Monday, August 22, 2011

Goals (Post PCMI)

I found some time to go back through my notes from PCMI and write up my goals today.  Over the 3 weeks of the program I took notes from the sessions and also wrote down ideas from conversations in Notebook (a program for Mac from Circus Ponies, it's awesome and they didn't ask me to say so).  As I went I highlighted any ideas that I wanted to specifically apply in the upcoming school year.  One of the awesome features of Notebook is that it compiles all of the highlighted text onto a single page, so by the end of the program my goals list was pretty much already complete.  I took some time to decide what was doable and came up with the following:

  • Look up standards based grading (SBG)
I'd never heard of standards based grading before.  I listened to a lot of conversations, read quite a bit and decided I'm not ready for a full implementation (nor am I sure I ever will be).  However, one of my goals for 2nd semester last year was to quiz more, and I intend to continue doing that this year.  We have block scheduling so I'm aiming for a couple questions each block, but I won't be upset if it doesn't happen.  I do like the aspect of SBG that students refer to skills they struggle with rather than the generic "I don't get it" so I will name my quizzes by topic rather than section.
  • Comments only on projects 
I've done this sporadically, but now I have a system!  Last year one of my students told me that "even high schoolers like stickers."  I didn't get stickers, but instead found a star shaped stamp and a gold inkpad.  From that point forward every A was accompanied with a gold star (which that same student loved doing, I sorted and she stamped).  This summer I found a "take your time" stamp, so papers that need revision will get one of those (not sure if that will be everything below an A or just below a C). I still record grades in my gradebook in case students don't resubmit and because it makes the averages much more accurate.
  • Make classwork grade more transparent
Students get a daily classwork grade based on preparation/effort/focus but it's something I've just quietly marked on my clipboard in the past.  Sometimes I make a show of walking around to check progress, but usually that grade is a mystery to kids.  I tell them what's involved, and we read the school rubrics (new push) that they're based on at the beginning of each semester, but they quickly forget.  I'd like to use participation quizzes and also have kids self-assess on the rubrics so they get a better sense of what's needed to get full credit.  (I use classwork grades because I rarely collect any work done in class, it gets checked off as I circulate.)

  • Use geometers sketchpad
We have geometer's sketchpad in all of our classrooms and in the computer labs, but it's not used much.  After using it this summer I definitely have a better sense of when it would be useful.  We do a lot of compass and straight edge constructions, so I might use it to show how the construction works after they've each tried an example.  This way everyone gets to see all of the varieties, not just hear about them from classmates.  Some ideas (like trigonometry) require more precision than we were able to get using paper and pencil, those will be worth reserving the computer lab for.  I will also look into projects to do and use the idea of lab reports.  This idea actually came from a professor whose son took Geometry last year, we got to talking over breakfast and he shared this great idea.  I'd love to get the report format from the science department and modify it slightly to fit our needs.
  • Use Snap
I discovered Snap/BYOB (3rd or 4th generation Logo) in the spring and was able to use it for my project at PCMI.  My Merrill textbook is so old that it still has Logo activities in it, so I want to adapt those for Snap.  I'll also implement the lesson I wrote this summer on similarity.
  • Google docs
We used Google Docs a lot this summer, and I do love all things Google.  I'm not sure how often I'll be able to get into the computer lab, so they may not be as useful as I'd like.  They were great for recording and compiling ideas during group work, maybe I'll be able to share a laptop cart with another teacher?  I am also asking on the first day how many students have internet access where they do homework, perhaps I'll be able to assign something in the form of a Google form occasionally.  They integrate into my course webpage so nicely it would be a shame not to use them!

Other Quick Ideas:
  • Be silent! - to get students to use each other as instructional resources (last year I participated in the Day of Silence and it was great to see how well kids worked together once they got past the frustration of being largely on their own) 
  • Ask "how did you know that you were done?" or "how confident are you with your answer?"
  • Present a "good bad answer" to promote discussion (authentic student work)
  • Use "I observe ______ and I wonder _______" slips after investigations
  • Journal: instead of math learned, "how did you meet the objective(s)?"

Take Aways: 
(the whole post...)
Quiz regularly
Comments only on projects 
Make classwork grade more transparent
Use GSP, Snap, Google Docs

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