, I know because I play them). This does not help them learn what they need to know.

The "video game approach" came form Shawn Cornally's blog.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Game

I'm a bit weary of fighting against the game and the games.....I just read Shawn Cornally's post on MineCraft and I'm thinking that though I have put up a good fight this year, I am pretty beat. How is a 49 year old nerd like me supposed to compete with Black Ops? (Hey, at least I know what Black Ops is.)

I'm doing the sbg thing, trying to avoid giving points for anything that's not learning, trying to engage with interesting things I find, etc....but part of me thinks that it's too hard to win this battle, at least this year.

My Algebra students are doing great but my Geometry kids are just not motivated enough for me. I gave them their midterm, all concepts we've been working on since the beginning of the trimester, they were allowed to use notes (only three of them did) and they did lousy. This was not the case last trimester so I'm wondering what happened. I have 25 students and only 3 got A's and 3 B's, the rest were C's with a handful of D's and F's. The test looked like a longer concept quiz (only 4 more concepts than usual) and the questions were recycled from old quizzes. I think I'll meet with each of them individually tomorrow and find out what's going on. I'll have them reflect a bit first.

The midterm is worth very little to their grade but it was worth a lot to me because I was using it to check long term retention. I wish it was worth as much to them.