Week 3: Finally a full week without the extra excitement from the beginning of school or homecoming festivities. This five-day week felt long for students and teachers alike and by Friday, it was pretty clear that none of us have the endurance to make it through a full week just yet. The first five-day week kind of reminds me of marathon training. The first time you run 10 miles it feels like the longest distance anyone should ever attempt, but eventually, it just becomes something you do. It doesn't mean that you love it, but at least it is part of the routine.
This week also brought the first unit tests of the year. In every science class that I've seen, Unit 1 is always a review of science basics. It's really important information that is required to build upon later in the year but it always feels weird testing on material that they were taught by someone else in a previous class. At any rate, I'm happy to look back on unit one in the rear view mirror. I'm ready to feel like I'm introducing my students to something new!
Finding the Slope
The "Uncertainty Game Show"
Rubrics for Project Based Learning
The first project of the year, "Maximize your Fro-Yo" has been completed. To ensure a common experience across teachers and classes, I put together the most impressive rubric of my teaching career so far. I highlighted its existence at the start of class every day and even read every line word for word during one lesson, but there were still students who clearly never even looked at it when they were completing their project. I'm not someone that loves the idea of completing something in a way that simply satisfies a set of requirements, but I really like being able to provide this clear outline of everything that I consider important in their work.
Since we will be doing more and more of this in the coming months, I wanted my students to learn something from this experience. I decided to print out rubrics and have them grade someone else's work from the perspective of the teacher. I never used their scores or comments, but I could tell that there was a significant shift in understanding on how to use a rubric to their benefit. I had quite a few students come up to me after that class asking for a second shot at the project and I hadn't even come close to grading them yet. After the experience looking at someone else's work from the perspective of a teacher, they knew exactly what I would see looking at their report.
My physics testing is SO different than my physical science testing. Physics is 100% written response. Students show their work and I award a grade based on their answers and also the understanding that they convey in their process. I believe that this makes for a more accurate measure of what they know in an area of education that really isn't all or nothing. The downside is the time that it takes to grade. With about 125 students taking that class, even a super efficient grader takes a lot of time getting through everyone. I was proud that I used the time proctoring the test to grade the test from the previous class. For the first time ever, I was able to leave school will every test graded and in the gradebook :)
On the other side of the spectrum, Physical Science is nearly 100% multiple choice for testing. My school has a scantron machine but about halfway through the year last year I made the switch to ZipGrade. Instead of the scantron forms that cost $0.12(!) a piece, I just print out a half sheet bubble sheet on the copier. During the test, I make the key on the ZipGrade app on my phone and at the end of class once every is done, I scan them all in by taking a photo with my cell phone camera. The app automatically scores each test and even provides question by question breakdowns. It's amazing, I am able to have scores entered into the gradebook before students even leave the classroom. How's that for immediate feedback on a paper test?
Father, Physics Teacher, Knowles Fellow, Friend, Techie, and Musician