Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grade Thermometer

I haven't updated in a while and will be doing a larger update later this week. However I wanted to share this. My students struggle to understand the concept of Mastery Based Grading. They get it...sort of. They understand they have to master things at 80% or better, they understand that they have to master all the units for the term to get an "A" and yet they still ask "What's my average?" or "Am I getting an A?." I've had a hard time reminding them that since its based on what they master by the end of the term, their grade is constantly changing. I also wish I didn't have to grade them at all, or that they weren't so obsessed with "grades." I really just care that they are engaged and learning.

I have check lists for them to keep up with their work and they can keep track of their "grade" that way, but I realized that maybe a more visual way for them to see progress towards an "A" might not only be clearer but a motivator so I came up with the following:

I took the units for the Term and divided them along a thermometer. I then put in the "grades" for where they would master a unit. This way they can color it in as they progress and see what their grade is. I realize some of my flipped class colleagues will not like this as it puts emphasis back on the "grade game" the idea that its "all about the grade." However I felt like I had to meet them half way, I'm expecting them to change a lot of how they think of school and grades, I guess I can give them a little of the "point game" back (but only a little)!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First Day of IBL

After a few weeks of build up we finally started our first week of in class projects. Last Friday students were given a question and a project proposal sheet. Questions varied but were all topically the same. The unit we are studying is Mesopotamia so one question was: What features would an area need to give birth to and encourage the growth of a civilization? Be sure to include information about Mesopotamia and why it is called the "cradle of civilization."

The proposal sheet asked students to think about what information they already knew, where they could find additional information and ultimate what kind of project they were going to create to demonstrate the answer. I'll put a copy as a tab off of the main page.

I was really excited for students to start researching and working, I knew from experience last year that despite the fact I'm constantly circling and checking in, many students would stop working until i could get to them, or in some cases follow me around. I saw an elementary school teacher on Pinterest that used different color cups to signify when a student needed help, I adapted it with flags for my class today and it worked great:


Green = I'm all set and working hard
Yellow = I need help but I can keep working, check in with me ASAP
Red = I need help and I cannot keep working. Check in immediately.

I tried to emphasize to the kids that most questions would be "yellow flag" questions and to only use red if it was something I needed to leave their classmate to come and help them with. It worked really well, I only had one red question all day, and it was an actual red flag question. The flags helped me to see who was struggling and use my time more efficiently. 

Here are some pictures of the students work today, all of these projects were thought of and developed by students, I'm excited to see how they turn out:


This was only the first day so these are all still in the planning/first steps phase but so far so good!

If you flip your class what do you do with your new found class time?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Will the Real Fred Flintstone Please Stand Up?

Sometimes with the flip I feel I can over emphasize technology. Don't get me wrong I love utilizing technology in the classroom. I feel the more students access various technology platforms on a daily basis the better. Sometimes however, its nice to take a minute and go "low tech." This week we did some "low tech" yet "high impact" activities. The Flipped Classroom allows me the time to do this kind of stuff, sometimes I have to remember that when I'm preaching the gospel of the flip- its not about videos or technology- its about having time to reach my students and let them explore the material in a meaningful way- technology assisted or not!

The students recently watched a lecture on Cave Painting that went along with their study of CroMagnon man. I thought it would be fun to try it first hand. Students had to "crawl into the cave" which was dark inside and leave something to "symbolize they were here." It was very interesting all day not knowing what it was going to turn out like...here it is:

The "cave"

"Inside the Cave" (it was darker when students entered):

Our finished results: 

In addition to cave painting this week we watched an episode of The Flintstones where students categorized things into show into "Old Stoneage" or "New Stoneage" (ie things like: written language, cooking food, axe, fire, wheels, etc).  I love the kids realizing how much of The Flintstones is historically inaccurate ("Hey there were no dinosaurs at the same time as man"). Its a fun way to get them to think outside the box.

We also studied the "Naciremas." If anyone has done that exercise themselves in a Sociology class it was a great way to introduce the kids to historical empathy and cultural awareness. They loved it. Basically its a fake anthropological study of a "unique culture" that does "weird crazy things." Its written in such a way that the students always tell me it must be an ancient culture from far away. The great part is the reveal when they learn the culture is actually our own! Its a great way to get them to open their minds to other cultures instead of just saying their "weird." It also is a great example of the "historical bias" we go over at the beginning of the year, students realize they need to examine ancient accounts rather than take them at face value, since its all about how something is described. 

Finally they got their first essential question today and are starting in class projects next week. Overall I'm really happy with how this week went, hopefully the long weekend will be a re-energizer and not a momentum loser!