October 23, 2014

grading smarter not harder book club {homework}

I honestly can't stand homework--I hate putting it together, marking it, and anything else associated with it. Unfortunately, I have to give homework.  I need some ideas...

there must be a better way :)

I'm guilty of it...yes, I give uniform homework. According to Dueck, uniform homework is homework that follows-up the lesson or practices what is taught in class. Uniform homework is exactly as it sounds--it's homework that has the same answers from every student.

Where I teach, homework isn't given a grade based on right or wrong answers--it's more about completion. Dueck is a firm believer that homework should not be graded. There are so many factors that prevent students from doing their homework--one section that really made me stop and think about is the disadvantages faced by lower-income students. My school is a high poverty school where many students live in areas plagued with crime and overpopulation.

Dueck brings up how many of these students inherit low self-esteem, have negative feelings toward school, and own fewer books than other classmates. Evictions and a lack of utilities are common for some of these students.

So what does this mean for my homework policy?

Dueck suggests giving in-class quizzes based on the homeowrk assignments. An example from the book is giving students a sheet with 20 questions in support of a math lesson. The teacher suggests that the students work on the problems at home to further their understanding. The answers to the assignment can be posted in the classroom or posted on-line.

This way homework completion is reflected in the quiz. The more I think about it, the better this sounds! I love the idea of students taking ownership over their learning! This would allow me more time to plan meaningful lessons and activities :)

The frequent quizzes lead to an increase in learning--Dueck mentioned a study from Kent State University that shows that frequent testing involving the recall of information from the memory improves learning.

Whenever I read something like this, math is the first thing that pops in my head. It's very easy to relate math to quizzes. Unfortunately, I don't teach math, so how is this appropriate to reading?

My reading program focuses a lot on vocabulary. Quizzes that help students define words, apply words, and sort words (into nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) can be beneficial.

What are your current homework policies? Have you thought about ways to changes them? I'd love to hear what you think about Dueck's take on homework :)

October 9, 2014

Grading Smarter Not Harder {introduction} featuring Caroline Gallagher

It's the first day of...
 Today's focus is on the...

To be honest, I usually skip over the introductions whenever I read books. But, for some reason, this one I read. I think what sticks with me is how personable the author sounds--and the fact that he's able to see past the mandates and do what is right for his students, even when his colleagues warn him about the problems with his new approaches.

I give my students a pretest before each unit to assess the key skills within the unit. Based on the data, I form strategy groups and teach a specific skill to mixed level readers. Students practice the skills in stations and whatever skills a large majority of the class gets wrong, I design lessons to specifically teach those skills.

The author, Myron Dueck, writes about how responsive teaching is less about giving a grade than delivering timely, accurate, and specific feedback. I'm hoping to gain an understanding of how to effectively do this because grading and commenting on 65 reading projects is an extremely daunting task. I want to find a way to do so in a more efficient way.

*How can I get my students involved in the grading process?
*What are some ways in which students can self assess?

While Caroline is working on getting her blog up and running, I'm posting her reflection of the introduction here...

I am hoping to learn how to better assess my students to benefit them.  I want to learn some ways in which I can create assessments that will better inform my students of how they are doing, whether it be a pre-assessment or post- assessment.  I would also like to find more about retesting students.  What is the research behind retesting a student when they have done poorly on an assessment.  

I definitely feel like I could do a better job with the feedback part of my assessments- hence the reason I am doing this book study I do at times let students know what will be on an assessment to show them it is everything we have just learned.  If a student doesn’t do well, I don’t just mark it down and forget about it.  I keep track of which skills students need  to work on to feel successful.  I do talk with students on different ways we can work on this particular skill and I have let students retest but not as often as I probably should. 

Although this was a very short introduction, there were two pieces that really stood out to me.  The first one being- Changes to allow for retesting are met with particular resistance, with many educators firm in their belief that “students should get it right the first time” and teachers who re-assess students often seen as “soft.” I just think back to the first time I took my drivers test when I was 16.  I failed the test miserably!  I actually took a whole year off from driving after that because I knew I was bad and just not ready yet.  Well a year later I took the test again, feeling much more confident about myself and passed it!  If I only had the one change and it was a pass or fail- I guess I would be walking everywhere! 

The other statement that stood out to me and it goes along with my passing my drivers test story is –People want to feel a sense of confidence.  I was   clearly not feeling confident when I failed the drivers test the first time.  I knew I was a bad driver and I knew I needed more time to feel confident.  I did well when I had a sense of confidence.  We want to help our students to also feel that sense of confidence. 

So my question I have and hope to find out is how can we make sure our students are feeling that sense of confidence?