Month: August 2014

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…