Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our students need 'different,' not more...

We've all been there and we've all done it.

As the teacher, we teach something but the students don't understand it.

In our minds the material and skills are quite simple and straight forward, but for some reason the students just aren't grasping the information.

Our natural instincts take over and we do what makes sense to us...

Maybe if I talk louder and more slowly and repeat myself 4 times the students will understand it.

Maybe if I give more homework problems for practice the students will eventually work themselves into understanding the material.

Maybe if I explain it a few more times the information will begin to sink in.

And then... with all these maybes, we still don't see results.

So, then we do once again what makes sense to us...

Let's repeat all those maybes because something's bound to stick if we do it all again.

It's like a bad recurring dream and we've ALL been there and we've ALL done it.

As educators we tend to believe that kids need 'more' of whatever we are doing if it's ever going to make sense to them.

So we give them more... and more... and more... more right up until the kids are disgusted and we the educators have forgotten why we are even doing what we are doing.

The more we give the further our students get from actually understanding or mastering the skills.

Let's ditch the 'more' and start focusing on ways we can get the same information or skills across 'differently.'

Our kids don't need more of something they don't understand... they need what they don't understand presented differently.

Oh, and while we are at it, let's commit ourselves to allowing our students to have a voice in determining what different might look like.

You never know, their version of different just might make all the difference...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Has 'finals week' become antiquated & redundant?

I recently posed a couple thoughts to the Twitterverse in regard to finals:



Here's a scenario that plays out in many secondary schools all across the globe...

The teacher explains what will be on the final. This 'final' encompasses everything that has been covered throughout the prior semester. The teacher also explains how much the final will be worth and the impact the final will have on the students' semester grades. The teacher then hands out some kind of study guide for the students to use to review and prepare for the final. All learning stops as class time becomes solely focused on preparing for the final.

The students use the study guide to guide their studying in preparation for the final but the study guide is so broad and far-reaching the students are unable to specifically identify what they should really know. The students then play out scenarios in their head about how the grade on the final will impact their final semester grades. The students then begin a sporadic process of cramming as much possible information in their heads in preparation for the final only to be forgotten soon after.

So, here are some of my thoughts...

Finals are summative assessments with no opportunity for revision; no opportunity for feedback/input; no opportunity for correction... so what's the point other than filling the gradebook?

We spend all semester and all school year working with students... do we really need a final to tell us what our students know or don't know? If so, that's a problem...

If we are doing finals just because the next level of schooling does finals, that's a pretty poor excuse to rob our students of so much time and energy at the end of each semester.

Almost all school districts have a final exemption policy... if kids can exempt, then the argument that finals prepare kids for some next level of schooling falls short. Shouldn't every kid be required to get this 'experience...?'

The typical final uses low-level questions and focuses on quantity over quality in an effort to cover as much as possible. Finals are the shotgun approach to assessing with very little ability to identify specifically what kids know vs. don't know.

Many finals are able to be scored via scantron and are built around memorization of facts, terms and dates, just to be forgotten as the kids walk out the door.


So, is it time to revisit our practice of doing finals?


Saturday, December 13, 2014

10 signs you have a grading problem in your class

1). You create and design assignments and assessments based purely on the number of grades you currently have in your gradebook.

2). When talking about the next assignment or learning event, the first question the students ask is, 'is this for points?'

3). When talking about the next assignment or learning event, the second question the students ask is, 'how many?'

4). When many of your students who have the strongest grasp on the material and/or skills have some of the lowest grades due to 'not doing their work.'

5). When talking with parents at parent teacher conferences (which honestly need a complete overhaul by the way) you find yourself telling multiple parents that their child would be doing much better grade-wise if they would just do the homework.

6). When at the end of the quarter or semester, students and parents start asking you for additional work and/or extra credit opportunities to pull up a grade in the 11th hour.

7). When you have to attach a grade to anything and everything because if you don't, students won't do it.

8). When you do group work, you give every single group member the same exact grade based on the work output of the entire group.

9). When you want and expect there to be a balanced number of students at each grade achievement level.

10). When you believe that grades should be used as compensation for work done and when you believe that a grade will motivate students to do their best work.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It really just might be that simple...


Every morning when you head off to school, make a commitment to...


And remember...


And always keep in mind that...