Monday, November 20, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the third post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  If you missed them, make sure you read:
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Overview
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Homework


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE



In this post, I wanted to focus on one main concept:  We can close the achievement gap with retesting. Why?  Because students learn more from correcting their mistakes (test corrections or retakes) and they retain the information longer. 


Here are the steps to take to maximize the effectiveness of retesting:

1.  Have the student fill out a test tracking sheet.  
A crucial part of the tracking sheet is to have them think about what they will do to prepare for the retest.  Taking another test without doing any new preparation for it is a waste of time and energy. 

I created a FREE "Request to Retest" resource for this purpose. CLICK HERE to download this FREEBIE. 






2.  Choose whether the student needs to retake the original test in its entirety, only the parts they got wrong, or an entirely new test.  

3.  Decide whether the retest will count for whole or partial points

Things to consider before implementing retesting:
Will you offer it to ALL students, regardless of how high they scored on the test?  
What about students scoring an A?

Will you allow retesting on quizzes?

Will you allow oral quizzing?
In this alternative to paper-pencil tests, students can use any resources they want to correct their answers. When they have the new answer, they come up to the teacher to explain their evidence. Teachers can then ask other questions to see if students really have a better understanding.

How will you deter students from not preparing for the initial test just because they know they can retest?

  • Let students know that they can reduce the amount if work and preparation if they fully prepare for the first test
  • Change the format of the retest so that the initial test is more user-friendly. For example, the original test might be multiple-choice, while the retest is fill-in-the-blank or short answer.  
  • Average the two test grades together.  
    • Alternatively, you can keep the higher of the two scores. This is especially useful when you're giving a different testing format on the second test. Sometimes it's the format, not the knowledge, that throws a student off.
  • Use the “I Know I am Close” multiple choice testing format
    • This allows students to choose two answers from the choices provided on the test and still get credit as long as one of them is correct. The catch:  The student must provide an explanation of why their choices were “close”.  Dueck recommends limiting this type of option to five questions per test and reminding students that they will receive either full, half, or no points depending on the extent of their explanation.  This approach can also be used to differentiate for special needs, such as ESL and nervous test-takers. 


Be sure to join me next week for my post on Grading Creative Projects!







Monday, November 13, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Homework

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the second post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck. 

If you missed the first post, which highlights the main ideas and possible solutions in the book, please read it by clicking here.


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Motivating students to complete homework and lessening the grading load for the teacher




There are so many great suggestions in this book.  In this second post, I wanted to focus on motivating students to complete homework and how to lessen the grading workload for teachers.


First, I'd like to share my own hard-learned lessons about students' homework completion:  

Don’t take it personally if students don’t complete their homework on time.
It often comes down to home life, ability, and yes, motivation. If home life and ability prevent homework completion, then we must provide the motivation at school. 

Don’t assume a zero is “teaching the student a lesson”.
The goal is to get the student to complete it and be enriched by the experience. A zero in the grade book isn’t achieving either of those things. 

Most students want to make their teachers happy, even if they don’t complete their homework. So giving punishments or shaming them for not completing it only stresses both parties out. 



Now, here are the great ideas for homework motivation from Grading Smarter Not Harder:


1.  Offer homework-completion time before or after school. 

2.  Cross-Age Mentoring:  
This support is done within the school. It pairs older students with younger/struggling ones to help with assignment completion. 

3.  Grade level teacher group support:  
This can be a "lunch bunch" during which the teacher(s) manage a homework-completion group one day a week. Make a simple rotation schedule so students know which subject is available on which day of the week. I.e., math with Ms. Myers on Monday. 

4.  In-school suspension to get help from teachers. 
This can include an established homework-completion room during lunch. 

5.  Free tutoring from students needing community hours.  
In my area, the Key Club high school students tutor at the library each week. 


Be sure to come back next week to read my post on closing the achievement gap with retesting!










Monday, November 6, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the first post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series and a FREEBIE: Beg, Borrow, and Teach!


There are so many great suggestions in this book.  In this first post, I just wanted to give a summary of all those suggestions and some actionable tips.


Some ideas in the book that really got me thinking:


Idea #1: Assignments that are late or not turned in on time should not automatically receive a score reduction or zero. 
The chronic procrastinators and students who happily take the zero over doing the work are the students who need to complete the work. They have missed so many learning opportunities because (if we're being honest) it's easier for them not do the work and it's less work for the teacher to give a zero. 

Actionable Tip:  Give a time "span" in which something is due
I.e., If next Friday is the due date, students can turn it in "early" on Wednesday. Watch positive peer pressure kick in when you compliment the early-finishers. Alternatively, you could offer extra credit for turning it in early. 



Idea #2:  Students shouldn't receive a grade on their report card if they have not completed all/most of the assigned work for that time period.

Actionable Tip: Students should receive an "Incomplete" until the work has been made up.  The idea of giving an incomplete on a report card both intrigued and bothered me. I wasn't so sure my school or district would support this because they set fairly strict grading windows in which we have to enter report card grades.


Idea #3:  Students learn more when they know what the end expectation is

Actionable Tip:  Provide students with the following things at the beginning of a unit, chapter, or project:

  • Rubrics
  • Study guides
  • Unit outlines / syllabi 
  • Goal statements


Idea #4:  We can close the achievement gap with retesting. 

Actionable Tip:  Students learn more from correcting their mistakes (test corrections or retakes) and they retain the information longer. 




Come back next week for the post on motivating students to complete homework and how the grading load can be lessened!








Monday, October 30, 2017

Accountability Activities for Read-Alouds

Are you looking for ideas for holding students accountable for the information given during read-alouds?  Check out these simple activities and suggested titles for your secondary classroom.


Accountability Activities for Read-Alouds: How to Check for Reading Comprehension



In the first two posts in this series, I talked about titles for Social Studies and Science Read-Alouds.  Be sure to check those posts out for suggested titles.




Accountability activities for books being told from multiple viewpoints:


  • Have students keep a t-chart in their notebooks comparing the two (or more) narrator's stories.
  • Talk or write about how it would change the story if a certain character had made a different decision earlier in the story.
  • Have students complete a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the characters




Accountability activities for books based on historical events/containing historical dates:


  • Have students complete journal entries based off an event in the book or a significant quote from the chapters you read that day
  • Have students make a timeline of the major events in the story
  • Have students interview experts on the time period/subject of the book
  • Have students create their own test or essay questions about the text. This allows them to simultaneously think about the story and prepare for the test on it


General Accountability Activities:

  • Have students make a list of questions they have about a character or part of the book.  Have a class discussion to come up with possible answers.
  • Search for movie trailers or book teasers based on the book
  • Have students make their own movie trailers or book teasers
  • Have students recommend other books to the class that have similar plots/characters
  • Use Sticky Notes to track reading comprehension


Accountability Activities for Read-Alouds: Using Sticky Notes to check for reading comprehension




What accountability activities do you use?  Which of the activities will you be using from my list?  I'd love to hear from you!




    Monday, October 23, 2017

    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom

    Are you looking for some high-interest books for your secondary Science classroom?  Would you like to read to your classes?  Read this post about the books teachers recommend the most!


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Fever 1793, Heroes of the Environment, Hoot, Chomp, Flush, Scat, Newsela.



    In the first post in this series, I talked about Social Studies Read-Alouds.  Be sure to check that post out for your Social Studies curriculum.



    Fever 1793 

    This book is set in Philadelphia, where the Yellow Fever is wreaking havoc.  This book could certainly be used as a Social Studies read-aloud, but I felt it had a stronger connection to Science.  I would focus on how the virus is spread (via female mosquitoes) and the fact that unlike other viruses, it cannot be spread from person to person.  This could lead to a discussion about how this particular virus mutated to be transmitted differently than its counterparts.


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Fever 1793





    Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet


    This book features multiple mini chapters about real life people (adults and kids).  It's perfect for quick daily read-alouds.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Heroes of the Environment






    Books by Carl Hiaasen

    They all have an environmental conservation theme to them.  

    A word of caution:  They each have a handful of bad words scattered throughout, so if you are reading them out loud, you just have to be quick on your feet to replace them with something more appropriate.  




    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Hoot




    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Chomp






    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Flush




    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Scat








    For nonfiction leveled texts that you can either read aloud or have students read on their own.


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom: Newsela



    Be sure to come back next week for the final part of the series:  Accountability Activities for Read-Alouds!




    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom

    Are you looking for some high-interest books for your secondary Social Studies classroom?  Would you like to read to your classes?  Read this post about the books teachers recommend the most!


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: A Long Walk to Water, Refugee, A Moment Comes, Number the Stars, Iqbal, Bamboo People, The Breadwinner, Red Scarf Girl, The Boy on the Wooden Box, My Brother Sam is Dead, Newsela



    A Long Walk to Water

    This book has very short chapters, sure to keep their interest and great for reading about ten minutes a day.  It's about two children living in Sudan and the long walks they take to get what they need to survive.


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: A Long Walk to Water




    Refugee

    A newer edition, and another book that has multiple viewpoints telling the story.  This time, it's refugee children from Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Syria.  All are trying to find a safe home.


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Refugee




    A Moment Comes 

    Based on the Partition of India in 1947,  this book shows covers the event through three teens from very different backgrounds (Muslim, Sikh, and British). 


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: A Moment Comes




    Number the Stars

    A great story about the kindness of families for the refugees of Nazi Germany.




    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Number the Stars




    Iqbal 

    Iqbal is based on a true story about child labor in Pakistan.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Iqbal





    Bamboo People

    Bamboo people is longer but it gets their attention because they are kidnapped and made into child soldiers in Burma.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Bamboo People





    The Bread Winner series by Debra Ellis

    This series is about families coming together to take care of each other under Taliban rule.  The heroine of the story is Afghani girl, who must pretend to be a boy so she can work to make money for her family.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: The Breadwinner





    This is set in 1966 Communist China, and how it impacted the life of young Ji-Li and her family as they try to survive under Mao Ze-dong's Cultural Revolution.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Red Scarf Girl







    The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List 

    This is a memoir by a child survivor of the Holocaust.  It details how the main character and his family were saved by Schindler's List.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: The Boy on the Wooden Box






    My Brother Sam is Dead  

    This is a story about a family divided by the Revolutionary War.


    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: My Brother Sam is Dead



    Newsela Social Studies

    For nonfiction leveled texts that you can either read aloud or have students read on their own.



    Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Social Studies Classroom: Newsela





    Be sure to come back next week for the second part of the series:  Read-Aloud Books for the Secondary Science Classroom!












    Monday, October 9, 2017

    How to Use Get-to-Know-You Activities Later in the Year

    Don't throw away those get-to-know-you surveys you did on the first day of school!  This post gives you ideas for using that valuable information all through the school year. 

    In a previous post, I talked about making Get-to-Know-You Nametags. The pictures below are the examples I use to show students how to make their own on the first day of school. 









    Here are the ways I continue to use them:

    1.  Have students keep them out on their desks for the first couple of weeks of school. It really helps me to memorize faces and names.  I just have the students keep the tags in their binders and put them back out on their desk each day. 


    2.  Collect and alphabetize the tags after a couple of weeks. I hope-punch put them and put them in a binder. 








    3. Refer to the nametags when you need to make a connection with a child.  If I have a difficult conversation with a student, such as poor grades or behavior, I make sure to look at their information afterwards. I make sure to find something we have in common and strike up a conversation with that information. 

    For example, I used the fact that I also like watching The Office to make a connection with one of my students who I've been struggling with lately. 

    What are some ways you use get-to-know-you activities later in the year?  I'd love some fresh Ideas!