Thursday, December 31, 2015

Is it time we stop 'averaging' grades?

What message are we sending to students when we average grades over a quarter or a semester?

This is definitely a hot topic question for those who are involved in work around grading and assessment.

What about the statement below?

'When we average grades over time, we are basically saying that our teaching doesn't have any impact on student learning.' via @leeannjung

That's a pretty powerful and bold statement!

Also, consider this image of seven students and their performance over a period of time:

Do we really feel each student is at the same place in regard to their learning?

Do we really feel each student is receiving a grade that most accurately reflects their current level of mastery?

image via @tguskey

Next, consider the football team in preparation for the game on Friday night (thanks for this great example @mctownsley...)

Team A: Works extremely hard all week at practice and has done everything possible to prepare for the game on Friday night.

Team B: Takes it easy at practice all week and really didn't put forth a lot of commitment to prepare for the game on Friday night.

The reality is that both teams will start the game on Friday night with zero points. The team that worked hard doesn't get an advantage from the start and the team that didn't work hard doesn't start off with a disadvantage. Grades are about what kids know at that given point in time... same thing as on the football field.

Last thought... do we really want the initial learning students do in the beginning (when the skills and/or content are brand new) to affect a student's grade later on down the road? Should students be able to escape the mistakes and roadblocks they faced in the beginning or should these mistakes haunt them the entire grading period?

So, is it time to stop averaging grades?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 15 #education tweets of 2015:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 ways to boost creativity in your classroom

1). Find opportunities in your class that allow your students to be the lead learners.

Our kids come to school with a unique and different skill-set and far too often these wonderful abilities are suppressed under the weight of objectives and learning targets. What would happen if students were able to take their skills and build on the required objectives and learning targets? Better yet, what if students helped to come up with those objectives and learning targets? What if we allowed and encouraged our students to share their genius with others and join the ranks of teachers as facilitators and activators of learning...?

via the Huffington Post
2). Do whatever you can to change up the learning space and get students to do things outside of the traditional classroom space. 

The learning spaces and environments that kids experience have huge implications on how they respond and what they are able to imagine. In a traditional four-walled classroom, students' creativity is limited and contained just like the classroom itself. Open up student minds by getting them outside and by getting them in different spaces. A cheap way to boost creativity is simply to keep the learning space fresh and unique.

3). Don't use rubrics for everything and don't tell students what the final objective is.

This might sound counter-intuitive and against all typical teacher training programs, but far too often rubrics crush any level of creativity and when the final objective is outlined in the beginning there's no room for flexibility or variation. Let go and don't allow yourself to be consumed with how you are going to assess, grade, and how you are going to hold students accountable.

4). Encourage risk-taking and embrace failure.

When we tell kids it's not Ok to fail, we are telling them to never take risks and we are encouraging them to focus on playing it safe. Ironically enough, the biggest risk our students and even us educators can take is not taking any risks at all. Playing it safe is actually the most unsafe thing one can do, and it's in classrooms across the globe that we need to encourage kids to take risks. Naturally, these risks will result in failures, but it's in this process of risk-taking and failure that kids are able to take 'what is' and creatively think about 'what could be.'

5). Praise great questions over great answers.

The type of environment that breeds creativity is an environment where kids are free and encouraged to ask deep and thoughtful questions. Students are pushed to ask questions that have multiple answers and very rarely do these questions have a correct answer. When great questions are asked great opportunities for creativity quickly become possible. When students think they have an answer to a question, change things up by asking them 'what if...' and change a variable. Students in time will start to anticipate what questions will be asked which will open up their minds to a world of possibility.

Good luck in creating an oasis of creativity!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is back! #FinEdChat

So often we hear about teaching the whole child. Today, more than ever, personal finance knowledge and awareness are a critical part of what it means to teach the whole child.

What's been made increasingly clear over the last few years is the ever-changing world of finance. Specifically, that the world of finance isn't going to become simpler, but rather more complex. Check out some surprising results about where and to whom kids turn when it comes to getting more information about finance in this survey and infographic.

Enter the H&R Block Budget Challenge!

This challenge probably isn't like other challenges you may be familiar with... this challenge is awarding up to $3 million dollars in classroom grants and student scholarships. Not too bad for just another day at school!

Beside the monetary incentive for teachers and students, there's a lot of learning potential with this FREE, fun, real-world challenge. Students get to experience online simulations that require them to go through the decision making process with the types of financial scenarios we adults face on a daily basis.

Things like paying bills, managing expenses, considering tax implications, saving for retirement, and saving for a rainy day, are all situations students will experience in this simulation.

I recall the personal finance class I took while in high school, and I wish the H&R Block Challenge would have been around as I would have thoroughly enjoyed going through these realistic scenarios.

This challenge is open to all accredited public and private schools, as well as all home schooled students. Students must be 14 years of age or older and must be enrolled in grades 9-12 to be eligible. Did I mention this is FREE?!

For all you educators out there trying to figure out how this might fit in your curriculum or how this won't be a huge additional workload, check out some of these budget challenge lesson plans and student activities. No need to recreate the wheel with this challenge! You should also check out the educational games H&R Block has created to help teach and raise awareness of personal finance.

And, don't worry, you still have time to sign up! The next simulation challenge starts on 1/14/16 (Teachers must register their classes one week prior to the simulation start date, and for this round the deadline to create your class is January 7th) with two additional sessions starting after that on 1/28/16 and 2/11/16.

Click here to learn more and sign up for this exciting opportunity for your students!

Perhaps something I love most about this challenge is the statement H&R Block makes right on their main webpage for this challenge...

We think personal finance education is so important, we're paying people to learn.

In closing, this opportunity comes at no cost to you and your students other than simply giving it a try. If you want your students to be prepared for the quickly changing world of personal finance, this is the perfect tool to have in your toolbelt. Not only is this tool free, it comes with an instructional manual on exactly how to best use it. Not to mention the many opportunities to earn some cash for your classroom and students!

What are you waiting for... get after it and get your personal finance savvy on.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and H&R Block. I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.”