The last two weeks have seen a couple of promising kinesthetic activities in precal, one for function transformations and one for a unit circle review. Most days I'm liking having three sections of this class, and I think I'm figuring out how to approach them each differently rather than seeing the first ones as practice for the last.
It's definitely the nicest schedule I've ever had: 3 sections of precal on the same day, 2 sections of AP stats on the same day. Thank goodness! I can use the breathing room to get my head around the stats course.
These weeks also saw the first tests in both classes, which made me start stressing about all of the policies around testing that cause stress and confusion in me and the ss. So, I asked the kids to help me think it through.
Started with AP stats, and the two things that bother me the most about retests: preparation and test security.
I don't want to waste anyone's time giving them a test they're not ready for. How can I make sure a student is ready for a retake?
It sucks that I have to worry about this so much, but I do. It's not fair to give a test on different days; the information is out there and I know students talk. I also can't make infinite versions of a test that cover the same material at the same level of difficulty (or I'd never have time for anything else).
It felt good to be honest and open with the students, rather than demanding and giving orders. It felt like they understood my concerns, and the ideas they floated ended up, with a little nudging, right where I was thinking in the first place. Of course, this is a decision I need to make as a teacher, but at least I involved them in it. Here's where we ended up, and the language I put into our class's assessment document:
1. Revise the original test: Get help, go over the questions you missed, figure out what you were missing, and how to produce a correct response.
2. Schedule a face-to-face conference with me through email or calendar invitation. My free times are posted on GC. Pick one and make an appointment to show me your improved understanding in person.
3. Retests will be scheduled for the next reasonable Thursday afternoon during study sessions in the MRC. This will be the only time the retest is offered.
So the next day was precal. I share quite a few students between the two classes, and I felt like we'd covered it pretty well with stats. I presented the procedure above, with the help of the students from the stats class, asked for feedback, and asked them to help me think about the other big mess when it comes to testing: what to do if we're absent for a scheduled test?
This conversation didn't feel so great, because there doesn't seem to be a great way to do it, especially keeping in mind test security and my inability to write lots of different tests. It did bring up a great deal of questions that the students had about the (admittedly complicated) assessment procedures I already have in place. So at least we got to clear some of that up. Here's what I ended up putting together for the documentation:
Absences on testing days:
In the event that a student has a planned absence on a day when a test is scheduled, that student should make arrangements to take the test before they leave for their absence.
In the event that a student misses a test due to unforeseen events, the student should contact me by email the day of the absence to schedule a time to take the test. This time must be within two school days of the original test. If a student fails to meet these requirements, they will need to take the scheduled retest for that assessment.
I put this up on Classroom over the long weekend and asked students to take a look (I also left an escape clause in the documents that I'll hopefully never need to use). I'll give some time Monday and Tuesday for discussion, but then we're all writing up these policies in our own words in an email to our parents so I can be sure everyone's on the same page.
I hope doing things this way, when I can, and even if I end up making the final decisions myself, will lead to a greater general understanding of the policies of the class, and realities of running a classroom.
So this week felt like getting back into the swing of things. Rough start, but a strong finish. A couple of really long days for back to school night and some PD on Friday, but yoga, exercise, and decent classes are getting me through in relatively good mental health.
This week AP Stats agreed on a grading scale and 10% credit for practice work. Took feedback from all of my classes to make 80% the threshold for "completeness" on practice assignments. I had a heavy hand on the scale for that one; the vote was split about 50/50 between 70% and the higher choices.
First assessment in precal shows me we have some work to do with basics, but some signs of beginning to understand the rubric and attempts to include modeling in responses. Looking forward to looking through them closely and providing my first formal feedback tomorrow, and an in-depth lesson on how to produce proficient responses on Tuesday, along with an extensive model, self-assessment, etc. Should be good preparation for the real test on Thursday.
Also got to run my first Desmos Activity and got some student work up in my room to make it feel like a math class again.
Giving myself permission to take today (Saturday) off of school except for this blog.
IDK if anyone actually reads this, but If I were reading it, I'd be all like "why does he just repeat Twitter posts on his blog page"? I'm going to start trying to keep daily #teach180 posts on Twitter, and maybe do a little bit of a deeper reflection here every week. We shall see...
This year I've focused more than I ever have on intentionally building classroom norms at the beginning of the year. This is definitely the result of some training in Positive Discipline that our entire school went through during orientation. It's also something I usually just ignore and hope will figure itself out; of course, it never does and causes me endless frustration that the ss don't just automatically know how to be members of a productive group of learners! And that I haven't learned this lesson yet!
So, this week felt mostly positive. I had one really downer day, where I was under-prepared and using resources I wasn't familiar with. I helped arrange a switch to integrated math for the entire school this year, and I'm trying to encourage teachers (and model it by doing it myself) to follow textbooks more closely than I normally would, at least until we get the curriculum straightened out from the switch. It's tricky, and I'm really going to have to try to let what I know about my ss inform my instructional decisions this year.
Making a conscious effort to involve students in decision-making is interesting and challenging so far. We all came up "reminders" (norms is a term that's not really familiar yet here) with the understanding that they all needed to serve the overall purpose of the class:
We learn math by solving problems together.
I was going to make a few categories like respect and responsibility to try to tie all of the norms to something simple, but then I wondered if this sentence would be enough. Only time will tell...
I was most excited this week to let AP Stats students chime in on how I report their progress. We looked at the available information on how the exam is graded. I told them I would do my best to provide them with exam-like assessments, and grade them according to AP guidelines. They worked on how those grades would be translated into the grading system at our school, which is just 60-100. They came up with some interesting ideas that I'm ok with, and I put each section's plan up for a vote over the weekend. I'm also letting them decide whether or not they need grades as an incentive to finish practice work. They were, of course, not as impressed with the opportunity as the students in my head, but c'est la vie. Looking forward to the results.