Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Technology At Its Finest

Hello all! I hope everyone is having an Excellent 2nd semester. My question for all of you involves technology. As you may or may not know I teach technology classes here at Arapahoe. Specifically Intro. to Computer Apps. and Computer Apps. 1. I might also be picking up Computer Apps. 2 next year. I'm planning on spending my summer looking at the Curriculum for these classes and improving what and how I teach the classes. What I want to know from you is how you use technology in your classrooms. I would like to know what programs, if any you use and what types of assignments you give. I'm all for using technology across the curriculums, and I think that knowing how it's used in other classes will help me improve what and how I teach technology in my classroom. Your input would be greatly appreciated!

The Big Break In

I heard something interesting the other day shared by someone in a fairly high position in the district. Basically, this person stated that until a teacher (or anyone in a new job) has experienced something that really shakes them to the core, they haven't been "broken in". Lets look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose a student makes personal attacks on other kids as well as adults while using a popular teen website. The person in the position of authority takes what he/she believes are the correct steps to address the situation. In no time at all, the situation has drawn the attention of the media and a civil rights group.

Has anything happened to you this year that has really made you question your teaching or decisions you have made? Possibly difficult conversations with parents? Students that fail to take responsibility for their own behaviors? How have you dealt with those situations? What did you learn from them? Were you able to get resolution? This can be from a past teaching experience or job.

Please list the problem itself in very general terms (as this is a public forum). However, share in more detail how it affected you as a teacher

If you want to share something confidential, please use the journal format and email to Ray and I.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Student's thoughts on grades

After last week's meeting, I decided to ask my students their thoughts on grading and motivation for learning. After all, we are doing all of this for them, so why not get their opinions.
The comments are starting to roll in. Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Non-graded assessments

While reading the article for last week and listening to Tony's presentation, I was once again struck by the conundrum of how to adapt my grading to better facilitate student learning. Indeed, the paradox of learning and grading has always been a point of concern in my own classes. Because of this, I was grateful for the insights offered both by Tony and by the article. What I want to address, though, is the educational value that I have found in the use of non-graded assessments.

I suspect that many of you, like me, use non-graded assessments in your classrooms to try to assess learning in creative ways while sidestepping some of the problems that come with grades. I like non-graded assessments, because when I read them, I don't have to worry about critiquing individual students. I can spend more time assessing my own teaching through student feedback. One technique that I use in my classroom is the "one-minute paper." This assessment technique is more frequently used by colleges and universities and is succinctly articulated by Tom Angelo and Patricia Cross and is explained more indepth by Steven Draper of the Universtiy of Glasgow. Basically, I ask students to take out a 3x5 index card and to spend one minute writing as much as they can reflecting on a prompt question that I give. I might ask students what they thought was the point of class that day to see if I am doing a good job articulating my learning objectives. I might ask what lingering questions students have or what they thought were the most important two (or three or four) things they learned that period. I love the instant feedback that they give me. I usually can read about 3-4 minute papers per minute.

Has anyone else used this technique or a similar technique? Did you find the two links that I provided helpful? What other forms of non-graded assessment do you use? What are some of the strengths and/or drawbacks of this form of assessment? I am excited to get your insight.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Beat me

Hello fellow first years........

Since Ray and Missy have already touched on the concept of grades, lets blog about being immersed into second semester. Embarking on the 6th week of school what concerns, celebrations, frustrations, strategies, helpful hints or anything else could you pass on, that together as a PLC we could help one another with. I think, at times, we get so caught up with out fast paced busy lives that we forget to breathe, settle down, and celebrate and reflect on what is working and what isn't. Here you are "forced" hehehe to have the opportunity to reflect and share they way you feel.


The induction meeting that was held last Tuesday really made my thinking change a bit concerning grades. I love how he has grades in the academic focus as well as the non-academin focus, however I am having a difficult time with understanding how the way I grade is different from his (to some degree). Right now I grade with the regular categories: test, warm-ups (daily quizzes), homework, and participation. I think that kids would get a different perspective if I changed those names to: content knowledge and responsibility grades, however how are they different other than the titles? If a student demonstrates content knowledge they should be doing well on the assessments given. If a student doesn was on the responsibility grade they should be turning in all their homework. So I am a little foggy in that aspect of changing the names of grades.
Another issue I have questions about is the issue focused on no zeros until the student really gets the content. I have had no problems with letting student redo an assessment if they earned a D or lower to be able to bring that grade up to a C at best, however if I let any and all students retake their test or assessments to prove to me that they learned that material how are the students that study for the assessments the first time and do well going to feel about that?? Also, regarding teacher time, where are we going to find the time to reassess students to determine if they get it now. Don't get me wrong I would love for all my students to walk out my classroom door with all my content knowledge by the end of the year, however I feel there needs to be some time accountability as well. What are your thoughts??

Reflections on Tony's presentation

As always, I love the the conversation Tony's presentation generates. My only regret is that we began with the "O Alternatives" article we chose to start our meeting with. Although it prompted great discussion to begin with , it may have clouded Tony's message:" What are grades intended to communicate and what should they measure?". We also appeared to to get stuck on how could we make his grading system work within Infinite Campus.
Let's go back to his premise that grades should be a reflection of what, and how well, students are learning. All he is suggesting is that for the sake of communication we make a distinction between the knowledge and skills we want all students to know and learn, and those non-academic things we choose to look at as well. We should simply put those two concepts under different headings and give them a weighted value based on our best judgment. When you have a conversaton with a parent or student, you are able to change the focus to "this part is about what you have or have not learned, and this is about how well you have or have not met your non-academic responsibility. It is about changing the conversation away from "what do I have to do to get an 'A'?" to "how well have I learned something." This also leads us to explore what essential learnings all students should leave AHS with and how do we assess it? It is the journey we are about to embark on at AHS,if we haven't already begun it in some departments. These are excitng and difficult challenges for all of you/us.
I'd like to leave you with this thought:
"When we no longer know what to do, we come to our real work and when we know which way to go we have begun our real Journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
Wendell Berry
Thanks for all the hard thinking you've begun to do.


Friday, February 03, 2006


Do we treat our students differently based on our perceptions of who they are in the school community? You enter your classroom on the first day of school and to your wondering eyes appear 35 individuals. Do we treat them as individuals or do we classify them based on the way they look, who they hang out with, what sports they do or don't play? Some of them may have been in your class in previous years and we know exactly who they are. But are they still that same person the following year? How about siblings?...you had Karen two years ago and she was such a diligent student. Her brother is now in your class and is he the same diligent student as his sister? How do you combat against judging your students based their looks, siblings, sports, etc.?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Over-extended. And Loving It.

Blog posting.
Weekly eligibility.
Dentist appointment.
Kindergarten registration.
6:45 student review.
2:30 PLC.
Copies. (Xerox down)
ILP's and MAP scores.
MUSE layout.
5 unexcused absences to check (nobody came for make-up work).
PowerPoint presentation to create.

Stack of papers to grade - another late night.

Sound familiar? Typical week? Typical day? I'm not complaining. Seriously. This is my life, and I love it. But after 12 years of teaching, I'm STILL learning to cope with the mixed load of professional and personal responsibilities. Nothing can be dropped (as a matter of fact, more gets added). Nor do I want to drop anything - minus the dentist appointment. It still hurts.

I don't know about you, but even with all the stress and anxiety, when I pull into this parking lot, I feel energized (even without the caffeine, though it never hurts. Just ask my students and Ms. Korn - they'll tell you.) The goals of our chosen profession - college prep, love of learning, life skills, rigor, relevance, relationships, positive decision making - continue to push me to be better than I should have the right to be.

5:00 am comes early. 11:00 pm is a long way off. But I could not ask for a better way to fill the time. Only one question. Any concrete task management or stress reduction ideas?