Monthly Archives: June 2010

SBG and cheating

I have another SBG question. At my school, in general if a student is cheating on an assessment, the student receives a zero as well as a disciplinary referral. How does that work with SBG?

Do you refuse to allow that student to reassess the LTs addressed on that quiz/test? That seems inconsistent with the goals of SBG.

I expect that the knowledge that they can reassess will probably reduce the temptation to cheat, because the student knows that if he doesn’t get it he can try again later. So it may be that it’s never an issue.

However, thinking about that brings me to a related question – students who are suspended are supposed to receive zeros on any work from the day(s) of the suspension. Again, it’s hard to know how to follow this policy and still use SBG. Suspensions are not something that happen frequently at my school, but they do happen. (Edit: Same goes for cheating incidents.)

Thoughts on these issues?

(By the way, I am loving reading everyone’s discussions over on Twitter, where I am @praxisofreflect. I am just a little hesitant to jump in myself. Blogging is already pushing me outside my comfort zone, so I’m working on it!)


SBG and different course levels

I’m getting more and more excited about implementing SBG in my math classes in the fall. I’m finding ideas from others; I’m considering how I would deal with issues they raise when they arise in my own setting. I’m working on how best to communicate the idea to students and their parents.

And then I thought of an issue I hadn’t considered before. Because my school is small, we have different course levels in the same class. Overall, the understanding is that the different levels will indicate different volumes of work, and that the students in Honors & AP courses will be asked to do correspondingly more critical thinking work than those in General courses.

I can reasonably expect that my two sections of Geometry will each include a mix of Honors and General students. My Statistics class will probably have both AP and General. Calculus *could* have AP and General, but knowing the kids that will be in that class, I don’t expect any General students. The other class I’ll have is Trigonometry & Analytic Geometry, which only has one course code, so it’s all General.

So…what does that mean for using SBG? Should I just eliminate certain learning targets from the General students’ grades? That’s the first solution that’s coming to my mind, but I don’t know if there are other ideas that may be better. What would (or do) you do to differentiate between two course levels within the same class using SBG?

Reading too much into the question

More thoughts on my statistics class from today. We were going over some review questions, and I said that one of them didn’t have enough information for us to determine an answer. The instructor responded,

You’re reading way too much into the question.

Well, no, I really wasn’t. It was a poor question. I’m really not sure why she didn’t just acknowledge that it’s a poor question – it’s not even a pride thing, because these questions are from the textbook publisher, not from her. And even when I am the one who wrote questions, I’ve told kids who challenged them, “You know what? You’re right. I could be asking this question more precisely.” And I make a note to improve the question for the next time I come to that material.

So the first part of my point here is, it’s okay to recognize that a question/assignment/whatever is not the best and could be improved. I think my students like knowing that I will receive their critiques (delivered respectfully, of course) and consider their feedback. I know that I didn’t like feeling like I wasn’t being listened to, being told to just write down the “right answer” and move on.

But the second thing I wanted to say in this post is a question I thought of as a result of this experience. Is there a point at which it’s okay to tell a student “you’re reading too much into the question”? Obviously we want to stop kids from saying,

“Well, Johnny won’t have ANY apples left after he gives 3 to Suzie, because right at that moment Suzie gets turned into a ZOMBIE, and she doesn’t care about the apples anymore but just wants to eat Johnny’s BRAAAAAAINS, so Johnny figures life is more important than apples and he drops the apples so he can run away. Will he survive Zombie Suzie’s attack? Just wait until I turn in my next homework!”

Because that would just be silly.

But. There’s a lot of good thinking that students can do in between “just give the answer you know I’m looking for” and the zombie scenario. I’ve read several bloggers talking about WCYDWT (What Can You Do With This), which is all about posing new problems, digging deeper into what’s right in front of you instead of just relying on the (possibly/probably poorly written) questions in the textbook.

There probably are good occasions for telling a kid he’s reading too much into a problem. But I think we might jump there a little more quickly than we ought to sometimes.

Going back in time?

I’m taking a class that started today. I’ve never taken statistics before, but I’ll be teaching it (one section that will probably have both AP and General kids) in the fall. So I thought that taking it would probably be a good plan.

I’m still processing the reasons why, but it felt somewhat surreal to be in a 2000-level course again. I’m looking forward to learning statistics, definitely; I have thought for a while that I would like to take a course like this. But actually sitting in the class just feels strange. It’s very different than the classes I’ve been in over the last 3 years as a master’s student, and it actually feels much more like I’m back in high school (except the part where the homework is all online).

I’ll have to continue mulling this over. It feels like there are things I can learn through this about becoming a better teacher, but I’m not completely sure what those things are yet. Maybe it will become clearer to me as the next few weeks go by.

Standards-Based Grading

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Standards-Based Grading (especially over on Think Thank Thunk), and I think I want to give it a try. Here are some of the things I think I want to do:

  • A 4-point scale stolen from Matt Townsley (I’m also stealing his term “Learning Target”)
  • My gradebook will have two categories, Learning Targets (100%) and Homework (ungraded). I’ll record homework as 0, 1, or 2, corresponding to no attempt, partially complete, or complete. That’s so that students, parents, and I will be able to see whether the student is trying to do the homework or not (I have a feeling this may prove beneficial if students are struggling).
  • Learning Target grades will change with more recent assessments (whether they be full-class and mandatory or individual and student-initiated).
  • Students may not have more than one reassessment per day, and they may not have a reassessment on the same day as they get help from me.

And here are some things I’m worried about.
  • Will the kids who need to do the homework actually do it?
  • How am I going to keep track of all the reassessments? I feel like it would be good to note who’s coming in for extra help or extra problems, as well as how many times a student has attempted a particular Learning Target. I think I need a really good system going in if I’m going to make this work.
  • What about grades at the end of each quarter? The most recently introduced concepts, some students will still be working to learn. I’m not sure how I will handle that as far as reporting their grades.

Both of those lists could probably be much longer, but it’s a start. If you have feedback or ideas for me, please share!

About me (and this blog)

Hello out there! It will probably be a while before anyone is actually reading this, but I figured I’d post an “about” post to get things started anyway. :)

My name is Amanda. I’m a math teacher. It feels really weird to say that, because for the past seven years, I’ve been a history teacher. I’m almost finished with my master’s in Mathematics Education, though, and my administrators are moving me to math for 2010-2011. I teach at a small Christian school.

I have been reading math teacher blogs for a while and love the idea of using this medium to reflect on what I’m doing and make it better. So I’m jumping in there. The blog title is both a math pun and an indicator of what I want the blog to be – a place where I take action through reflection on what I have done and on what I plan to do. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education says of praxis,

It is not simply action based on reflection. It is action which embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human well being and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgement about how to act in this situation’ (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 190).

This is my goal as a teacher, and I want to use this blog to help me achieve it.

Thanks for reading!

Another test post!

This one does what it says on the label. Trying things out, seeing how they work.

If I’m using HTML mode, do I have to enter code for my line breaks? Looks like no. That’s nice.

Okay, I have non-blog work that needs to get done now. I will try to post Actual Content tomorrow.


Just testing some stuff out here. I’ll do a real intro post soon.