Iteration Number 6 with Standards Based Grading

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So some background on me. I apparently wrote in a journal at some point in high school, in-between angsty “omg they are so dreamy” entries about some crush the following:

There is no way in hell I’d ever be a teacher. It’ll be a miracle if I made it out of high school and there’s no way I’d ever come back.

Well aside from teenager me was wrong about my life trajectory I wasn’t the best student. I didn’t learn how to be a decent student until half way through college, and by then I knew I really didn’t want to be a teacher. So I looked into other job options–mostly the type where you sit in front of a computer all day crunching numbers to determine if a process is optimal. Not what I wanted to do with my life. So, like any post-college-I-Have-No-Idea-What-To-Do-With-My-Life person, I joined the Peace Corps. According to a former teacher, in 5th grade when we learned about service branches of the government I stated that I’d join the Peace Corps one day–but I didn’t remember that, I just knew being a health volunteer sounded like fun.

In Peru I realized that, in fact, I did want to be a teacher. I stepped in and taught a few math classes in my town and fell in love with teaching rural farm kids the math needed to budget for and build their future house. So I applied to Duke for their Masters in Teaching Program.

In grad school I was partnered with a mentor teacher, Mr. Belcher (true story, that is his name…he taught freshman. There were jokes.) who got on board the standards based grading bandwagon early. This was Fall 2011 and the man rocked my world in telling me that we weren’t grading things out of 100%, each course objective was worth 10 points, so a test might be 60 points and cover 6 topics. The 10 points weren’t on a rubric–it was more a give students problems for that standard that you will grade on a 10 point scale. Like, 2 points for the correct slope, and 1 for the correct y-intercept… kinda thing. Not full-scale SBG, but it was what I was told he did, so I did. Students could reassess–as many times as they wanted before the end of the grading period. So basically I never learned how to grade, as a teacher, in a traditional setting.

So when I got a classroom of my own I did what Belcher did, because its what I knew. And I kept on doing that, with minor tweaks, until I moved schools. By the time I moved to UNCSA I had been lurking on the #MTBoS for long enough to piece together I needed to get to a rubric based grading system a.s.a.p. instead of the 10-point method. So I did a 10 point scale (what can I say, it translates easy into a traditional grade book) along the lines of:

  • 10-essentially correct
  • 9-non-content-based, yet mathematical error (dropped negative in a solution, added wrong, so on)
  • 8-minor content error (example is in a transformation f(x-6) a student says that’s a shift 6 units to the left)
  • 7-semi-importatnt content error
  • 6-very important content error
  • 5-OMG what did you do??
  • 4-No. You didn’t get the content but you wrote something.

As you can tell. This isn’t a very…objective…rubric. Like, in my mind when I stole it and adapted it for use in my classroom the distinctions between a 8 and a 7 and a 6 were obvious. But when I actually got to the grading, it was really hard to make that distinction. Like. I found myself making a per-standard-conversion for all the possible errors a student might make and what grade I’d give it based on some rather subjective ranking on my part.

If I didn’t grade ALL of my assessments in the same sitting (uninterrupted without taking even a bathroom break) I found I wasn’t consistent with my rubric. So over the next 2 years I tried to refine my 10 point rubric to be less subjective and more objective. I think I would up using someone from TMC17’s 10 point scale rubric here:

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Much like before, if felt like it would work better, because it seemed less subjective. But, alas. I didn’t feel any better.

Then a teacher from North Carolina School of Science and Math, our sister school, came to talk to us about how he does SBG with Interleaving and Spacing (if those last two words are new to you, I’m going to direct you to Anna Vance to learn more). In his class standards earn:

  • 2-Essentially correct
  • 1-Content Error–Not Yet
  • 0-You left it blank

His course is structured so that in class students will see each standard 3 times (i.e. will have three opportunities to show mastery) and the most recent assessment goes in the book. After those three in class assessments, a student can ask to take another reassessment, if they prove they have been actively working to improve the skill by doing extra HW or redoing problems from class or their notes, then they can sign up for a student-initiated reassessment.

The thing I liked most about his set up is that he divides the standards into two categories: Core Content (rote skills) and Advanced Skills (interpreting type questions, or justification, more complex synthesis of CC skills). Then the average of the CC and AS skills yield a traditional grade:

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My department has made a few tweaks to get full buy in, namely that we are going to average the two CC-averages and AS-averages together before converting to a traditional grade.

So its not perfect. But it feels more perfect than my last few iterations of SBG. The part that I really, REALLY, enjoy is that the grade feels 100% objective. Either you got the content, we’re getting there but not yet, or you have no clue. There isn’t a grey area…

Then again, I’ve said that before…like 5 other times…so…yeah. Here goes nothing!

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Bridging My Worlds–Twitter For Everyone

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I have a new goal in my professional life. I’m not exactly sure when I decided on this goal, but I think it has a lot to do with the conversations around #MTBoS and #iTeachMath that occurred at Twitter Math Camp 2017. I wrote a post on it here if you wanted to read it–its about making the leap from “Lurker” to “Participant” in the #MTBoS, the group I call my Math Family.

So sometime during TMC17 we decided to take a #MTBoSNC photo. It was a photo of all the wonderful NC teachers who found a way to pay for a professional development in Atlanta. We either paid our own way, of somehow convinced administration that sending us to a Twitter Math Camp was a good use of their resources (it was).

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Somewhere on this stairwell the idea to get together once we were back in NC emerged. I mean, there were SIXTEEN of us from NC at one conference and most of us hadn’t met the others (in real life or on twitter). So we did. We planned a Tweet Up for the Fall of 2017 at my school on a Saturday in October. We had about 20 educators come to join us, we shared “My Favorites” and some people piloted their NCCTM sessions for later in the fall with us. It was nice. But I knew it could be more.

I tried to plan another on in the spring but between Spring Breaks that didn’t overlap, NCCTM regionals, and me being in the process of moving for the third time in a school year it didn’t happen.

Fast forward to this years TMC. I’m ready to get the wheels turning on planning another Fall Tweet Up. I have a dream for what I want #MTBoSNC Tweet Ups to become, but if I’m going to be 100% truthful, I haven’t a clue as to how to authentically do this. So hey there internet friend, help me and share your thoughts.

Here’s what I want for the #MTBoSNC Tweet Ups:

  • Tweet Ups would be an opportunity for an active Twitter participant to bring a colleague who is:
    • New to Twitter and feeling overwhelmed
    • Not sure if Twitter is worth their time and energy
    • Pretty sure that Twitter is the death of American politics and culture.
    • Unaware that people still use Twitter

and to show that new person the power of this platform for professional growth.

  • Involvement from all grade bands in Education, from Kindergarten to University level courses. I’m not sure how to accomplish this as I will admit to surrounding myself with mostly high school teachers. After Megan’s “My Favorite” session this year on teaching in her Elementary school daughter’s classroom one of my goals this year is to go observe elementary school teachers and to add them to my learning network.
  • For Tweet Ups to occur 4 times a year, alternating from the Mountains, to the Triad/Triangle, to that section of NC between Fayetteville and Southern Pines that doesn’t have a short name, to the Coast. I want ALL teachers in NC to have the opportunity to attend a Tweet Up without feeling like they have to find a way to stay overnight in a city far from their home.
    • Call for help: Let me know if you’re school is in one of those regions and you’d be interested in hosting. I can tell you more about what my school does.
  • A diverse group of participants. I was reading a post today by Lauren reflecting on her experiences at #DesFellows weekend this summer as a black woman. How she was hesitant to go to Desmos (Yes, to Desmos, the math-teacher-holy-grail-of-free-tech) because:

Adding me adds “diversity” to their group. Prior to coming to DesmosHQ for the weekend, I had to psych myself up about not being the token black female and not fitting any particular role that they needed me to fill to match their agenda. I wanted to belong as a math teacher, not as a black math teacher.

She said that when she arrived at DesmosHQ and found herself in a room filled with people actively working to disrupt the systems in our education process that automatically favor the majority (whiteness) over the minority, that “they are doing the work and not pretending like these inequities don’t exist.” Only then did she feel as through her invitation to Desmos Fellowship became belonging in the Desmos Fellowship.

Before Lauren’s post I can say that I didn’t understand the differences people were noting during the TMC17 discussions on #MTBoS vs #iTeachMath–Those who felt the #MTBoS was uninviting/intimidating and those who felt loved and supported by the #MTBoS. I, naively, thought you could just invite someone to belong in your community. Lauren’s post has shaken (in the best of ways) my understanding of how to expand your community. I have much to learn. I am eager to learn. How can we make #MTBoSNC Tweet Ups achieve this goal–of inviting bringing sharing with people unfamiliar with the #MTBoS community the wonders of belonging to the community? I’d love your help with this.

 

So there it is. My thoughts on what the future of #MTBoSNC could look like. I’m going to need your help. I took the first steps today, I introduced my Facebook World to my Twitter World to try and get more people I know to participate in our wonderful math family, won’t you do the same?
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Full Text:

Hey NC Math Teachers,

I’m going to bridge my two universes for a second. So hi! If you are reading this you are on Facebook and I know you in-real-life somehow. But I want to introduce you to my other world, my Twitter Math Family. You see, Twitter is THE BEST place to go for teacher development. Trust me. There are people there tweeting 24hr/day about math (thanks to the Australian cohort holding it down while we sleep on this side of the earth).

We tweet about math. About math lessons, math projects, math plans, wonderful successes and epic failures. We tweet about good days, we tweet for love on bad days. We are vulnerable, we speak our truth, and most importantly we raise each other up. Twitter is where we can talk about the practices that make our classroom ours so that we can learn from each other.

Now I know many of you are familiar with Teachers Pay Teachers (for those of you who aren’t, no worries. Don’t waste your time or money), go ahead and burn that log in. You don’t need them anymore. My Twitter Family (#MTBoS if you’re searching for us online) will give you things for FREE. You want that lesson? Cool, tweet me. You want an answer key so you can make sure you remembered probability correctly? No problem, we’ve got you. The teachers on Twitter are sharing EVERYTHING in their classroom. This community is centered around open source classroom design. We share so that we can get feedback on how to improve what we’re doing.

My Twitter family has shaped who I am as a teacher–They make me constantly strive to be better and to do a better service to my students. In an effort to get more NC teachers on Twitter (which apparently is my new mission in life) I want to invite you, my Facebook friends, to come and meet my internet friends.

I’m going to host a Tweet Up at my school this fall. We’re narrowing down a date, and I’d love for you to share your availability on the form I’ll post below so that we can get you to join us. A Tweet Up is an informal day-long professional development where Math Twitter Family can share their favorite lesson/project/routine/structure with the rest of us. A time to recharge those teaching batteries that may begin to run low before Thanksgiving Break rolls around.

I’m making this post public. So share it with anyone you think might be interested. I hope to see you there friends!

Fake It Until You Make It–PlannerLife Lite

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So I want to be one of those teachers who can flip open a plan book, turn to week 8 from two years ago and remember what activity they did and even have notes as to what went well and what didn’t. I’m not that teacher. I’m the one who can’t remember what we did last Tuesday let alone where on Earth I left the copies for next period. I’m that teacher that when you see my desk you make some joke like, “well you know what they say about people with a cluttered desk right?” No. No I don’t. But I know somewhere under a stack of papers there is an empty roll of Scotch tape I can throw at you if you’ll give me a second to find it…

Have I painted an accurate picture of my teacher-planner-life for you? Don’t get me wrong, I plan. Up to this year I will make a Unit plan something that looks like:

Unit “Blah de Blah”

  • Week 1: Topics A, B, C
    • Desmos Thing from here and here on days __ and __
    • Card Sort here
    • Group White Board practice on days __ and __ after __ and ___.
  • Week 2: Topics C, D, and A
    • Yada Yada
    • You get the point

Its usually done on scrap paper. It stays around just long enough for me to create guided notes that go with that chapter. It then disappears into the abyss of papers on my desk. Months later being tossed into the recycling because “What was this for again?” means I don’t need it and to toss it.

So back to why I want to be that #PlannerLife teacher. Its not because I want to do the same thing every year. Lord knows I’d get bored with that. Or I’d find some amazing thing that someone on Twitter did that was WAY better than what I did and I’ll want to steal it and change my plan (Heck that happened twice already this year once I made photocopies of my Unit 1 notes for AFM). I want to be that organized and to know what I did last year for the analysis. Being able to go back and read a note to myself that says something like: “Trig Ratios Intro went okay, make sure to not show an accidental almost-isocelese triangle next year …” I want the #LifeHack tips to my future self from my past self.

So to that end I’m trying to up my planning game. I’ve got a Google Doc for AFM and Geometry with spaces for each day of the year. I’m writing down what I’m going from warm ups to class closures with links to activities. My hope is that this becomes a living and breathing document that will help me grow as a teacher. I am going to add a row for reminders to future me.

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I also bought a non-dated planner (Live Whale) on Amazon that I’m in LOVE with. Mostly because if you forget a week its no big deal, just pick up where you left off and no worries about a ton of blank pages to remind you that you suck at this new habit you’re trying to form. I even found out that the 0.5″x0.75″ Avery labels fit perfectly in the daily view for one class period. So I’ve color coded them Green for Geometry and Blue for AFM. I’m using labels because then if plans change I can peel the sticker off or put another over it.

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So its a start. I have routines set up to try and stick with it. Mainly Sunday toddler naps are for laying out the next week or two and putting in stickers. Try and write a brief “here’s what happened today” in the Google Doc before I leave school each day. Wish me luck!

When I’m not Mathing, I’m Cooking

Its Saturday, my parents are over for a visit with my daughter (is there anything better than a grandparent play day? I don’t think so.) and I’m trying to stay out of their way by attempting to finish the Advanced Desmos Geometry portion of the scavenger hunt (here). I’m currently stuck on number 8, but I’m sure if I walk away for a bit and come back I’ll re-remember how to do this. It occurred to me that I should blog, but its Saturday, and like my last real Saturday before school’s back in session, so I don’t want to talk school today, instead I will talk about food.

I am an avid baker. My husband says he can tell how stressed I am in any given week by what I bake. If its a light stress then we get something quick: Pizza for dinner one night, maybe a focaccia, or a chocolate chip cookie. Something that’s quick to make and no real fuss. If its a heavy stress week thats where the butter get involved–cue the pasty. Its involved, tedious, ample opportunity for kneading dough and the taking out of frustrations while beating butter into submission and folding it into flaky layers. I’m also a stress eater, so high stress=I eat WAY too much food.

In an effort to avoid stress eating I do a few simple things during the school year that both help keep the over-eating-tendencies at bay:

  • I don’t buy chocolate chips in a Costco sized bag. Yes its cheaper than buying a small bag at the store. But when I only have 1 small bag I don’t run into the kitchen to grab a handful of chips to snack on as I grade the quiz where all my students somehow forgot how to expand a binomial (is it just me?). When its just the one small bag I’m more inclined to save the chips for cookies. When I need cookies. (need haha)
  • I buy veggies to snack on and cut them into snacking sizes Sunday evening while the hubs washes dishes and we listen to a Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me podcast. That way if I want to stress eat my only options are veggies. Yes, its never what I want to stress eat, but when its the only option you do what you gotta do.
  • I throw fruit into a jug of water in the fridge so I have tasty water. I hate LeCroix–its fancy bubble-filled-water that tastes mildly like the aluminum can it comes in with a weirdly fruit-ish aftertaste (I know, I just lost 1/2 my blog readers). I like the idea of LeCroix, just not the execution. So I make my own fruity water in an attempt to make myself drink more water. Favorite combos are:
    • Watermelon and Mint
    • Strawberry and Mint
    • Orange and Blueberry
    • Cucumber and Strawberry
  • And I do a Lazy Person’s version of Meal Prepping. So before I had a kid I did the full on meal prepping–like the spend all Sunday making food for the whole week’s worth of breakfasts/lunches/dinner. But then I had a kid, and let me tell you how impossible it is for me to spend more than an hour doing anything without having my toddler throw a fit that I’m ignoring her and not drawing with crayons at her table. So now I do a lazy meal prep:
    • The kid goes to bed by 6:30pm (#iAmSpoiledAndIKnowIt) and hubs is on nighttime routine duty so I can cook.
    • I double (or sometimes triple) the recipe. It usually takes the same amount of time to double a recipe, just use a bigger pot/pan/container thank you usually would.
    • Eat the meal as usual, freeze the leftovers in 1-2 serving containers for use later.
    • I usually cook two days a week and then once on the weekend. We eat leftovers the rest of the week. My husband eats triple the amount I do and my toddler eats almost as much as I do and this plan feeds us all well and keeps down the amount of times we order take out because we’re too tired to cook.
      • On a related note, you Need to go and buy an Instant Pot. Like now. It’ll cook a whole fryer chicken in 45 minutes, 3 racks of ribs in an hour, or a pork loin in 40 minutes. It’ll turn a dozen eggs into hard boiled perfection in 10 minutes (or soft boiled in 7). It is worth it’s weight in gold.
      • Favorite source for recipes is SkinnyTaste-her blog has weekly meal plans that are great if you’re not a good planner, her recipes are simple and cheap, and require nothing that you can’t find at a local store. She also has two cookbooks with a third on the way. She’s my hero.

So thanks for reading about how I cook/bake during the school year.

If you need baking recipes, ones that I guarantee will work if you follow the directions, from cookies to bread, from pies to pastry, go to King Arthur Flour’s site and drool. They also will help if you tweet them. And as a community of avid tweeters, that’s an important tool for us 🙂

First Day of School Plans

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I was going to blog about food today, but since I spent most of my day working out what I wanted to do on the first day of class with my students, I figured I ought to blog-it-out to the world. Also, classes start a week from Monday, so we’re in the OMG THE STUDENTS ARE COMING mode of the summer.

This year I am teaching Advanced Functions and Modeling (math beyond algebra 2 that’s not PreCal) and Geometry. Our school is projected to have ~230 students, our freshman class will have ~20 students, ~30 sophomores, ~60 juniors, and ~140 seniors. My AFM class will be made up of mostly seniors with a few juniors thrown in there, and my geometry classes are the freshmen and sophomores. We are a small school–class sizes are capped at 25, but most years we don’t have math classes that go over 20. I love the small class dynamic and the time it gives me to really get to know all of my students.

In both classes I’m doing Sara’s Name Tents. Go check out her blog post here to learn more, but as I am HORRIBLE with names the tent gives me a good starting point for learning them and the conversations I have with students on the inside of them are amazing.

For homework on the first night I am going to have students create a introductory meme for themselves. I will use an idea I got from Jennifer Fairbanks and have each student edit a slide with their name, a photo of themselves, and a meme that best summarizes their essence. I want to have this going as a slide show on day 2 for two reasons:

  • Did I mention how bad I am with names? I did? Okay, well its true and I want a picture of them to start associating faces with names faster.
  • I am an introvert and on the first day of school, for as long as I can remember, I got physically sick when a teacher would tell me to stand up and introduce myself. Or worse, when we’d stand in a  circle and do a dance move for our names and have to do the dance moves for everyone before us. I have fainted on the first day of school 4 times in my life, thrown up 2 times, and otherwise humiliated myself an undetermined amount. So because of my schooling baggage, I don’t want to make students talk who don’t want to (about a non-math related thing).

So I have my bases covered for the start of class and the after class homework, now let’s discuss the rest:

In Geometry we are going to do two different spacial reasoning math tasks where they will complete the tasks first individually, share ideas and thought processes in their groups, and then write an explanation of how they completed the task and why they felt their processes worked. They are going to:

  • Play with the Fold and Cut theorem problems I found on Amie’s blog here. The idea is that you can cut out any closed shape that is made with straight sides with a single cut if you fold the paper first. It is way fun to play with these.
  • Quarter the Cross–from Amie’s same blog post above. Both tasks reference the work David did on these. And I can’t wait to share the Prezi of 100 solutions to the Quarter the Cross problem with my kiddos! Students are going to have a piece of paper with 10 cross templates on them to test out a few theories, then they will share with their group their solutions. The goal is for each person in the group to have found 3 unique solutions for the group. They are then going to choose the “most unique” one to share out with the class.

In AFM we are going to:

  • Also do the Quarter the Cross but with an extension of justifying how they know their solution is 1/4 the area of the entire cross.
  • Skyscraper problems I first read about a few years ago on Mary’s blog, but re-stumbled across again when I went down the rabbit hole of Amie’s blog (God she’s the best isn’t she?). Here is Amie’s posting. I am using Cuisenaire Rods for the skyscrapers.

Then the week-long homework assignment is to complete a Mathagrophy–a memoir that tells me about their mathematical journey. I’m working on finishing the prompt for this, but it is a collection of examples I had to work from many wonderful people who shared their prompts with me. I’ll blog it out later 🙂

My “Get ($*)It Done” Wall

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If you’re anything like me, you get all jazzed during the summer. You read all the blogs you saved during the school year. You go to a few professional developments and get a ton of good ideas. Every time you log into twitter you see yet another awesome thing you want to steal and try in your classroom.

This is my favorite part of summer. The getting re-energized and rejuvenated for the upcoming school year. Summer is my time to dream big. Shoot for the stars. Plan (in my head) all the things.

Then as the school year approaches I get panicked. I can’t use all the cool things I have fallen in love with. We can’t do it all. But we can choose the things that will work the best in our classroom for our students. So that’s what I did.

I read somewhere that you can’t change more than 10% of what you do as a teacher in a year without crumbling under the pressure of all that change. Last year I tried to change like 20% of what I did, and by the semester I had let some of it fall to the sidelines in an effort to not drown under my ever-growing to-do list. So this year I decided I’m not really going to add too much to my plate.

I have issues with accountability. I tend to forget all the things I say I’m going to do over the course of a school year. So I decided to make a “Get (Sh)It Done” wall in my office that will serve as a reminder of all the instructional routines and things I plan to do this year. Its hidden from students who come for tutoring as it is located behind a wall and mostly obscured by a coat rack unless you’re sitting at my desk–so that’s why I was okay with the curse word in the title. (Also, for those of you who have met me in real life you know I curse like a sailor–or more aptly like my Marine Corps husband 🙂 )

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So remember y’all. Get (Sh)It Done this year!

Classroom Device Life Hack—detangle those chords #Made4Math

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I am fortunate enough to have five 2-in-1 devices in my room (laptops with a twist screen that folds into a tablet). I love them because my students occasionally forget to bring their laptop on Desmos days in the morning “oh my god technique/practice/my 8am class starts in 5 minutes!” Morning hustle. They are teenagers, it happens. So the 5 devices plus the kids who remember their laptop means I usually can have 2 students per device.

Back to those 5 laptops. Last year I brought in a shoe rack from our house. One of these:

I put it on top of an old teacher desk that lived in the back of my room for storage. I ran the chords behind the shoe rack and plugged them in. I, naively, thought my high school students could handle plugging them in without making a mess.

I was wrong.

Now I don’t have a picture of how bad the cluttered and tangled knot of chords got. And you can guess how often I wound up plugging in the laptops/organizing them (at least once a day).

I needed a new system. At some point I remembered a desk organizing hack I use on my standing desk at the front of the room for my chords–binder clips.

Label your binder clips. You’ll see why.

If you didn’t know, those little silver metal pieces come off a binder clip. So you can thread a chord through it and then reattach like so:

So I set up a system where binder clips in the back of the show rack hold the chords neatly behind the scenes and binder clips in the front keep them from falling back and being ignored/overlooked by students.

I color coded my clips, shelf, and laptops so students put things back. Well. At least that’s the plan.

Hope you enjoy!