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!

 

#Made4math: CCSS Flipbooks – My most used resource

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Okay…so I was thrown into the Common Core Standards this year with little direction from our district.  They had a committee that put together curriculum and they did a great job, but it was a little difficult to follow and just so much at one time…I think we were all seeing stars.  At the start of the year, we were looking for any resources we could find.

During one of our Institute Days, while searching for some resources I came across the Kansas Association of Teachers of Mathematics Common Core resources page.  And while it may not look like a lot at the start, if you scroll down to the middle of the page, you see a link for these AMAZING flipbooks.  They are for the Math Standards and broken down by grade level.  The teachers I work with and I were thrilled!!!   We gathered card stock paper to print them on and went to town.  My keen eye for organization allowed me to color code my book so each standard is a different color.  (For those that follow this blog or my Twitter feed, this is not surprising.) Check them out!

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In an earlier post, I reference making the Geometry one.  I opened up the High School Flipbook, but only printed the pages that I needed specifically for Geometry, since I will be teaching it next year.

How to make your own awesome flipbook:

1. Download and save the PDF for the flipbook you need
2. Open the file and go through the book counting how many pages for each standard strand. This will allow you to color code it as you print it.
3. It says you can print back to back, but I haven’t been successful ANY TIME I have tried to do that.
4. When you print you want to select 2 pages per sheet, so you get a handy small flipbook and not a large giant one.
5. Use the paper cutter to cut the pages in half. No other trimming of the sides is needed.
6. Now is the “fun” part, you will need to sit down with a good pair of scissors and cut off on the dotted lines (provided in the PDF file) to create all of the awesome HELFPUL tabs.
7. Use your three hold punch to punch two holes in the pages.
8. Get two binder rings from someone in your building…they can be found.  Or ask someone who scrapbooks.
9. Bind them together with the rings.
10. Put your name on them and show them off at every meeting you attending.  Make all other math teachers jealous!

There you go.  I use this awesome resource DAILY as I look for the standards I am teaching or will be teaching.

Thank you to Melissa Hancock for creating them and posting them on the KATM site!

Does a lack of confidence hold students back?

Confidence…does it really all come down to that?  I’ve been wondering this for a few weeks now, mainly because I have been working with students whose lack of confidence in math and even in everyday life is staggering.  In working with them one-on-one I am able to see quite a few things that I wouldn’t have seen so clearly otherwise.

What I see one on one:
1. Lack of confidence in what the first step of a problem is, so they won’t start a problem.
2. Lack of ability to self-check their work because they don’t believe they have it right to begin with.
3. Lack of the ability to question themselves through each step of a problem, such as “Is this reasonable?”, “Does this make sense?”, “What is the next step?”, “What do I already know?”
4. Lack of ability to communicate what they know and what they are struggling with, example: “I understand what to do in the first two steps, but I don’t understand what to do next because I still do not understand _______.” It is stated more like “I just don’t get it.”
5. With questioning coming from me, not leading questions, just helping them to verbalize the next step or their thought process, they are able to solve problems with almost 100% accuracy. And they are able to walk themselves through a problem and find errors they have made.

What I see in the classroom:
1. They wait and watch others in their group start problems and then follow what they do. It’s not entirely copying as they tend to just watch the first step, but they aren’t vocally asking for help from those students, which is what we’ve been working towards this year. They also don’t ask for help from me.
2. They make small computational mistakes over and over, even though when separated out they have mastered those basic skills.
3. They tend to just solve the problem and move on. There isn’t much interaction on their part in regards to if the answer actually answers the question appropriately.
4. They tend to be quiet in the classroom, not asking questions or for help. But I do also have students who will say “I don’t get this.” and group everything together rather than doing what they can and coming to one part that they can’t quite figure out.
5. Their accuracy in solving problems drops, I don’t quite have a percentage, but maybe around 80%.  They aren’t able to identify mistakes as easily either.

Looking at it this way, I do think that a student’s lack of confidence is holding them back in many ways. How do I increase student confidence overall? Most of these students have confidence issues that are not just specific to math.  I see the lack of confidence as holding them back from just diving in and trying something…maybe because they are afraid to start the problem and be incorrect, but why be afraid of being wrong?  I work hard to NOT foster that line of thinking in my classroom and we really push each other to try new things, and to try and solve a problem a different way. We celebrate work that may not lead to the right answer, but helps us determine what to do next. We do Estimation180 where we discuss too high & too low estimations and celebrate those who were close.  So what else can I do? Where does this lack of confidence and fear of being wrong come from? How can I change it? How can I help a student feel better about their abilities?  These students are not low students, they are bright and very capable students….why can’t they see that?