Archive for the ‘Standards Based Grading’ Category

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This graphic of a Koch Snowflake (thanks wikipedia) in some ways describes what has happened to me at Twitter Math Camp (#TMC14).  I started out with just a few questions, but then those questions multiplied, and the new questions multiplied, and so on, until they all started to blur together.  Similarly, Koch’s Snowflake starts simple, but then each replication makes the image more complex, until it finally brings you to that snowflakey image that everyone recognizes.

In my questions, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.  I wonder, do I need to let them replicate more, before I find that big question toward which they are building?  I think I at least have a feel for where they are going.  I started with questions about how to help struggling students, how to reach disengaged students, how to teach multiple levels in one class, how to use project based learning to get there, how to use standards based grading to report on that learning; unh, I’m out of breath.  But in my mind I can almost see the convergence point, the place where all these questions merge into one big question.  I can’t quite see the shape of it, but I know it’s there.

It is something to do with teaching multiple levels in essentially the same lesson.  So that kids in basic math, pre-algebra, algebra I and algebra 2 are all interacting with the same lesson at the same time, but from a perspective that fits with their level of learning.  The concept of multiple entry points resonate with this question, as do the multitude of rich problem based resources from the digital math community.  So for now, it seems my snowflake is this: how do I make this structure happen?


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Eleven days. 11. Only two more weekends.  Then it begins. Second semester.

Three teachers. 16 students. 4 content areas (three levels of math). Two and a half hours, five days a week.

When I put it in black and white, my stomach starts to knot up. How, why did I ever think I needed to be part of this?

On January 27, our second semester begins. On that day, Marine Studies Pathway (spring 2014) begins. The first semester (the trial class of one period, one content area, and two teachers), it wasn’t great. Now we have pretty much the same kids for second semester MSP.

In two and a half hours a day, five days a week, three of us have to teach them Marine Ecology, Marine Industry Standards (think Captain’s license), grade level writing (half their english credit), and Math. English at four different grade levels. Three different courses in Math: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Trig, or maybe Stats.  Half the class with IEP’s (oh, sure, there’s an ed tech to help). And the syllabus is still. not. written. [do you hear me screaming in terror?]

All eyes are on us as we attempt this new program dreamed up by a crazy principal who thinks he can keep all his kids in school by making school more relevant to their lives.  No one thinks it can be done; except maybe the principal.  And the facilitator. Thank god for the facilitator and her organization skills.

Hours have been spent on the big picture. What do we want them to learn? What are the standards? Who are the community partners? How can we work with them to provide authentic projects to frame our students’ learning? How will we structure the course? How will we structure the class? How will we three teachers work together from our different content areas? These are questions we have struggled with.  These are questions we are still struggling with.

One science teacher, one marine trades teacher, and one math teacher (and an ed tech). I think all three of us must be slightly insane.

So in eleven days, this will happen. Ready or not, here they come.

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I have been thinking about how I use Twitter and how other people use Twitter (or could use it).  I usually go on every night, generally after dinner.  My husband starts watching his favorite television shows and I start “watching” Twitter.  While he is watching southerners catch alligators or Alaskans catch crabs, I watch the #Mtbos, the MathTwitterBlogoSphere.  Thanks to several especially entertaining people, my Twittervision is usually better than his television.  And if it is a slow night, I can always go blog surfing.

When I first started lurking on Twitter, it was a little more purposeful.  I was on the hunt for information about SBG (standards based grading).  I found it in spades.  I read so many blogs that they all started to run together.  Some of them stand out.

I started with Dan Meyer’s dy-dan.  After my first year of teaching, I had taken a class with him during an exciting week of summer PD at the Maine School of Science & Mathematics.  For me, it was a case of hang on and try to keep up.  But once I hit his blog, I found my way to other resources on SBG by reading the comments.  Thank god for comments on blogs; they’re the web that holds it all together.  Thanks, Dan for serving as a locus.

Following the web, I found Shawn Cornally’s Think, Thank, Thunk; this is a goldmine of information on SBG with links to other people who know SBG.  And Kate Nowak’s f(t), which didn’t have SBG, but sure is an interesting read.  Then it was on to Bowman Dickson’s whiteboards, and then Cheesemonkeysf (who could resist that handle?).  And Michael Pershan’s Rational Expressions.  I can’t list them all, but very stop had comments from interesting people and links to interesting blogs.

I felt like a drowning woman who has reached the oasis.  I could not. stop. drinking.  School started and I still could not stop.  Papers did not get graded.  Lessons were not well planned.  I read about Twitter Math Camp (TMC) and wished I could have gone.  I started following the whole #Mtbos gang.  I read people’s blog rolls to see who else had blog’s worth reading.  I spent my summer trying to figure a way to work in TMC13 (with no success).  I started tweeting and had some responses, but most nights I was content to watch.

Now I have to find a way to break the addiction.  I want, no I need the twitterverse to be more than twittervision.  I need to make it a purposeful part of my PD, not a spectator activity.  And I know the way to do that is to start sharing.  The catch (22) is that I have been so caught by Twitter, I haven’t been paying enough attention to my classes.  I have to cut waaayy back, set limits, stop.  And that won’t be easy.

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