Sunday, June 27, 2010


The past few days there have been numerous conversations on twitter discussing SBG and how individuals make it work. I feel so blessed to be a part of those conversations. My realization last night was to try to formalize and describe in detail how I'm going to approach grading next year. Big ideas are great but I need to get to the nitty gritty. Here are some of my initial thoughts. Nothing is finalized and I'm writing more to get my ideas organized. I would appreciate feedback and other thoughtful questions.

Some background
  • My district has an online grade program. Parents are able to access their child's current grade and scores at any time.
  • I have been out of the classroom for the past four years working as an instructional coach. I have not used this grade program at all so I'm making some assumptions on what it can do.
  • The middle school and high school Algebra I teachers created a common list of learning targets and a common semester exam.

Learning Target Score (skills list)

I'm fortunate to already have a list of learning targets. Unfortunately, there are so many of them. I still need to condense them to the list that I will be reporting out. I was drawn to @mctownsley at Meta Musings 4 point scale. I've modified it and a lot of it will depend on my professional discretion of what students understand or are able to do.
  • 4 points - You can work through all examples successfully.
  • 3 points - You can do basic examples.
  • 2 points - You are able to start the problem but unable to see it through.
  • 1 point - You can describe what the problem is asking but unable to find a starting point.
  • 0 points - You do not understand what the problem is asking.
These learning targets will spiral throughout the year so students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate understanding. I will have skills quizzes but I also like the idea of giving an assessment at a Do Now or whenever I see evidence of that understanding. My hope is to collect all the evidence and at the end of the grading period have a score (0-4) for each learning target.

Summative Exams

In Algebra I we already have a semester and final exam scheduled. I'm going to add a summative 9-weeks exam for the 1st quarter and the 3rd quarter. I don't know what this is going to look like. I'd like to include a mix of skills and application problems. This will be reported separately from the learning targets score although some of the questions might influence them.


I am passionate about developing my students' problem solving abilities. The challenging part is making sure that the problems are out of context and non-routine. If they aren't then they become application problems versus problem solving. David at Questions? has developed a rubric for problem solving in his class. I need to do the same thing (look for that in the future).

Big Questions

In an earlier post I wrote about the big ideas I really want my students to walk away with. I feel like I have to have a way of reporting this to students and parents. Perhaps a 4 point scale similar to the learning targets would work.

The Grade Book

This is what my grade book might look like. I think I'll have to keep a spreadsheet of my own and the online one that reports to parents. For the Parent version I'd like to report only the most current understanding of each topic, learning target, etc. When it comes to calculating the final grade I want to consider all evidence when determining the score. I'm sure someone is wondering how I'm going to weight everything and I have absolutely no idea right now :)

Other thoughts

There are some other things that I want students to do but I'm not sure how or where it would fit in with their grade. Projects? Blogging? Maybe the other process standard focus will be communication or maybe they won't be a part of their grades at all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Number Subset Game

I'm working on finding/collecting games to use during my workshop days (more explanation to come). ODE had a lesson where students would assign points to certain number subsets. I've adapted it so that 2 or more students could play as a game.

Supplies: a number cube, set of subset cards, paper, writing utensil

Each player writes 5 numbers. Player 1 draws a card and rolls the number cube. If the card is written in red letters, subtract the number rolled for each number that falls in that subset. If the card is written in black letters, add the number rolled for each number in that subset. Keep a running total of your score. Player 2 takes a turn.


Player 1: 3, -10, 2/3, 0, 100

Player 2: 3/4, 4.5, 1, -72, -2.3

Player 1 draws a red integer card and rolls a 4. He will need to subtract 4 four times (3, -10, 0, and 100). His score is -16.

Player 2 draws a black whole number card and rolls a 1. She will need to add 1 once (1). Her score is 1.

Repeat this process. The student with the highest score is the winner.

I'm hoping this a way to keep this vocabulary alive throughout the year.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My vision for Algebra I (part 1)

What are the big ideas in Algebra I? I'm not 100% sure of my sequencing but I know I want to weave the following questions into each unit.

Big Questions:
1. What is a solution? How do you find them?
2. What is rate?
3. What does it mean to be a function?
4. Why is equivalency important? (this one bothers me - not sure how to word it)

I'm hoping to keep record of students' understanding of these big ideas along with their algebra skills.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ian Jukes came to town

My school district invited Ian Jukes to speak at our summer academy this year about learning and teaching in the 21st century. In the morning, he set the stage on why we need to be aware of quickly changing technology. That afternoon he spoke about the Digital Learner's profile and summarized what the research says. Much of the information presented was not completely new but I still find it an important and motivating message. Here are some of the ideas that resonated with me:
  • Finding balance - We want DLs to respect "school". We must respect where they are coming from too.
  • Problem based learning
  • Progressive Withdrawl - getting kids to think on their own
I definitely have a lot to think about this summer as I decide the structures and routines that will define my time with kids.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It has to begin somewhere

So here we go! I'm incredibly nervous to start this journey of blogging. My hope is that I am better able to document and reflect on my journey next year. I've spent the last four years working as a math instructional coach. That is still my role but I have the opportunity to teach one section of Algebra I next year. The thought of having my own classroom of kids to experiment with is exciting.