Category Archives: grading

End of 3rd Quarter

Hi everyone.

It’s the end of 3rd quarter, and we’ve got a grading day. Actually half-day. So I thought I should blog since I got the time! No kids! It’s some sort of miracle. I’m fortunate at my school to have a prep period and a department planning period… but during my prep, I can expect to supervise 8 to 10 up-to-no-good-but-so-lovable seniors. Up-to-no-good is definitely putting a positive spin on it. During my plan period, I can expect to supervise two or three accelerated freshmen for whom school comes easy and are mostly bored with it, and two or three sophomores who care, but need me to give them 1-1 tutoring in Geometry.

In short, having some time to myself in my classroom is some sort of miracle. It never happens. Now if only I had something interesting and substantial to blog about.

The kids are the best part of the job though. Forget grading, planning, and prepping. I do what I do because I believe in those little punks. They’re beautiful, lovely, funny, and smart. They deserve the best.

OK, here’s something worth blogging about. I just taught right triangle trigonometry to my Geometry kiddos. I love introducing trig. This year it conveniently followed a similarity unit, so I introduced it with a quick lab measuring sides of triangles and computing SOHCAHTOA ratios. Huh, weird, for any 30 degree angle in a right triangle, the ratio of the opposite side and the hypotenuse is the same. Huh, weird. (Similar triangles, anyone?)

Then we do some boring, but straightforward practice. Then the next class we go on a field trip. I love to advertise this next bit as a field trip, even though we only go down two floors to the Commons.

I start by having them estimate the height of the ceiling in the Commons (we regularly do Estimation180 in Geometry). Then I have them take out their telly-phones and download a free clinometer app. The only issue is the kids who say, “but I don’t have any room on my phone”. Maybe if you deleted some of those dang selfies, kid.

I crappily, but enthusiastically, model what they’re supposed to do. (My teaching career is a work in progress, OK? Year two is better than year one, at least.) I pass out the awesome, giant tape measures that the math department owns. We disperse down to the Commons. Chaos ensues, naturally, but we’re on a field trip in math class, so it’s a good thing. Tape measures are being stretched out, kids are pointing their phones at the ceiling, and most kids are sketching a triangle and writing down some sort of trigonometric equation. It’s my favorite day of the year.

Eventually we return to the classroom. My least-focused kid (one of those with an ADHD star next to his name in Infinite Campus) happily sits down and gets to work solving trig equations. How could he not? I just let him run around the Commons for 10 minutes.

They’re beautiful creatures, ya feel?


8.4 trig lab

8.5 trig invest how high is ceiling (I think this was adapted from something from Tina Cardone @ drawingonmath ??? Not sure. But I definitely stand on the shoulders of giants. Thank you all.)

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Filed under fun, Geometry, grading, trig

A quick anecdote on feedback

I passed back some Geometry tests the other day, and there was a problem on similar triangles in which students had to agree or disagree with a statement and explain why. While grading, I wrote “well said” or “nicely stated” next to any convincing explanations.

A student saw this comment, and asked me, “Is this supposed to be sarcastic or what?”

I was surprised. “No… I meant that. I thought it was a good explanation.”

The kid responded, “Oh, well it was in red so I thought it was bad.”

So that was interesting, and it has me thinking about different types of feedback. What does effective feedback look like? How do kids perceive feedback?

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Filed under culture, grading

Making Corrections is Valuable

I love, love, love having the kids make corrections on quizlets (formative assessments) and tests (summative assessments). It requires them to actually look at my feedback and to maybe even learn from their mistakes.

For corrections on the last test in FST, I also had the kids write down one thing they’re proud of or one thing they thought they really learned. I got some great responses back, and I hope it helped remind them of what they did well rather than just focusing on mistakes, so I’m glad I had them do that.

Sample responses:

“I did really well on my factoring. I was worried about it and it went better than I thought. Happy about it.”

“I did well on the quadratic formula.”

“I liked Part 1 because I didn’t get any points off, and I did good with my negatives.”

“Last year I feel like I didn’t get a single quadratic problem correct. I feel like I understand them a lot better this year.”

“Factoring went well and I really have cemented the material in my brain.”

“I learned how to graph equations and find the x-intercepts.”

“I think I really mastered the factoring aspect of this unit.”

“I showed my work.”

“I slowed down this test!”

“Overall, I did OK.”

“I did well at taking my time and going through my work.”

“Test was easy but J. did better than me, so I’m salty. I’m over it. Otherwise, test went pretty well. What really helped was coming in and reviewing with you. Thanks, Ms. Cummins.”

Sometimes these kids drive me crazy, but sometimes they can be thoughtful and serious and make me proud.

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Filed under formative assessment, FST / Algebra 2, grading

Formative Assessment Brain Dump

Today I enjoyed another get together with my FST (kind of like the 2nd half of an Algebra 2 class) co-worker. We had a good discussion on formative assessment and how to grade it, and many thoughts and ideas are still running through my mind, but here’s a brain dump of where I am so far.

School policy requires each class to grade 25% on “Effort” and 75% on “Knowledge and Skills”. Pretty much as a whole, the math department uses homework and quizlets (your typical formative assessment short quiz) to make up that 25% Effort grade.

Last year my co-worker graded homework for completion and quizlets for correctness, but he was having trouble reconciling the fact that something graded for correctness was going into the “Effort” grade. So he proposed that the kids take the quizlets like normal, he grades them like normal, but if the kids make corrections then they get 100%.

At first, I didn’t really like the idea, but now as I’m typing this I’m kind of warming up to it. Well, let me back up. First, I’ve done lots of reading on Standards-Based Grading and am intrigued by it, so I personally don’t really like the 25% Effort thing in general, but I have to accept it and move on. Likewise, I don’t really want to bother grading homework. I want great math to happen during class so that there’s no need to dole out the typical “page 155 #1-27 odd” homework assignments. If I feel like the kids need more practice (or if some individual students ask for it), then I can give some homework problems, but otherwise I’m not really interested in seeing a bunch of kids copy off each other every day just to get their completion grade.

But anyway, my co-worker and I want to basically have the same set up because our kids get shuffled at semester, so I’ll play along with grading homework for completion. No big deal.

Now, regarding the quizlets, like I said, at first I didn’t like the idea of kids blowing off their quizlets and then copying the correct answers for 100%. So I told my co-worker that although their effort grade will be higher from that easy 100%, I worry that their actual effort will go down because they won’t really care about being prepared for the quizlet if they know they can just correct it and get 100%. Basically, I want them to take the quizlets seriously, and I worry that they won’t if they know they can just correct it.

But, as I’m typing this, I am opening up to the idea. If I can create the expectation that they come prepared for the quizlet, and I continually emphasize it’s importance as an indicator of what they know and don’t know, then it’s very possible that they will take the quizlet seriously despite the “easy” grading of it. In fact, maybe the “easy” grading of it will take some pressure off of them and really encourage them to make corrections and learn from their mistakes. And that’s the most important thing about formative assessment, right? If they can identify their errors and learn from their mistakes then they’re doing exactly what I want, so why not give them 100%?

Grading is weird.

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Filed under formative assessment, FST / Algebra 2, grading