Monday, July 27, 2015

MTBoS Love - Graph of the Week

Kelly Turner has this great site.  I can not find her on twitter, so if you know her personally, convince her to join.  Then tell me about it so I can follow her.

She posts a graph with reflection questions every week during the school year.  I like to use these as warm-ups with my 9-12 students.  She asks students to look at a new, relevant, and interesting graph.  Students practice reading the graphs to answer questions like:  What is the topic of the graph? What do the axes represent? What observations can you make? What do you think will happen in the future?

Reading graphs is always a frustrating topic for me to teach.  It seems like something that high school kids should be able to do, but  it turns out they can't.  I like to use this resource once a week to give my kids extra practice.  We also discuss misleading graphs and bias.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

MTBoS Love - Agree or Disagree

AOD is another site that I love. These usually take the entire period to get through so they may not be just a warm-up. I could certainly see starting the activity at the beginning of a unit and then asking students to draw a conclusion. When they indicate that they don't know how to justify their position, it creates a need for the unit that you are starting. Then you can come back to this activity again at the end of the unit and do the math to support or dispute their original claim.

Tim McCaffrey, the creator of this site has asked engaging questions that require 3-acts to reach their conclusion.  The 3-acts typically involve posing a problem, giving more information, and finding a solution.  Other tweeps have their own 3-act databases that are awesome too.  I'll write about those in a later post.  For now, enjoy these.  This is a good place to get started with 3-act math because it is not too overwhelming.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

MTBoS Love - Graphing Stories

Graphing stories are probably one of my favorite ways to start class.  The kids love it too.  I use it for all of my 9-12 students.  I don't match the graphs to the type of function we are studying, we just have at it.  Something about the videos is just very engaging for students. Here is how I use the site.

1)  Give students this handout.
2)  Play the first part of the video pausing as the y-axis is labeled so that students can write their title and labels.
3)  Play the full speed and half speed part of the video.
4)  Pause the video and ask the students to sketch the graph.
5)  Ask if anyone wants to see the video again (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't)
6)  Ask students to compare their graph with an elbow partner and discuss any differences.
7)  Take a pic and project one student's answer (I use Doceri on iPad)
8)  Ask the student to explain what is happening in their graph and how it matches the video.
9)  Ask if anyone wants to make any changes
10)  Ask questions about anything that stands out in the graph (did the person stop moving?  Did the person move smoothly or abruptly?)
11)  Play the answer part of the video and compare that graph with the class graph from step 9.
12)  Discuss what was happening at any point during the video/graph that students missed.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

MTBoS Love - Visual Patterns

The next resource that I like to use to start the class period is visual patterns.  I use these about once a week with my 9-12 students.  My ninth graders start the year not knowing anything (or remembering) about linear equations so they are really just trying to make a table of values and look for a pattern.  After we learn (review) how to write equations of lines we discuss how we can use that new knowledge to make our visual patterns easier to find.  Some of the patterns are quadratic or even exponential, so you will want to discuss this with students.  They should check to see if their pattern really is linear before beginning.

The quadratic and exponential patterns are good for my algebra 2 kids, you just need to look through the list to find them.  The creator of the site, Fawn, will send you an answer key if you want a quick reference to tell what type of function each pattern is.  On this page, you can find several worksheets that can used to help students represent their patterns in different ways.  One of my favorite things about these worksheets is that they reinforce that the patterns can be represented in many ways (visual, table, graph, equation).

Friday, July 17, 2015

MTBoS Love - Would You Rather

My Second MTBoS favorite is Would You Rather.  This is another resource that I like to use to start my 9-12 classes.  Some of the questions are quick enough to use as a warm-up while others are long enough that you could spend an entire class period researching, calculating, and arguing.  I like these activities because they are interesting to students and require a low level of math knowledge to get started.  Of course, students can get very in depth with some of their answers.  I especially like to use these at the beginning of a unit before students have the skill to answer the questions.  An example of this might be using this probability task before learning about compound probability.  In this case the students might try to solve the problem with the brute force method, creating a sample space.  Then I can share with them the short cut and they would have a better appreciation for it.  The most important thing about these tasks is that they get students talking and they often illustrate how their gut instinct may be incorrect.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MTBoS Love - Estimation 180

One of the reasons that I wanted to start a blog is that I had been an MTBoS consumer for about a year.  It all started last summer at a conference when I was encouraged to live tweet during the event.  I thought the idea was a little silly and I was not really interested in keeping up with the Kardashians.  However, I did learn something that I considered to be tweet worthy.  So I joined and tweeted.  After a few months, I had found about 50 math teachers from around the world that had great ideas.  These teachers were sharing their resources at no cost.  Twitter became my go-to lesson planning resource.

Eventually I started to notice questions on twitter for which I felt I could contribute to the solution.  I tried to reply with 140 characters, but I often wanted to share links.  So, I decided to start a blog.  So far I've blogged about standards based grading and hybrid learning.  This next series of posts will be about my favorite resources for encouraging mathematical discussion and promoting student engagement.  Once school starts I hope to share some materials that I have created as well as use the blog as a place to reflect on student work.

So without further delay, here is my first favorite:  Estimation 180
I use this site with all of my kids 9-12.  We don't really use the site for content but the site is great for developing number sense and allowing all students to participate.  Every student can make a guess, so every student can get involved.  My students like the ones with video solutions best.  It is so cool to watch my kids react during the video.  For example, maybe one student guessed that the reel would hold 25 revolutions worth of Christmas lights.  As the video approached this value the student might yell 'Yes'!  and as the video went past this value the same kid would sign 'ugh'!  This would happen over and over again for each value guessed by each student.  At the end, some students would brag about having the best estimate.  The students that were not close with their guess don't feel bad about themselves because it was just a guess.  The situation is low risk.

Here is the worksheet for recording student guesses and tracking progress.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hybrid Learning Resources

The process of planning for a hybrid classroom is not drastically different form planning from a traditional classroom.  You will need to consider that students will be progressing through the stations in different orders so you will need to be careful not to assign something at one station that can not be done without completing another station first.  You also want to be careful about over planning for the direct station.  The direct station should be different for all three groups.  It should be based on the questions that students have when they come to you.  If you find yourself doing the exact same thing all three times, you are probably doing something wrong.  To help you get started, here are some of my favorite resources.

Direct station:
I start off by preparing a traditional lesson.  This way if students do not ask questions, I have a variety of practice problems available to get them started.  Once we do one or two problems together, even my most reluctant learners will speak up and say that they need more practice in one area over another.  This is also where I do anything else that I would have done in a traditional classroom.  I do white-boarding, review games, and give assessments.  These are some of my go to resources for formative assessment and guided/independent practice:

Independent station:  
This is where students will learn the basics and practice them too.  My primary teaching resource is edpuzzle.  You can use any video that you can find online or you can make your own.  Then you can insert questions to check for understanding throughout the video.

For practice, I use my pal Josh's program, GetMoreMath.  It is awesome because it generates an infinite number of practice opportunities and somehow knows just which skills the student needs more practice with.  I also use Manga High.  This is a gamified tutorial and practice program.

For reflection, I have been assigning weekly journal entries using Edmodo but I may switch to another LMS.  Researching my options is on my to-do list for the summer.

There are lots of other free options.  You can visit this page for more.

Collaborative station:
This station is supposed to be for projects and applications. I do this during an extra 'station' as a whole group because my students seem to need the most support for these challenging tasks.  My favorite resources are Mathalicious and Yummy Math.  You can also check out the 'Best Resources' list on the right side of my blog for tons of other amazing resources.  Instead of focusing on projects at the collaborative station, I use a lot of card sorts, games, and fun practice.  There are even more resources here or your could follow the #MTBoS on twitter.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Modifications to the Theoretical Hybrid Classroom

As with any teaching and learning strategy, teachers need to make it their own to get the most out if it.  In this post I’ll describe some of the modifications that I have tried as well as some that I know other teachers have tried.

My classroom during year 1:  I am a rule follower.  When I learned about hybrid learning, I knew that the people who developed it spend tons of time trying different variations.  I understood that the training sessions that I was attending were based on what worked best out of thousands or trials.  Therefore, I tried to do everything by the rules.

So, during the first year, students rotated through all three stations each day.  The problem with this was that I was teaching on a traditional schedule.  I had just enough time to run three 15 minute stations each day.  I had no time for warm-ups or closure.  This really bothered me.  I missed these opportunities to whole class pre- and post- assessment.

One thing that I liked about having all three stations each day is that I could rotate through which group when to which station in which order.  This was good because the more times I taught the same lesson, the better I would get at it.  Therefore, whichever station visited me at the direct station last got the best instruction.  By changing which group started where each day, all of my groups had times when they would see me first, second, or last.  No one group got stuck with my crappy first try every day.

My classroom during year 2:  After determining that I missed my warm-ups and closure, I decided to do only two of the three stations each day.  Another benefit other than warm-ups and exits was that the stations could be a little longer.  During year two I had two stations lasting 20 minutes each day.  The remaining 10 minutes were spent on awesome warm-up and closure activities courtesy of the MTBos.  I’ll write a post about the amazing resources I use her later. 

The students that I had for both years all agreed that they liked the second year better.  There were two unintended consequences of this switch though.  First, since I was only doing two stations per day, it meant that it took me 1.5 day to complete a lesson.  The half day was confusing for kids and substitutes when I was out of the building.  To show what I mean, here is a description of the experience of one kid in my class with this set-up:

   Day 1 John Doe goes to direct 1 & independent 1
   Day 2 John Doe goes to collaborative 1 & direct 2
   Day 3 John Doe goes to independent 2 & collaborative 2

Day 2 is the tough one.  Half way through class, all of the assignments at all three stations change.  That means there were six different assignments sitting out for students (two at each station).  The students had to figure out which of the two assignments they were supposed to complete.  If I had a substitute, they had to figure out which of the two lessons they were supposed to teach.  It was difficult but with practice and tight directions/communication I was able to make it work.
The second unintended consequence was that I could not change-up the order of which group started at which station like I did during year 1.  So one group always got my first crappy lesson and one group always got my awesome third lesson (until we switched groups, about once every three weeks).

My classroom during year 3:  This coming year I am going to try the following.  I will have two stations per day.  On the day that I am finishing the third station I am going to do a whole class activity during the second half of class.  This is where I will work in my projects.  Instead of having kids struggle through the most difficult assignments without my help at the collaborative station, I will be available to the whole class during this time.  This also allows me to change-up the groups who receive the first/second/last direct instruction lesson.  The only drawback that I see is that it reduces the number of rotations that I can complete over the course of the year from 112 to 84.  This means that each lesson will need to cover a larger number of objectives.  I mentioned in a previous post that I had a goal of reducing the number of objectives that I use in my standards based classroom.  This will be very important to make this more doable for me and my students.

Those the main modifications that I have tried, here are a three quick descriptions of things that other teachers have tried:
  • 4 stations per day in very long blocks (either an extra independent station or a whole group station)
  •  Teacher at collaborative station instead of direct.  This teacher had a flipped type set-up where students watched an instructional video at direct, did individual practice at independent and then worked with the teacher on the challenging projects/application problems at collaborative
  •  A teacher with no computers had students read and take notes from the text at independent station instead of watching instructional videos

For my last post in this series, I’ll be sharing some of the resources that I have used for my independent, collaborative, and direct station activities.

If you are considering a hybrid classroom, I hope that this has given you some ideas for alternatives that might work for you.  Good luck!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Student Accountability in a Hybrid Classroom

Accountability is another important piece of hybrid learning.  I teach high school, so maybe my view of students is a little jaded.  Most of my students do not like school, do not like math, and only come to school so that they can see their friends.  There is very little intrinsic motivation.  Even my honors students are motivated purely by grades.  They almost never see that value of productive struggle.  They do not get a sense of satisfaction after solving a challenging problem.  This is a whole other concern that I do not have an answer to, but I am always looking for possible solutions.  In the meantime, since my students do not buy into learning for the joy of learning, I need to include accountability at each station every day.  This is easy at the direct station.  With so few kids in each group, it is impossible for them to hide or not participate at the direct station.  The other stations can be a little trickier.

For independent station, I recommend only using computer programs for which students have unique usernames and passwords.  It is also helpful if the programs have some sort of easy to read data that comes back to you as the instructor.  I know that this may not be possible for very young kids.  Maybe the accountability piece for the younger students would just be some sort of notebook that gets checked periodically where students title, date, and record their work.  For me I use EdPuzzle for delivery of new content.  I like this because I can either make my own videos or use ones that I find online.  I can insert questions that check for basic understanding throughout the video.  I can view student data to see who watched the video and which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly.  If you want to experience EdPuzzle as a student, join my class called Hybrid Learning Training Session by using the class code: bD1BLy.  There are two sample assignments posted.  If you want to see a math specific example, contact me and I'll add you as a student into one of my classes.

For practice I use a colleague’s awesome computer program.  I won’t share that information here because it is not mine to share, however other programs that I have used are Khan Academy, Manga High, CK-12, and BrainGenie.  It is imperative that you have a minimum of two resources that students use.  Otherwise they get bored of doing the same thing every day.  Classrooms that have more funding than I do often use paid resources for independent station.  Some use Compass where the teacher can push through specific learning topics paired with a remedial program like ALEKS where students work on below grade level content to fill in their gaps of missing prior knowledge.

On other type of assignment at the independent station is weekly reflection.  I wrote about that here.  In that past I have used Moodle and Edmodo for this.  I am considering using Schoology this coming year but I have not decided on that yet.  I have a half-day training coming up this month and I’ll make my choice after that.  I LOVE Schoology’s ability to write mathematical equations, but I like the freedom to pre-plan in Edmodo better.  In Edmodo, I can set up all of my daily agendas over the weekend and set them up to post automatically each day.  This is a huge time saver for me.  If the Schoology folks can do this for me for free, I’ll be switching.  That was way off topic :) .  Moving on …

For the collaborative station I typically do targeted and mixed practice.  This is not the idea use of the collaborative station.  Theoretically, students would be working on long term projects at this station.  I still do projects, but in a different way.  Later I will write about modifications that I use and that other teachers use.  As with anything else, making hybrid learning work for you will require you to make adjustments.  Anyway, if I were to do a project at collaborative, I would assign group roles to help with accountability.  I would also include a self- and peer- evaluation at certain checkpoints throughout the project.  I do both of these things, just in a setting other than the collaborative station.  For me, I just teach students to work through a problem independently, compare answers, argue over answers that do not match and agree upon a group answer.   I collect work from each individual student and I have students staple their groups’ work together before handing it in.  In the past I have always graded every problem on every student’s page, but that is crazy.  Next year my plan is to randomly check a few questions from each group member’s sheet and check for consensus and disagreement.

If you are interested in seeing more resources for math and other content areas you can check out my training page.  It may not be totally self explanatory, but feel free to ask for clarification.

In my next post I’ll come back to those modifications I’ve been promising.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Preparing to Teach in a Hybrid Classroom

The biggest challenge with teaching in a hybrid classroom is that students have much more freedom than they have ever had before.  This means they will need a lot of modeling and direct instruction on how to work at each of the stations. Here is a secondary example of what a hybrid classroom should look like.

Here is what my typical first week of school looks like:

Day 1:  Welcome students to the class, introduce myself, begin to learn student names/faces, begin work of a review packet covering material from the previous math course, explain hybrid learning

Day 2:  Practice direct station, do this by learning about objectives based grading and continuing review, model classroom routines like signing out, use of electronic devices, turning in assignments, etc.

Days 3 & 4:  Practice independent station, do this by getting all students registered for all computer programs that we will use such as Edmodo, edpuzzle, manga high, etc.  Give students time to explore each of these as we go along and model how to use them correctly

Day 5:  Practice collaborative station, do this by finishing review, model what working with a group should look like, practice circulating from one station to the next in under 90 seconds.

Finally, when we return to school the following week I start the new material having the students split into their three groups.  I highly recommend assigning computer seats and collaborative subgroups.  I do it for nearly the entire year because I find students can get very off-task if they are working with friends. At this point I explain how they know who to sit with at collaborative and which computer to sit at for independent.  Ideally you would have a coteacher or aide to monitor the other two stations while you are at direct.  I do not have this for the majority of my classes so the first week of modeling is very important.  It is also important to really focus on monitoring the other two stations while you are teaching at the direct station.  

Obviously there is also a lot of work that goes into planning for your classroom before school even starts.  You need to decide how to arrange your furniture, how to communicate with students in writing (or videos for students who cannot read) so that they are clear on their assignments when you are not working with them, and how to handle every scenario that you could think of that might through off the stations.

For my classroom arrangement I have the computers set up along the perimeter of the room with the screens facing the center of the room.  This way students are less distracted by what the other groups are doing and I can monitor their screens to be sure they are on task.  I set up direct station at the front of the room in a large u-shape with a large table for supplies in the middle and I make three ‘tables’ from four desks each for the collaborative stations.

To communicate with my students, I provide a very detailed agenda both on Edmodo and in paper copy at each station.  I also have the linked expectation and troubleshooting tips at each station. 

Lastly for today’s post, here is a document that will help you consider how you will handle tricky situations in your hybrid classroom.  If you are considering using this teaching method you must know that everything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point.  If you are not prepared, you will be forced to abandon your stations for the day to resolve the issues.  This worksheet is a list of things that have happened to me.  If you are working through it and want to know how I would handle something, just let me know. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Theoretical Hybrid Classroom

 In this post I’ll discuss what a typical hybrid classroom looks like.  I’ve made some modifications to make it work in my classroom and I know of other changes that other teachers have made that I will discuss in a later post.

In general, hybrid learning works best on a block schedule and with a co-teacher or teacher’s aide.  I have neither of these for every period that I teach so it can certainly work if you do not have these things.  There are 3 stations direct, independent, and collaborative.  The teacher starts by creating a lesson plan for these three stations and then assigns students to each of the three stations.  Students then rotate through all three stations.

One benefit is that the stations help to reach all preferences for learning.  The direct station is for small group instruction.  It often appears to look like a traditional classroom.  However the teacher should not be repeating the exact same lesson three times at the direct station because the students will have different base knowledge depending on which other stations they have gone through first.  Therefore this station becomes easily differentiated.  You can do things other than lecture at direct station too.  This is where I typically do anything that I used to do as whole group instruction including review games and assessments. 

The next station is independent.  This station is meant to use online resources but I have seen teachers without technology still use this station for independent work.  Ideally this station would serve as an introduction to a topic.  There may be a focus on vocabulary, theorems, formulas, algorithms, and other basics.  I personally use this station in a sort of-flipped fashion.  I use EdPuzzle to share videos and formative assessments.  I can create my own videos using doceri or sreencastomatic or I can use any video that I find online.  There are other days that I use this station for targeted or mixed practice.  I often use a program shared with me by a generous colleague from another district (Thanks Josh!) that allows students to practice skills to mastery.  You could use other programs that are either paid or free.  I’ll make another post later with lots of free resources.

The last station is collaborative.  This station is meant to have students work as a team to complete applications and projects.  These assignments are often long term and combine many previously learned topics.  This is where the most important thinking occurs for students.  They struggle the most here but it also where they learn the most.  They must learn to struggle and overcome challenges.  They must learn to find resources to answer their own questions.  Students become great team players and they stretch their minds to do things they never thought they could do.

I’ll write about the three stations in three separate posts later with more detail.  One last thing I wanted to touch on today is grouping, agendas, and journals.  These are all very important in a hybrid classroom.  Because students work on a long term project at the collaborative station the groups will remain the same for several weeks.  Carful thought should go into who is working with who, both from a behavior management side and from an ability side.  You typically want your weakest students to work with you at the direct station first while your strongest students will be ready for the challenge of collaborative station first.  Here is a sample grouping from one of my classes this past year.

1.  Jaylynn
4.  Dillon
9.  Tyreese
3.  Jessica
7.  Jason
2.  Kiara
9.  Deja
9.  Nick L
11.  Adelee
12.  Noor
5.  Victor
10.  Savior
5.  Angelica
8.  Jesse
8.  Alex
8.  Tylar
12.  Nick U
4.  Fallon
2.  Lauren
6.  Steven
5.  David

1.  Ethan

The numbers correspond to their assigned computers/seats for independent station and the colors show which students are to work together when they are at collaborative station.

Here is a sample agenda.
CP Algebra 2 Agenda:  Rotation 48
Independent 1
Materials needed:
  •          Calculator
  •          Pencil/pen
  •          Textbook
  •          Math notebook

Goal:  79.   Identify polynomial functions (5.2)
80.   Evaluate polynomials (5.2)
81.   Determine the end behavior and graph a polynomial (5.2)
Review 5.2
Review Problem solving ch 0 cw

Materials needed:
  •           Calculator
  •           Pencil/pen
  •           Scrap paper
  •           Computer and internet access

Goal:  82.   Use polynomial long division (5.5)
83.   Use synthetic division (5.5)
84.   Factor a polynomial using synthetic division (5.5)
  •          Begin working on section 5.5 of the notes packet.
  •           You will need to watch the appropriate videos on
  •           You may have some time to complete this section at the collaborative station.  Whatever is not completed today will be homework due tomorrow.

Materials needed:
·         Pencil/pen
·         Calculator
·         Problem solving chapter 0 classwork assignment

Goal:  To pre-assess your ability to work in a group and solve non-routine problems
·         Complete these problems with your assigned group of 3 or 4 people from your larger rotation group.
·         All group members should work through this assignment as a team.
·         Take turns writing on the final copy of the packet that will be presented.
·         You may however each have your own copy for scratch work.
·         Submit one copy of this assignment with the names of the 3 or 4 people from your group.
·         Bring the assignment with you to direct station today, or if you will not be at the direct station today, Turn the assignment in at the appropriate bin on the window sill
·         If you finish early, continue working on the independent station assignment.
·         If you have completed the independent station assignment, compare your answers with your group and discuss any differences.

The challenge here is that you will be working with a small group of students at the direct station.  Therefore the other students must have detailed directions that they can follow without your help.  This agenda would ideally be posted on your learning management system.  I also post several paper copies at each station.

The last part of a hybrid classroom is reflection.  This is especially true at the high school level where students have been programed to believe that school should be sitting and listening to lectures.  They need a place to tell you how things are going and how things could be improved.  I incorporate a weekly journal at the independent station.  Here are the most common prompts that I use: 

        I learned the following this past week...
This past week, I was successful when...
This coming week, I will improve on...
I can relate this topic to my life...

I’m sure this post has raised many questions.  I’ll follow up with more specific information on each of the stations, classroom management, free resources, and some alternative versions that may work better for you. 

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Hybrid Learning - Some background and My Success Story

In addition to standards based grading, hybrid learning is the other main thing that sets me apart from most of my peers.  The majority of the teachers in my department teach math in a very traditional way.  A typical class for them might look like this:

warm-up, check homework, notes, guided practice, and exit ticket.  This process would repeat basically every day with the exception being test days then the entire period would just be spent taking the exam.  This method works well for teaching kids to solve routine algorithmic problems with fluency.

However, our demographic is changing.  Practicing algorithms is not as important as it used to be.  No human has a future in performing algorithms.    This video is cool and scary.  It makes me rethink my future as a teacher.  Even if it were possible to make a living running algorithms, not all of our students can retain what they learn this way.  This is where hybrid learning can help.

The next few posts will be about how to implement hybrid learning in your own classroom.  I'll walk you through step by step what you need to do to be ready to do this successfully.  For now, I want to share just a little about the what hybrid learning is and how I ended up teaching this way.

Hybrid learning is a teaching method that rotates that rotates students through different learning stations with independent, collaborative work, and small group instruction.  Here is an example of what hybrid learning looks like at the elementary level.

I first learned about what hybrid learning was at a conference, Stemathon 2013.  The presenter was Colette, a teacher who used to teach across the hall from me before she went to work for our local IU.  I knew that she always gave interesting presentations, so that is why I chose her session.  After hearing Colette describe hybrid learning and getting to experience first hand during her presentation I spoke with her individually.  I told her that I thought this method would be perfect for my block class.  My school has a traditional schedule, but the lowest performing 10% of freshmen take  two back to back periods of math.  This is 105 minutes of math with kids who hate math and school in general.  I thought hybrid seemed like the perfect way to keep those kids engaged.

Luckily, Colette shared with me that our middle school had been awarded a grant to implement hybrid learning,  I asked for permission from our assistant superintendent and was allowed to attend the training sessions.  Now, I had far less support than my middle school counterparts because I was not part of the grant.  This means I did not get paid to do this, I did not get financial support to purchase digital content, and I did not get in class coaching to help implementation go smoothly.  However, I did feel strongly that this method would benefit my kids, so I stuck with it.  It was not easy.  It took about two months for the kids to respond.  I have tried a lot of new strategies in my classroom and I have never given anything two months to work.  I might have given a strategy one day or one week, but never two months.  Fortunately, I contacted Colette via email and she told me the learning curve was a long one and that I should stick with it.  I did, and I got great results.  In the two years that I have used hybrid learning, my students have outperformed those of every other teacher in the building.  My Keystone exam passing rates were the highest at both levels (honors and college prep - we don't have any other 'tracks').  Specifically, my Keystone passing rates were about 20% greater than those of the rest of my department for both CP and Honors levels.  And this was not a 'scheduling' fluke where I just happened to start with the higher performing kids because my growth scores (PVAAS) were also off the charts and the highest in my department.  Other teachers in out IU had similar results.

I'll stop here for today.  In upcoming posts I'll write about the logistics of getting started and share some free resources that you could use if you would like to try this method in your classroom.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tracking progress

One important part of standards based grading for me is student responsibility.  I require students to track their progress.  I also track their progress in the gradebook of course, but I like my students to do this as well.

For my own tracking, I just grade the weekly quizzes and replace higher grades for lower ones.  I don't keep track of progress over time, just the best performance.  I mentioned in my last post that students individualize there quizzes on their own by choosing which questions to answer and which questions to skip.  

Here is an example of a page from a student tracking sheet.  

This past year I had students give themselves one sticker when they reached the mastery level M and a second sticker when they reached the mastery level E.  I wrote about the mastery levels here. 

One change that I am considering for next year is the possibility of using colored pencils instead of stickers and having students shade a square for each level of mastery achieved (Y, N, M, & E).  This would form a bar graph with each bar representing the individual objectives.

This will probably be my last SBG post until the new school year starts.  I'd like to include some student work example showing samples of the levels of mastery, but I did not keep those documents from this past school year.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Creating assessments & reassessments

 One of the most common questions that I get about standards based grading is how I do individualized assessments.  What I do is give each kid the same really long assessment and then they individualize it on their own by choosing which questions to answer and which ones to skip.  My next post will be about how my students and I track their progress, but basically the kids know which objectives they have and have not mastered so they answer only the quiz questions that they have not mastered yet.  This method saves me the overwhelming amount of work it would be to create 150 individualized quizzes every week on my own.

So here is what I do in more detail.  In an earlier post I wrote about how to create your objectives list.  I make a test bank in a separate document for every objective.  In each bank, I write 10-20 questions that measure the particular objective.  I make odd numbered items easier and even numbered items harder.  Each week when I write the quiz, I start a new blank document and then go to my gradebook to see which objectives to put on the quiz.  My rule for determining which questions to include on the quiz is as follows:  Any objective which has been taught and for which my students have not met the 80-M threshold will be on the quiz.  So let’s say I just finished teaching objective 53.  I would consider objectives 1-53 for my quiz.  Then I would look at my 80-M threshold.  This means I would look for which objectives 80% or more of my students have earned a grade of M or better.  These objectives would NOT be put on my quiz.  If you want to see what I mean by earning a grade of M means, check out this older post.

Now this next part is important for your own sanity.  The quiz questions are labeled with the number of their objective.  So maybe I give a quiz and the numbers are 3, 14, 16, and 17-25.  I would not number the twelve questions as 1-12.  The importance of the numbering is that it makes the tracking progress part so much easier.  Here is a sample quiz if this is hard to picture.  I don't have the students write directly on the quiz which is why it does not seem like there is enough room for them to show their work.  That is a whole other topic that I may post about once school starts up again.

Typically I give quizzes about once each week.  I post the objectives and date for the next quiz on the board immediately after grading the previous weeks quiz so that the kids have as much notice as possible.  At about the halfway point between quizzes, I do a formal remediation day.  I do other informal remediation during the week, but I always make sure to explicitly plan time just for remediation so that I can help move students towards mastery each week.

What happens to the 20% of kids who have not yet earned a grade of M or better by the time I remove the objective from my weekly quizzes?  What an excellent question.  I still allow students to remediate and reassess, just not during class.  At this point, they will need to come in before/after school.  I have them fill out a reassessment agreement.  I borrowed heavily form Excelsior Springs again.  You can read the form that I attached but basically the student meets with me after school, chooses up to 3 objectives at a time to remediate, chooses a time and method of remediation, and chooses a time for reassessment.  Once all of this is complete and the student has shown me their evidence of remediation, they schedule their reassessment.  I give 2 questions for each objective and I make them wait 24 hours between remediation and reassessment so that they are not just using short term memory to pass the new quiz.

If the student demonstrates higher level of mastery, their grade will increase. I don’t track lower grades or the time when a grade improves.  It would be nice to find a way to do this, it has just not been important enough for me to make it happen.