SBG Reflections

All you awesome teachers in my blog reader keep writing amazing posts that remind me of things I wanted to reflect on or write about.  Fawn Nyugen wrote a great post about her first year of SBG and it caused me to reflect on my four years of using SBG and how I will apply it to Geometry next year, which I’ve never taught. So, without the elegant writing that Fawn has and copying her headings, here is my reflection! In order to make it easy to read, I am linking to documents rather than embedding them.

What worked

  • Incorporating a Google Form for retakes. I created mine from a mix of those I saw online and even though I waited until 4th Quarter to do so, it helped SO much.  Mainly because I found a script that emails me the form responses when students hit submit…there is NO need for me to check the form daily! It even comes through the email nice and neat.  I then created a folder in my email with a rule that all emails with the Request to Reassess in the subject (set up in the google form), get sent to this specific folder. I liked this because it removed the requests for passes during class time and asked the students to reflect.  And they reflected pretty well seeing as though I added this 4th quarter.
  • Only allowing lunch retakes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This allowed me to have Wednesdays to meet with students who needed help and Fridays because we have treat Friday’s in the 8th grade office and I like spending that time with those awesome teachers.
  • Color coding my PAPER gradebook. Students who earned a 2-1-0 on a skill were highlighted in pink once I posted a note in their online gradebook. The note in the gradebook mentioned that I wanted to see them during lunch to review their missed skill…this was the same thing I wrote on their quiz. I highlighted the students who mastered the skill in green. This allowed me to easily view which skills I needed to reteach and which skills most of the class had mastered.
  • Requiring two 4’s (two mastery scores) in order to fully master (or be completed with) a skill.  I liked this because the questions on the second quiz were a little more difficult in nature, really challenging students to prove their knowledge. I have no idea how I can do this with Geometry when it is all so new to me.
  • Skills Checklist.  It’s amazing how much 8th grade students LOVE stickers! They get a sticker when they master a skill.  This allowed them to know AT ANY TIME, which skills they still needed help with.  I like this because they kept all of their skill quizzes in a folder along with the checklist and they didn’t need technology to log into the gradebook to see what they needed to skill master.  I find the stickers at the dollar store or Target’s $1 section and even got quite  a few packs for Christmas this past year from students.
  • Short Skill quizzes. Most had 1-4 skills being assessed through 4-10 questions, with 2-4 questions per skill. This meant they didn’t take students they entire 45 minute period to take the quiz and they didn’t take me that long to grade. By not losing an entire period to a quiz, I was able to use the time before or the time after for a lesson or activity or review.

What didn’t work (and I won’t reinstate them)

  • Color coded excel gradebook. I found a PDF example online of a SBG excel gradebook that color coded the scores and would automatically tabulate when students had passed a skill twice.  I thought it was the coolest thing, took a good deal of time to make it. Yet I didn’t like having to write the scores down and transfer them to that document and then to the online gradebook.  This didn’t even make it past a few weeks.  Great concept, but too time consuming.
  • Allowing students to take more than two skills during a before school, during lunch or after school reassessment.  Since most come to reassess during lunch anyways, there isn’t enough time for students to take more than two skills.  I tried 1st and 2nd quarter with no limit, but then the end of lunch would come and I would hear “I didn’t finish, can I finish during class?” UGH…no way.

What I know I can improve on

  • Keeping track of which reassessments a student has taken. I have multiple reassessments for each skill, but when a student comes to reassess, I usually ask them if they’ve reassessed before and which skills.  I was *usually* able to provide them with the right skill quiz, but sometimes students did reassess the same skill quiz more than once.  Either I need to try Fawn’s Mailing labels for reassessments or something else.
  • Going over the quizzes when I hand them back.  Students sit in groups, so they learn at the beginning of the year that they need to dialog with each other, but when it comes to quizzes I find that they don’t like to say they didn’t understand a certain problem. I need to find a better way to make sure I am going over the questions on the skill quizzes when they are handed back.
  • Provided more written feedback on their quizzes.  I did a decent job during first quarter, but slowly, slowly it disappeared as the year went on.  I KNOW that it is important, but it was one of the easier things to let slide. No more! I plan to provide helpful, meaningful feedback on skill quizzes this year!
  • Explaining the system better to parents at the start of the year. I am the only one who grades this way in my building, so it is all new to parents whose “child has always gotten A’s in math”. I need to find a better way to explain. I’ve used Angry Birds as an example to help, but I need to improve it a lot.

What I’m still thinking about

  • Allowing those students that mastered ALL skills for the quarter to be exempt from taking my Quarter Skills Final. I allowed this during 3rd and 4th quarters this past year.  I thought there would be more students mastering, but it wasn’t as many students as I thought it would be (maybe 4 per class of 32) and why not reward them for working hard through the quarter and above and beyond class time? But I wonder if it defeats the purpose of the Quarter final to work on retention of material?
  • Do I even do a quarter final this year? (see below as well) The district curriculum committee has written unit tests for each unit, if I have to give those, I don’t see a huge quarter final being able to fit in.  Since this is a sophomore level course, the 8th grade students will take semester finals during 2nd and 4th quarter as it is.
  • Reassessment deadline. It’s usually the last Monday of the quarter for any skills during that quarter, but this sometimes causes students to wait until the last minute to master a skill from the beginning of the quarter.  If I have to give the district created Unit tests, maybe the deadline would be by the next unit test? Or two weeks after a unit test?  Just thinking aloud here…
  • Incorporating the Math Practices and 21st Century Skills into SBG, specifically the gradebook. I want to, I just don’t know how.  I tried 21st Century skills last year and those didn’t make it past the first quarter. What if the students graded themselves on the Math Practices and 21st Century Skills?  That would make it easier to keep track of AND allow discussion between the student and myself. Hmmmmm….
  • Meeting with each student at mid-quarter and end of the quarter to discuss together what grade they think they earned. I have read this in a few different places and I think it would open to some great discussions.  But will they be honest? And is this really preparing them for the rigors of high school? And where will I find the time?

What I’m at a loss on

  • Starting SBG over after 4 years of using it in Algebra and trying to apply it to Geometry.
  • Writing questions for Geometry. Writing the questions for Algebra and Pre-Algebra over the years was easy because I’ve been teaching it for so long I knew the types of questions I wanted them to know.  I want SBG to work in Geometry, but I am scared to mess it up because I don’t know the content well enough to be able to level questions and know what is really important enough to quiz on.
  • Creating a Skill Checklist for Geometry. Same reasons as above.  I have a bunch from online, but I also have to keep up with my district’s curriculum and common core.
  • The district curriculum committee that just finished the Geometry curriculum and rewriting it to Common Core has also created Unit tests.  How do I implement those tests with SBG? I haven’t given a unit or chapter test in years.  Do I give it and grade it as a test in the gradebook? Do I give it and grade it as separate skills?
  • Homework. I haven’t graded it in years, but I also haven’t checked it frequent enough to keep students doing it.  Just like a new post I read from An Old Math Dog Learning New Tricks, I don’t think practice should be a part of their grade, but I am starting to feel as though middle school students need a little more of a push in regards to the importance of practicing their math. Some students get that if they practice they will pass the skill quizzes, but others think they don’t have to do the practice to be successful. And the high school has mentioned that many new freshman struggle with getting assignments in on time (they come from 7 different middle schools).  Do I create a responsibility standard in the gradebook and use that for homework where a percentage done during the quarter equals a 2-1-0? Or like a comment on that same blog post, will my gradebook allow me to continue using weights when grading and make HW a 0% weight, so it doesn’t affect the grade, BUT it is visible in the gradebook for parents, students and myself to see their HW completion?

I really enjoyed putting this reflection together, especially since I will be essentially starting over with SBG next year with Geometry as my new teaching assignment.  This is really going to help me remember what I liked and what I want to change as I forge ahead into new territory!

Thanks again to Fawn for reflecting on her year of SBG and inspiring me to do the same!


9 thoughts on “SBG Reflections

  1. We use somewhat of a SBG system in my district for Math. We call it Benchmarking. Standards are broken down into about 50 I Can statements. Each I Can has 5 short (4 question) assessments. Students have to pass each I Can twice. There are a variety of more cumulative tests that students take a couple times a quarter. Here are some ideas for how you might use homework as part of a grade while still staying true to SBG:

    At my school (I teach 5th), Benchmarks and cumulative tests account for 90% of the grade and Homework accounts for 10%. My husband teaches Algebra and the students have to pass each I Can twice AND do their homework to master the standard. My husband thinks that it is really hard to keep track of the homework for each I Can on top of all the other things to keep track of with Benchmarking but does his best. A colleague of his won’t let students take the benchmark until they have completed the homework.

    I admire you for taking this on by yourself. I definitely feel lucky that we have had support, professional development, and collaboration time to make benchmarking work. Good luck!

    • Sounds like your district has spent some time figuring all of this out. I think mine is getting closer to SBG…we use I can statements at the middle school and do a lot of formative assessments; it hasn’t gotten to the high school yet though. I like your percent breakdown. I agree with your husband, I would have a rough time keeping track of completing homework in order to take and pass the benchmarks, but I like the idea. I will add it to my pile of thoughts and see what comes out on the other end! 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Great reflection! definitely gonna steal some stuff frm you. I have a couple things I use (with my 6th graders) in terms of homework. My online grade book allows me to write comments to the kids/ parents. So every week when I post grades I add a comment saying how many assignments are turned in out of how many total assignments ( using the positive of ones turned in not missing ones.). You’d be surprised at how many parents get on their kids when they get those and how many assignments I get turned in the next week. The second thing I do (but not as much as I would like) is to require students to have turned in all assignments pertaining to a particular skill if they want to,retake the skill. I figure if they are serious about learning a skill they don’t know, they should do the practice work I made for them on it. Just a couple ideas to help with the difficult concepts of homework. Good luck!

    • Does your gradebook allow comments for each assignment or just comments in general? Mine only allows comments to go in one spot, so I have to date or specifically say what assignment I am referring to. I have found that this one step has caused me to write less comments for assignments in the online gradebook. I like that you require students to turn in all the homework to reassess and I fully agree with your reasoning why. I will be adding that to my list of things to reflect on.

      Thanks for commenting!!

  3. Pingback: Nonlinear Progressions | Inaugural Post: SBG Reflections

  4. Thank you again, Jessica, for writing all this down. It’s my biggest goal this summer, and you’ve given me plenty to sort through. I too want to explain this better to my parents (now that I know what the hell I’m doing), especially when there’ll be changes.

    Not ready yet for SBG with my geometry kids this fall; must wait another year. I have to re-do algebra and math 6 already. Also, my geometry kids have done well in the non-SBG environment.

    I love the color coding idea in the grade book, will have to remember that!

    You’re awesome, Jessica. Thank you!!

    • Thank Fawn. I am overwhelmed that I actually DID write it all down…I have a lot of work to do! I am not sure if I can pull it off in Geometry this year, I might do a hybrid. I will be searching through your blog for Geometry stuff soon. 🙂

      You are awesome too Fawn!!!

  5. good recap, found some helpful ideas!

    for homework I put it on the grade because my school mandates that 35% of a grade is practice type stuff and the other 65% is standards mastery. I used to do 20/80. Tried not having it on there and many just stopped doing it, even though they knew that’s why their test scores dropped. I don’t always check all of the homework, but they do get a sticker for at least trying every problem. And my 8th graders love the stickers!

    • Thanks! Glad you found something helpful! This year I went 65/20/15 with 65 being skill quizzes & unit tests(district common assessments), 20 is the semester district final & projects, 15 is homework (through MathXL & other stuff) and ISN grades. We will see how it works! My students LOVE stickers too!!

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