Feedback – Round 2

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Feedback … figure I would keep this topic going this week as I continue to develop an adequate system that gives the results I’m after. I moved on from Gradeable to a stopgap app on my mac, PDFpenPro. I have now moved on to a different app, Notability, which is available in the App Store.  Here is a screenshot.


You may be familiar with the iPad version, as it is great note-taking app. I have used it on my iPad and just discovered the recent release of the Mac version for my laptop. It presently has some limitations in comparison to the iPad version but used it to generate feedback the last two weeks and love it so far. Time is precious to a teacher and I need to improve the speed in generating these papers. I believe this extra effort on my part to fine tune and hone in this process will result in my students improving their achievement in mathematics. Time will tell of course. My dream tool would be to have a database designed to keep track of particular tags (mistakes and errors) as I markup the papers. Importing those papers into a database that has markup tools to annotate on while keeping track of all that data along the way to analyze later… May have to develop something like this in my free time…this could be doable.

Back to feedback.



Friday was the 2nd time of observation as I handed back their quiz papers. Again, overall pretty good conversations going on among them. As I mingled, one thing I noticed is that some students did not actually read the feedback. It’s one thing to look at red ink and another to actually read and understand it. I asked them what I put on their paper, and then they really read it for the first time. There seems to be this disease in the Jr. High age of students. If someone has an antidote or way to counteract this, please let me know. For now it seems my solution is to make sure to make my rounds of each group of students to ask them about their feedback. I may experiment with my 1st period and have them find their errors, redo those problems, and then come show me their solutions. If that works, then I may do that with my following periods.

Overall, the scores on their weekly SBG quizzes improved. The same minority few are still making the same mistakes. I realize this is an immediate benefit of providing feedback. I find myself looking much closer at each and every paper than I ever did before. “Wow, Kimberly is making the same mistake again. So is Jenna. Wonder how and when I can remediate this error right away with these students in order to get them to reach proficiency in this standard.” I am already thinking about their errors and devising a re-teach either incorporated in my next lesson(s) to address it or doing a pullout for those particular students. Maybe I should call this the “Response-to-Feedback” phenomena.

See you next week.






8 days a week.

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Whoa! Hold on. What a first 8 days of school. Totally buried and crazy with schedules and new students and …..So I figured I should take a time out to actually blog about these first days, as that is one of my goals for the year. Not sure where to start. If I don’t sit down and write about it now it will slip to another week. So maybe to start, let’s go to the grading and feedback.

I had high hopes to use technology for grading purposes with the main goal of providing timely feedback to my students. I prepared and planned to use Gradeable, an online service that promised to take scans of my student work, read them, and then allow me to grade them online in my browser. In my opinion, It is just not ready for prime time. At least for me. I scanned and uploaded over 300 papers and they could not be read by the Gradeable system. I had some discussions with their support but the fact was is that I was spending way too much time re-scanning and uploading than grading my student’s papers. Just not acceptable. Really could not wait around for the troubleshooting to take place. I needed to be in control so instituted plan B.

I took the scans and used an existing app I have on my Mac, PDFpenPro, and started marking up notes on the scans. Took me awhile to get into the groove but eventually this last weekend, I got them all graded with feedback. No grades were put on them. Grades were uploaded, along with the pdf of the quiz as evidence, into ActiveGrade for students to look at later today during class.

The important thing was yesterday during the beginning of class when I passed out their commented-on quizzes. Dialog between students went something like this:

“Oh wow, I knew I should have done that!”

“I thought I was suppose to……What did you do on yours?” Reply by student –“Let me show you how to do this” and proceeded to teach that student the particular skill.

“What did you do on yours?”

“Why did you that on number 3?”

“What’s my grade Mr. Rajewich? I don’t see my grade” – I just ignored this question.

To me it was music to my ears for those 5-7 minutes they were looking at their papers while I was mingling among the groups of students. This is what I hoped for.

I did not actually put a grade on the paper but put comments on those incorrect questions and left it to them to read and discuss among themselves. Very cool. I am happy with the start here. I am sure there is going to be some adaptation to this but a good start for now. Sorry Gradeable, but you need to work out the bugs. We’ll get together next year.

While discussion was going on among the students I got the great idea to put up the rubric on how I scored their paper and have them score their work. I then presented to the class the scoring rubric that they received on the first day. I went through each of the areas of scoring and we discussed the differences between them. I then asked the students to grade their papers and mark it on them.  This turned into a winner.  They actually had to grade their own paper based on my Rubric.

Today, we went into the computer lab to get them logged into ActiveGrade for the first time. They brought their quiz papers in and after getting them logged in, they took a look at their actual grades and compared with their own grading. Turned out pretty well.

I think this is good for a first blog post for the week.  I’m a rookie at this.  It is not easy for me to take this time to write something that happened in my week and I have done it. Hopefully I can keep it up. See you next week.





Here we go…

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Here I am entering my 6th year as a 7-8th grade math teacher in sunny, waterless California. Over the past 4 years you could call me a professional lurker on the web and twitter. I’d stick my head out a few times only to retreat and continue on. So a new year is upon us and I have decided to make a few changes. I think it is important to verbalize and express some goals for this coming year. Since our state has now gone ahead with Common Core Standards, it is a good as time as any to try a few changes myself. So here are a few things to be checked on at the end of the year and see how well I did.

  1. Provide better Feedback to my students.

Not sure what “better” is defined as, but anything is probably better than what I have been doing. Let’s revisit.

I started to use Standards Based Grading (SBG) my second year and then pretty much jumped in my 3rd year. It changed everything for me. Students had hope. Students achieved. Students got excited about math. Students were talking about math outside of class all the time.  After they understood that they were empowered to improve their grade by remediation/reassessing on standards, they fully embraced it. Students who did not like math began to have a change of heart. All was not lost on that test they bombed or bombed twice. They were not out of the game. Once parents understood, and this took a while to explain, they were on board 100%. No longer could “Johnny” blame me for his scores or grades. I could just point to his record of no reassessments on a particular skill, and mom would take over from there. I usually saw him pretty soon on the signup list to reassess skills. Students asked about extra credit, but my answer was extra credit is to reassess on skills.  But let’s not deviate. Something to blog on later.

Feedback to students is key to help them understand what went wrong on the quiz. The score alone is a distractor. So I plan to provide only written feedback on quizzes and record their score 24 hours later in ActiveGrade. To master a math skill or standard takes some understanding what you do right and what you do wrong. I have a saying that “Math is a game of failure”.

I plan to use Gradeable in order to help me implement this goal. It is an interesting web based app and we will see. I believe it will save me time.

  1. Better know the Rulebook.

This comes from my many years coaching baseball. It takes time, but you need to really know the rules of the game. There were many times I won a game or changed the outcome because I knew the rules. The umpires incorrectly applied a rule and had to reverse their call – in my teams favor. But if you don’t know the rules, then you’ll just go along with those you think are the experts. I need to be the expert.

Our new math standards are these rules. It is our responsibility to become the expert in knowing them. Forwards and backwards, inside and out. You will not be swayed by a PD expert claiming you now need to teach this way because it’s the Common Core way. Because you know the standards and you know the rules, you stay on course.  

  1. Collaborate with peers.

I am at a K-8 school in which I am the only math teacher. I teach all the 7th and 8th graders. I have received much help by following bloggers and those in the MTBoS world. Recently someone posted an ad on twitter wanting to collaborate with others who teach 7th grade math. He was interested in starting a PLC that could benefit those involved. In order to bring my teaching to a higher level of effectiveness collaboration with others is essential. It is easy to get into a rut. I don’t want to be in a rut. So here I am to share what I can with some others and receive their feedback. I’m a little nervous about it but am very open and excited. This leads to my final goal for the year.

  1. Make a Roadmap.

 I plan to blog once a week about what I am doing in my classroom. I need to record and summarize in order to document where I have been. Keeping it all in my mind is not possible. This roadmap includes things that work and things that don’t work. I believe it will give me the ability to improve upon my reflection of what is going on and if we are getting there as a classroom. As the year progresses, this can be expanded upon and it will.

These are my 4 simple goals for the coming year.

Here we go…

Da da da – Da da da – Math Basketball (my twist)

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As a lurker for the past few years, I have taken and tried different ideas from the math bloggers I have come across.  When I found Dan Meyer’s blog, I spent much time perusing his archives and came across an activity that has just made my classroom a crazy and exciting time.  Math Basketball.

I pretty much followed the script that Dan had laid out and …OMGosh…  it got crazy!  For two weeks after the game they were still talking about it and wanted to know when we would be playing it again.  This is the best review game that my students beg me to play.  Yes,  they beg me.

Over the past two years, I have modified and adapted the game to my needs.  Here are my particulars.


Pretty much Dan’s instructions.

1. Question bank of topics/standards we have been covering over the past few weeks or month.

2. Put the question up to the class.

3. Students answer via laptop/computer.  Each student must have laptop/ipad/computer to answer each question.

Here is where I have modified this.

Every student must answer.  My tool of use is  Socrative.  I have used Polleverywhere embedded into Keynote/Powerpoint slides, and it works well also.   But I use Socrative to deliver the questions to the students.  I can monitor when all the answers are in and it tells me how many got it wrong.  Depending on class size, here is how I score it:

0-5 wrong answers,  students get two shots.

6-9 wrong answers, students get one shot, teacher gets one shot.

10 or more wrong, teacher gets two shots.

This is for class size of about 27-30 students and you would need to modify scoring if smaller size.

4.  If they get shots, then I just start going around the room where each student must take a turn to shoot the nerf ball into the trash can.  Tape is placed on the carpet for 1, 2, 3,  and 10 point shots. This year in new computer lab I have a 20 pointer shots at the appropriate distance.  Every student will eventually get to shoot.  If they do not get a chance to shoot, at the next game we begin where we left off.  No passing off until later in the year.  This helps control the game in your favor, especially if they are winning. More on this later.

5. Absolutely no talking, whispering,  or looking at others when the question is up.  If they make a noise, I immediately call out “1 shot for me” and keep calling out more shots if any noise or collaboration continues.  This also helps generate extra shots for you if for some reason your getting to the end of the period and they are leading.  They are so excited because they think you are going to lose, and they cannot help but make noise. (I’m bad!)

6. Students must document all questions on a scratch paper.  All work is required.  Their win may be disqualified if someone does not have any work showing.  (I actually have had to do this once, and from then on, 100% compliance on every subsequent game played.)  Like Dan, after all students have left, I just toss them out.


* I always play class vs teacher.  This, to me, has the most value because they want to beat me so bad.  (The converse is also true!) The motivation factor to solve the problems that are presented is very high.

* I am careful of how many times I play this.  Like anything, too much of something for 7th and 8th graders and they get bored of it.  This year, my returning students in 8th grade from the 2nd week in, started hounding me to play.   I waited until last week to play the first game.  It was well worth the wait.

* Design of the questions is important.  I will scaffold the level of difficulty up and interject some non math-related question into the mix. Socrative also can send you a report of detailed results for each student for your review and maybe the next day I might be re-teaching a standard they are having trouble with.  So good feedback you get from the game.

* I like Socrative because it is simple.  It allows you to upload images for questions.  It has multiple choice and free response answers.  It works very well.

*  Taking a line from Dan,  I always tell my students that “I never lose”, even if they beat me.  Later that afternoon or the next day I have selected amnesia which drives them nuts.


* It still amazes me how they will talk about the game afterwords but even about the problems they got wrong.  There is some good learning going on here.

* Overall, as the game is going on, the highlight is the shooting into the trash can. (Normally they get in trouble for throwing stuff in the room) The students strategy is usually flawed here as they want to take the glory shots from the 10 or 20 point line.  I usually just start with 1 or 2 pointers and build a lead.  Your mileage may vary.  Just be ready for lots of noise when you are trying to make the shot to beat them from the 10 point line! There is nothing better during that moment.

That is the ESPN highlight. Da – da – da, Da – da – da.