Tower Building Activity

I decided to do this because this year I am focusing on incorporating more 21st Century Skills into activities and assignments.  EdLeader21 has been a great resource for ideas.  To assess my students abilities with the 4Cs, I used a “Tower Building” task as a pre-assessment.   I had seen it at a 21st Century Learning & Teaching Workshop and done it with some fellow math teachers, and couldn’t wait to finally do it.

TowerBuildingCover

During the activity, I wandered around hearing conversations, and learning a lot about how my kids were going to handle a task that didn’t have a right answer or directions.

I saw who takes charge of an activity and who sits back
I learn who could be a distracting member of the group
I learn who is going to do the minimum and who is going to do more than I ask
I also learn who is going to follow directions

… and this is another task where there isn’t math- so what’s left is a student’s ability.

TheAssignment

Goal: Students will be placed in groups of 4-6 and build a tower.  The students were given limited information to begin with and needed to decide what they needed to know to complete the task.

Grouping: Group them prior to beginning in whatever way you see fit.  You can hold off having them sit in their groups so they don’t start thinking about who they are with.

Set Up: I put all the items the students would use in a paper bag before class.

Directions: Once students are grouped, explain:

Your goal is to build the best tower in the class with your group.

TheDetails

What we needed: the pre-assessment packet I created so that the students could document their thinking and I could easily assess it after (this was instead of diligently monitoring the students or video taping them), and the building supplies (brown bag, spaghetti, popsicle sticks, marshmallows, dixie cup, rubber band, 1 inch sponge, 18 inches tape)

Packet the kids filled out as they worked (so I could see their thoughts)

When I did it: during the school year (1st quarter) as a pre-assessment of student’s 4C abilities

How it went: Really well.  The groups were somewhat random (I picked and attempted fair grouping), but could be picked as part of a “team” or with some planning of student abilities.  We chose to have the students build the tallest tower that could ALSO support 1 kg (needed to come up with strict rules as to what meant “support”)

How I used it: I used it as a pre-assessment of the 4Cs so that I know what I need to work on with my kids, as well as to get more information about grouping my students.

How you can use it: First day(s) activity for your class or homeroom.  Group teamwork/bonding activity at the start of a new project or when you assign new groups/teams in your class.  Collaboration lesson for students who are struggling or learning how to collaborate and work with others.

StudentWork

TowerPlanning1TowerConstruct1

I can’t find my pictures of the final products!

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SBG: Tips & Tricks

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!

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Have a personal reason for SBG so you are more invested.  My favorite part of SBG is that I have a better clue of what my class as a whole is understanding as well as how individual students are doing.  Grading is more meaningful for me.  I can focus on the meaning of the grades because I have time to.  Some ways to get organized and save time:

create a template for quizzes & requizzes [how to on mac & pc]

have a system for turning in quizzes/requizzes

have a system for picking up/taking requizzes

have a system for getting help (on own or with teacher)

Create a system so that you don’t have to do secretarial work. Having systems and procedures in place, especially if the student can be responsible, will make your life easier.  Posters explaining the procedures will help (I had to have one), and hopefully remove the 10 questions you would have to answer 1,000 times a week.  Whatever you do, try to find things that would be a tedious aspect, and see if you can find ways to make it happen without you.  Not having to manage who was coming in for requizzes, what requizzes they wanted, and getting them the requizzes, meant that I could spend more time either planning things or helping kids. Whatever you do, modify it if isn’t working- the kids can adapt!

There can easily be more papers, so find a way to organize. For the requizzes, figure out a way to organize them so that it is easy for you and your kids to deal with.  Don’t only think of the hard copies and where you will put them, but think of the electronic copies you will be making.  Come up with a naming system or folders to keep things easily accessible.  With the kids turning things in, maybe you want a separate turn in location for requizzes.  Maybe you want the quizzes to be done online through a service or website.  Avoid headaches whenever possible!

Find a time to set up to work with kids that works for you. What I did worked for me, my students, and the schedule of our school day.  We start at 9am, so there is time (and it isn’t offensively early) before school and the 1st 3o minutes of the day is homeroom/remediation time.  This time for us is built in, but having time set up, that the kids (& parents) know about, will make life easier than having to create time on a student by student basis.

Cut back on the number of requizzes by having requirements.  If you want to make sure students are prepared for their requiz, require proof of some type of remediation, work or practice before they take it. Having a system in place for them to follow, instead of needing your guidance will make this an easier process and allow you to spend more time helping the student instead of preparing or managing the work. Think about what you have been doing that you can reuse.  Again, you can always change your mind or set up a new system.  Some options I have thought of:

Assign remediation work for them to do (and turn in)

Require quiz corrections (and turn in or go over)

Create a form for students to complete explaining what they have done to prepare.

Create Khan Academy accounts and require them to watch the video and do the exercise (you can track this) before requizzing.

Have students track their progress on their own. My kids had a sheet where they kept track of their scores.  This allowed them to stay on top of their grade, regardless of their computer access, and allowed them to explain to their parents how they were doing.  As students track, they get competitive with themselves and each other, and I think a little of that is ok. They may compare the number of 4s or 5s they get in comparison to each other.  They will be excited when they receive 5s on their 1st attempt.

Explain the system CLEARLY to parents from the start to hopefully avoid too many questions throughout.  Just like students have access to progress, parents can also more easily see their kids progress, so they stay on top of their child.  Helicopter parents can become even more helicopter-ish in this scenario.  I took time to explain the system and idea of SBG at the beginning of the year, but didn’t explain how the gradebook would work.  This was mainly because I wasn’t sure how I would have to “rig it” to make it work.  Over the school year, this led to many questions about what things meant.  Having an explanation of what it will look like in the gradebook (from their view) will help.  Having answers to FAQ (like, “what can my child do to bring up their grade” or “why is my kid struggling”) may also limit that.  Give them answers to questions they may have, before they email you.  I imagine the more they know, and the more their children know, will cut back on disagreements or misunderstandings at home.  Have your students explain it to parents as part of homework one night.  Let your students be the experts so their parents trust them.

Kids may need some help coming in for requizzes.  If you are realizing it is becoming a hassle to get (all, or some, or specific) kids to come in for requizzes you can do somethings to get them to come in.  As you decide what to implement, think about if the kids are not coming in because they are struggling from an academic perspective or if they are struggling from a logistic perspective.  Also think about if the problem is a class wide issue or if it a specific student(s).  If it is logistics, consider class time, lunch time, after school sessions, take home options, or something else.  This could be set up on a student by student basis, coming up with a plan that works for the kids.  If it is an academic issue, the kids are struggling and maybe getting overwhelmed, this is where having a conversation with the kid(s) to help them figure out what to do to get back on track may help. I created an, AlgebraSuccessPlan that I had some kids fill out to help them manage their time and the help they may need.

Posting scores can boost some in class competition.  Having a way to track a student’s progress in mastering concepts can visually have some kids make sure they are keeping up. I would recommend if you started this, offer a lot of support at the beginning to keep kids from being the last kid to master a concept, and then eventually offer less so that they become the ones responsible for keeping up.  Posting the number of concepts each class has mastered, or each class’s average score, etc… can create some fun competition, as well as let you see the differences in classes.

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SBG: The Gradebook

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!

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My school district uses PowerTeacher, so this is how I set up my grade book using their tools, hopefully it is helpful for non-Power Teacher readers as well!

Setting this up was a bit of trial and error.  I thought I had figured it out at the beginning of the year, but at the end of the quarter when student’s scores weren’t working out correctly, I had to figure out where the error was.  Turns out there was a difference when I wanted to exclude a grade if I chose whether or not to “Include in Final Grade” for some reason.  Thank goodness for the “Fill Scores” option, because I needed to “Exempt” the grade for each student.

PowerTeacher Gradebook has the option for “Standards Based Grading” option in the Preferences, but my school district doesn’t technically use Standards Based Grading so I couldn’t use that option (I think that was my rationale) as well as seeming complicated.

Grade Book set up:

For each skill/concept, I created 3 assignments: the 1st (in class) attempt, the 2nd (in class) attempt, and the 3rd attempt (requiz).  At times my students needed a 4th or 5th attempt, but I was really adamant that they needed to be prepared when they took their requiz.

Grade Book

individual item set up in grade book

This is what my Gradebook looked like when I opened it up for a certain class- lots of numbers!!! Notice how all concepts are grouped together? That was what was easiest for me to use.  I could scroll back and forth through the concepts.  Other organizing strategies might be by date of assessment or grouping all the attempts together, but this was the easiest for me.  I did have to explain to parents what they were looking at (and the 2 dates).  PowerTeacher also gives a summary (mean, median, mode) for each item which allowed me to quickly see how my classes were doing.

Teacher view of Gradebook

Teacher view of Gradebook

As I graded, I kept track of student scores on a grade sheet document I created so that when I opened my gradebook I could just quickly enter the scores.  This made it a little easier since the scores were listed for each student in alphabetical order.  It also allowed me to have the scores easily accessible for me to look up for kids since the gradebook takes a few minutes to download  and open. Students also kept track of their scores and helped me double check during the grading period.

Grade Book prepared Student Report:

Choosing “Individual Student Report” on PowerTeacher’s Gradebook prints this out for each student.  Using the ParentPortal, Students can access a similar version of this online or through the App (!) and track their grades.

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“Individual Student Report” created by PowerTeacher’s Gradebook

What else would be good to know?

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Geometry TicTacToe

GeometryTicTacToe

TheAssignment

GeometryTicTacToeWM

TheDetails

What we needed: just paper for the kids to do the work

When I did it: I do this activity after studying and practicing with angles, quadrilateral relationships, and similar vs congruent figures

How it went: This activity has a variety of levels of creativity that students will enjoy picking from.

How I used it: I counted it as a small project grade. Here is my rubric:

GeometryTicTacToeRubricWM

How you can use it: Use at any levels as a way to review or summarize.

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Broken Squares Activity

This is the first year that I have done this activity with my kids.  I decided to do this because this year I am focusing on incorporating more 21st Century Skills into activities and assignments.  EdLeader21 has been a great resource for ideas.  To set the tone for the year I decided to do an activity called “Broken Squares.”  I had seen it at a 21st Century Learning & Teaching Workshop and done it with some fellow math teachers, but didn’t decide to do it the first day of school until 2 days before the first day of school!

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As I monitor and talk to kids…

I learn who takes charge of an activity and who sits back
I learn who could be a distracting member of the group
I learn who is going to do the minimum and who is going to do more than I ask
I also learn who is going to follow directions

… and all of this is with the content (math) taken out of the equation.

TheAssignment

Goal: Students will be placed in groups of 4-6 (5 is ideal) and sit in a circle either on the floor or around a table.  They will form 5 congruent (same size) squares out of the shapes they have been given.

Grouping: While 5 members is ideal, if you have groups (or a group) of  4 they can just distribute the remaining cards out equally.  If you have groups (or a group) of 6 the 6th member can enforce the rules for their group or the entire class.

Set Up: I printed each group’s cards on a different color and then cut out each shape and paper clipped all the A, B, C, D, E cards together.  The entire set went into an envelope that was labeled and had the directions on it.

Directions: Once students are grouped, explain:

In each of the envelopes you have been given there are 5 sets of cards which have been labeled A, B, C, D, and E.  Each person in your group will be given a stack.  When I tell you to begin, your group will form five squares of equal size.  The task will be done when each team member has a square in front of them.  The rules your group must follow are:
– no team member may speak
– no team member may ask or signal to another team member for a piece
– no team member may take a piece from another team member
– members may give their piece to other members

TheDetails

What we needed: a set of the “Broken Square” cards for each group of 5 (I printed each set of the cards on a different color of card stock so it would be easier to keep track of pieces), each set should be separated out by letter so that each student gets all of one letter to begin, instructions posted on the board or at the table is very helpful.

Broken Square Cards I printed these on different colored paper

Broken Squares Directions I printed these on 2 x 4 inch labels and put on an envelope

Broken Squares Questions I had students answer these questions after they discussed with their group how they did, and then add more after we discussed it as a class.

When I did it: 1st day of school as both an ice breaker activity as well as to set the tone for the type of activities we will do and my expectations for them

How it went: Really well.  I grouped my 1st block class by where they were already sitting and my next 2 blocks by ABC order.  All of the groups were able to complete the task, there was generally 1-2 groups that got it on their own in about 10 minutes, and 1-2 groups that needed some prompting on how to approach the problem when they got stuck.  The groups that struggled the most both lacked any leader whatsoever as well as a few members who were very passive and didn’t contribute.

How I used it: I hadn’t originally planned on using it as a first day activity!  I knew I wanted to do it at some point as a collaboration activity but thought it would be down the road. Then I started thinking about how many teachers on my team use the first day to just go over all of the information for their class and I thought my kids could use a break from that.  I also felt like it would set the tone for the type of work we will do, and how I value their ability to work with others to accomplish a task.  We had a great discussion in all classes.

How you can use it: First day(s) activity for your class or homeroom.  Group teamwork/bonding activity at the start of a new project or when you assign new groups/teams in your class.  Collaboration lesson for students who are struggling or learning how to collaborate and work with others.

StudentWork

BrokenSquarePIC

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SBG: The Requizzes

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!

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Depending on the timing of your assessments and how quickly your students are “mastering” the content, you may have a slightly different experience with your students requizzing.  My students are in class every other day for about 90 minutes, and quizzing takes place almost every other class.  At times, students are assessed the day after they have had instruction, but most of the time there is a class period between instruction and the 1st attempt.  My students are also 7th & 8th grade students who are generally highly motivated.  Most come in for help on their own and some even are learning how to get help outside of help from me.

Attempt #1 & #2 Scores: On average, I would say that most students got around a 3 for Attempt #1, with a few earning a 4 or 5, and a few kids getting a 1 or 2.  By Attempt #2, students were earning 3s and 4s, with more kids earning 5s.  Some times kids who got a 5 on Attempt #1, earned lower score on Attempt #2.  Some teachers may allow kids who earn a 5 on Attempt #1, not take Attempt #2, but I felt like that defeated the purpose of the system.  Students need to know it longer than to get a 5 on Attempt #1.

Attempt #3, #4, etc…: On the more challenging concepts, I would have 50-60% of my kids taking a requiz, but for the typical concept probably 30% of the students needed one.  There were a few concepts that less than 20% needed to requiz.  Most of my kids only needed to take Attempt #3.  There were a few cases where they were taking #4 and #5, and that was generally because of carelessness or not enough help between the attempts.  I had students come in during our remediation block, or come in early to take requizzes.  Students could also requiz after an in class quiz if there was time, and sometimes I would just find 10-15 minutes to allow them to requiz in class.

Organization of Requizzes:  I had my students responsible for getting the requiz, taking it, and turning it in.  My kids were able to handle this responsibility, and I trusted them not to steal the requizzes, peak at them before hand, or tell each other what was on it.  I started by keeping the requizzes organized (by concept) with a paperclip in a basket that I kept near my desk.  They didn’t stay organized and became a pile of papers in a basket pretty quickly.  I switched them into a thin binder, with each concept in a page protector. I also kept the original copy in their as well, so I (or a student) could grab it to make a quick copy if we ran out.

Grading the Requizzes: I kept a copy of each one, as the key, with me in my binder (where I keep my grade sheet, lesson plans, calendar, etc…) so that I could grade them whenever the students turned them in.  Some times I would grade them right as they turned them in so they had immediate feedback, but sometimes I would have a stack to grade over the weekend.  This stack was especially think at the end of the quarter.  Fortunately they were pretty quick to grade.  I would sort them by concept so that I was grading the same thing all at once.

Organizing the Grading: As I mentioned previously, I kept a hard copy grade sheet in my binder for when I graded their material.  It was easier for me to grade the quizzes/requizzes and quickly right the score on my grade sheet.  Then I could open my gradebook, and just quickly enter the scores.  Scrolling back and forth made me dizzy, but handling all Concept #14, Concept #15, Concept #10 requiz, etc… at once was easier, and I felt like I made less mistakes.

Getting kids to take Requizzes: Having students who access the ParentPortal, either online or through the app, or track their grades is obviously a dream.  I was lucky to have a lot of kids who did this.  I know my kids are hard workers, and most are intrinsically motivated, but I think that a lot of kids would work hard in this model.  They like seeing themselves grow, learn, and improve their grades.  If they don’t come in for the requizzes, their grade will be harmed so if they choose not to take them, its their grade!! Having a conversation with students, finding time that works with their schedule, and requiring them to take them are all ways to get them to do it.

Explanation to Students (& Parents) about Requizzing:  The whole point of this system is to keep track of what students know and to allow students to master the concepts at whatever pace (to a certain degree) they need. Everyone learns at different speeds, and the 1st, 2nd, and requizzes allow for students to show what they have learned. I explained to my kids that the 1st attempt was just a check in, “are you clueless?” and the 2nd attempt was to see if they were on the right track.  Generally the 2nd attempt was far enough away from the original instruction that I felt like they should know it by then.  I told my kids that my goal was for them to all master the content, or be close to mastering, by the 2nd attempt.  I was fine with them needing to take requizzes.  Having a classroom community where taking a requiz wasn’t shameful is important.  Most kids figure out that sometimes they don’t need a requiz when other people do, and that gives them some confidence in the idea that “we all learn at different speeds and understand things differently.”

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SBG: The Assessments

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!

BREAKING NEWS!!!  *NSYNC IS PERFORMING AT THE VMAs!!!!

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Check out the rest of my Standards Based Grading posts!

Scheduling: For my Algebra 1 Classes in the 2012-2013 year, I had 53 “concepts” that I assessed them on.  At the beginning of each quarter I gave them a schedule that had what we would be learning, and when, as well as when all the assessments would occur.  Their homework also had their next assessment written on it.  The only time this got off was when we had snow days, and it became a disaster because we kept missing the same “orange” days.

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Quarter 1 Schedule of instruction and assessment of concepts.

Quizzes:  The first time students are assessed on a quiz is generaly 1-2 classes after the initial instruction.  Students are generally ready to be quizzed, but for some they have not quite grasped the concept so it is a nice “check in” as we go along.  The second time students are assessed is a week after initial instruction, and they have received their quiz with their 1st attempt back and have time to get help.  There were times when this felt rushed, which meant I either was flexible and changed the date or changed what they were assessing or gave them a choice on what they individually chose to be assessed on, OR I told them they would survive and could take a requiz if they needed to.

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Quiz #1 addressing the first four concepts.

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Quiz #2 addressing the original four concepts as well as an additional one.

Requizzes:  Students could come in before school (needed to get permission and check that I would be there), come during our remediation time during the day (“STING”), or occasionally I would allow them to stay after school to do it.  If there was class time they could also do them then.

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Requiz for a concept. There were requizzes made up to attempt #5.

Tests:  As stated before, I gave a test about every 4-5 weeks that was cumulative of everything that had been learned that quarter.  We are on a 2 semester (4 quarter) schedule, so these happened at Interim (“Mid Quarter Test”) and at the end of the quarter (“End of Quarter Test”).  These tests were as short as possible while still accurately assessing the concepts.  I found that my kid’s scores on the tests were with in 0-3% points from their current grade (which consisted of concept grades).

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Mid-Quarter Test #1

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