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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why I brought a soapbox to school today.

Every once in a while students just need a swift kick to the pants. I have gotten very bogged down lately. I am hopelessly behind where I should be right now. Like WAAAAYYYY behind. I worry about the semester exam coming up. My students haven't covered half the material on the district mandated test. Whiteboard sessions have become completely unproductive and useless. I am close to throwing in the towel. I won't because I am hopelessly stubborn. But it is definitely a trying time for me now. Add to the mix two snow-days the week before vacation and what I have is a ticking time-bomb of apathy and slothiness. (yes I made it up but I think it perfectly describes my juniors right now!)

Anyway, I gave a father- son/daughter talk today. I explained the reason for modeling again. I have had many grumblings lately about how the method is not helping them learn. They need to put in the effort if they don't understand something. They cannot just sit like sponges hoping to absorb physics. They have to get involved. Get excited. Get discussing.

I realized I made some huge mistake in the month of November. Perhaps it was my overconfidence in the method. Perhaps it was Jupiter aligning with Mars. But for whatever reason I have slipped on using the method effectively. I have begun saying WAY too much during whiteboarding sessions. Tomorrow I will put myself in the penalty box on the other side of the room. I also have stopped using real world examples. I have let my class slide back to a place that is totally disconnected from their lives. But thanks to the wonderful contributors to Win. Fail. Physics! I have some new ideas to spice up the topics. I have decided I am going to be that jerk who assigns homework over the holiday. The kids have to watch some of their movies at home and find an example of motion that we are discussing. Then we will have a movie party when we get back where we will watch the clips and put them to the test of our models. Should be informative, fun, and maybe I will finally be able to put kinematics to bed. (Yes. Still on acceleration. )

Why I am jumping on the SBG train.

I can't take it anymore. I have always been annoyed with my grading system. This is the 14th year I have taught and my 20th iteration of a grading scheme. I can never get the grade to show what I really want to show. There is always someone who doesn't quite fit the mold. There is always someone who slips through the cracks of my system. That one kid who does nothing but still manages to get an 'A' in the class. Or that one kid who just works his butt off but barely manages to get a 'C'. I can't stand seeing my students bummed about how they did on the test when it was only 1 or 2 ideas that they struggled with. That breeds negativity about my class. It causes them to give up. I love the idea of giving students who make an honest effort as many chances as possible to succeed. I need to do this! Starting today. I will revamp this break and come out better for it. Now. How do I tell the kids?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What advice I have for new teachers.

My student teacher from last year was fortunate enough to find a job last year. At the beginning of the year she was super excited about starting out. She had a fantastic classroom with every imaginable piece of lab equipment. I joked with her that maybe we should trade places. I saw her this week-end and she has been pretty much beaten down by her students. Ah the joys of being a first-year teacher.

You always hear experienced teachers tell new incoming teachers "not to smile until Thanksgiving". I think that is a load of crap. I think that sets up a teacher vs. student mentality that does no one a bit of good. You can't be a push-over, but you must remain approachable. You must show your students that you care about them and what happens to them. You aren't their friend, but you are friendly.

My school's policy is that electronic communication devices are forbidden and should not be used. I disagree. I think that the new smartphones are amazing devices that allow students to have a real-world connection to what we are doing in class. Why buy new stopwatches? The kids have them in their pockets. Class set of calculators? Nope. Kids have them in your pocket. Need to google a fact or conversion factor? Why wait 5 minutes for the ancient laptops to fire up..? They have it instantaneously in their pockets! Does this mean that my students have carte blanche with phones in my room? No. Have I confiscated phones for misuse? Yes. Do my students hate me for it? Nope.

I think that is the main difference in a new teacher vs. a more experienced one. An experienced teacher can take a potential negative situation and turn it into a positive one. You can't learn that ability in a pre-service classroom. It is from experience in the field. It's why you can't stop teaching after 1 year. It's why you can't stop teaching after 2 years. Starting a class is so important to setting the stage for a successful year. The first year is a struggle because you suck at teaching, no matter how well you did in student teaching. I have been teaching for 14 years now. I still suck at it. But the key is I suck a lot less now than I did back then. If the day ever comes that I feel I don't suck anymore and have this teaching thing all figured out, I will know it is time to retire because at that point I will have lost touch with reality.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why I am bogged down.

I need to be more regular about reflecting here. I was doing better at first but as the stress of added things have happened I have become lax in my attentions here. My progress has slowed. I am WAY behind where I want and expected to be at this point. And the worst part is that I feel that my classes have started slipping backwards. I am getting frustrated. I still believe in the process, but I don't know what I need to do to become effective. It is time to step it up a notch. I just need to figure out how. I don't want to leave kids behind and yet I need to push them harder to get through these units!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I'm my own worst enemy.

Last Tuesday before break I had about enough. My students were as whiny and helpless as possible. The board discussions were going nowhere. The kids were not engaged at all! By 5th hour I had enough. I was tired of fighting the battle. I got upset and told them that I was done with it. If they were going to just waste time I had better things to do. I left the circle and went and sat down at my desk. After I left, a couple kids took charge and the next thing I knew most of the kids were engaged and the students were racing through the whiteboards! I am the problem! Lesson learned!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Conferences part one.

The first night of conferences is complete. I was worried that I was going to have lots of outraged physics parents. I only had one. Some others had questions that I was able to explain away, but there was one that was on a witch-hunt. Her daughter had learned how to play the game of school. I've changed the rules. She has gone home crying because I won't tell her if she is right or not. *sigh* I am proud of myself though. I stood my ground. I explained that this technique works. I have studies to prove it. Her daughter just needs a little more time to adjust to the way things are. If she is that frustrated she needs to come talk to me. (Of course the girl has told me none of this!)

Oh well. You can't please all of the people... Most parents thought it was awesome and told me their kid can't stop talking about Physics class. I check that as a win!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why my students are awesome.

Today was a great day in my physics classes for two reasons.

1. I introduced Steve Dickie's bouncy ball challenge to my students. They were almost as amazed as I was which I think is an excellent start considering we are dealing with the age of apathy in high school students. Lots of great comments and ideas already from my students and I really only took about 10 minutes at the beginning of the hour for this. They are excited about doing the project.

2. I did the second day of the Ramp n'Roll activity with my students. Yesterday I gave them a bunch of ramps and starting conditions and had them predict and record the graphs. Today they did the much more challenging task of taking the graphs and trying to set up the ramps to mimic the data. There was a great deal of teeth gnashing and screams of frustration at first. Then after a few not-so-subtle hints that the velocity vs. time and the acceleration vs. time graphs were not just there for show, students began catching on to the activity. The look on their faces when their graphs matched those on the page were priceless. They were elated. They felt smart. They felt like they accomplished something. They stayed after the bell to finish that last one. They asked if they could do it for homework! They asked! And of course, I said, "Sure!"

What a fantastic day, and what fantastic students I have!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why I need a giant turntable. (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a previous post. ( O.k. I realize it is one post down, but hey they give me the ability... why not use it?)

Part 2 of my week of awesomeness.

I got to spend the day Saturday with my incredibly awesome modeling group from this summer. We got together, saw some wicked awesome discrepant event demos, ate sandwiches with really awesome names. (I was conflicted between the Apollo Creed Steak and Cheese Sandwich or the Eric Estrata Enchilada. I decided that the Apollo Creed would make my stomach feel less rocky. He he get it because Apollo ... and rocky... oh nevermind.) But I digress. I feel so blessed and lucky to have taken this workshop with this amazing group of educators. If we could bottle and share the enthusiasm and pedagogical energy of this group with all teachers, today's crisis in American education would not exist. It was great to see most of us back together. We shared incidents that happened in our classes. We asked advice about some of our issues. We did really cool labs and one that was really cold (outside you know.). That is my last pun in this post. I promise. One of the discrepant events was a bouncy ball that you toss under a table. It hits the floor, then the underside of the table and then you have a choice. Will it come back to you? Will it just bounce up and down under the table until energy dissipates? Will it bounce off the table and continue moving forward? It turns out it bounces back at you. But a tennis ball doesn't. It bounces up and down until it stops. A golf ball doesn't do either! It continues through on its path in the same direction! Very interesting. We discussed it for a while trying just about every ball we could find in the lab trying to prove/disprove our theories. At that point my pal Steve came up with an idea to turn this into an inquiry lab that could be written up for publication. Interested in helping? Check out his blog.

Item 3 of the week of totally awesome?
Being new to this whole modeling thing I have had difficulty with taking what I would deem an appropriate amount of grades for the quarter. I feel that most of the work the kids are doing is new stuff and I hate to mark them down for not knowing things that they have never learned before. Some grades were a bit lower than I feel that they should be. So I had the kids do a self-evaluation of their progress in my class. I then sat down with them one on one to discuss their progress. It was great. I have learned so much about them this year. I feel I know them so much better than I have known any class before. It is a really neat experience for me. And it makes me even happier that I decide to go hang with these strangers for 3 weeks last summer!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why I need a giant turntable.

My poor blog has been left alone too long. I apologize to my regular readers (all 2 of you!) but it has been the end of the first marking period and grades are due. My blog had to wait awhile. But I am back now and I have a lot to post about.

1. It was a great week for me professionally and it could not have come at a better time. My classroom has become a quagmire of unproductive modeling... but that is another point for later. I attended the DMAPT meeting on Wed at the Detroit Science Center. We had the facility to ourselves. I think the phrase 'kid in a candy store' needs to be replaced by 'physics teachers in a science center'. It was a blast. My favorite display down there is this giant turntable. It rotates and they provide various size disks to go on them. If you cradle them gently between your fingers and hold them upright against the turntable they will begin to spin and they will remain upright rolling along the turntable. We of course were experimenting trying to figure everything out about them. We noticed that if the disk leaned inwards it would move towards the center of the table. An outward lean would cause it to move outwards. If you turn it slightly to the motion the table is spinning it begins a wobbly oscillating path around the turntable that is fun to watch until the disk falls over. Great fun! But it got even better when one of the teachers pulled out a 1.5-2 inch diameter steel bearing. Now you might ask why he had that on him, and I would remind you that it was a bunch of physics teachers so really that should just be expected. Then you might add, "next you'll tell me that someone else had 216 bucky ball magnets in their pocket." And you'd be right again.
Anyhoo back to the ball. I had thought the disks were the pinnacle of coolness until I say the ball. At first we tried to repeat what we did with the disks with some success. It made a spine-tingling sound and traced small circles on the table. That was neat, but the best part came when we began rolling it across the turntable. When it went with the rotation it bowed outwards and came back and kept going. But the true magic happened when we rolled it 'against the grain.' The turntable was spinning counter-clockwise and as I rolled it onto the left part of the turntable the ball quickly moved in the direction of rotation and made a big arc around the right side of center. When it got to the other side and rolled back onto the stationary table it immediately returned to its original speed and direction of travel! It was so amazing to watch. Of course hypotheses abounded. We tried to capture it on video but the lighting was fairly dim. If it gets posted I will link it.

Okay. I'm tired now. The rest of this post will have to wait until tomorrow. Not quite as triumphant a return as I hoped I guess.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unit II is in the books.

I tested on Unit 2 today. I should be grading but the pull of the internet is so alluring. I thought I should post a reflection on how the unit went. So here goes..

My success as a modeler: C-/D+

Why not higher?: I think I missed the point a lot. What I thought was obvious from the discussions I have learned was not. I need to be better with having a wrap-up after discussions. I need to be better about getting ALL kids involved in the discussions. I need to develop ways to get those kids who are off in la-la land back into what is going on. I need to figure out how to put a gag over my mouth and just let things happen. I need to be more precise with my language. I still spout out speed and velocity willy nilly. To me they are the same thing because I understand the difference. My students do not and it has led to confusion. I hope they all did well on the test, but of course I fear the worst.

Why not lower then?: I think my kids learned WAY more than they did from how I taught the topic last year. That being said, constant motion was about 2 days last year instead of 3 weeks like this year. But still I love that my students are actually engaged in intelligent conversation about physics.

Best moments (or why I'm never going back to the old way)?: When I had a sub for PSAT testing and my students continued with our whiteboard discussion without me and actually learned something. (My sub was blown away!) The fact that my students are actually willing to discuss physics even when I haven't specifically asked them to. (I have even caught them in lunch continuing a discussion from the morning class.) One student (who is retaking the class because he failed last year) told me that, "this way is WAY BETTER than last year. It makes so much more sense."

Reflections: I know I'm getting better as time goes on. I know that this is the right thing for the kids. I am worried that whiteboarding will get old for them. Too much of anything can become bad. So I need to find other ways to assess the work without using the whiteboards all the time. Also I need to resolve the fact that the rest of my department gives mostly multiple choice tests. We are meeting to create a district-wide test used by all physics classes. I am hoping my kids will do great on it but I am nervous since the style tests I'm giving do not match that style of question.

Despite all of this I truly am glad I went to that workshop. It was one of the best decisions I have made during my teaching profession.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whiteboarding by itself.

An interesting thing happened in my class this week. I had to proctor the PSAT for the sophomores in my school. This left two of my Physics classes without my presence. I had planned a 10 minute quiz and whiteboarding for that day before being notified of the testing. I had considered changing the plan when I realized my students were still very reliant on me in the discussions. So I decided to have them go ahead with the original plan in my absence. It worked for both hours. The students whiteboarded the entire worksheet. They discussed motion maps and came to consensus on many different aspects of it. The next day I debriefed them on their decisions. The majority of them were spot on. What a proud moment I had for them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New graphing worksheets?

I think the modeling course resources need to be updated with new graphs that may speak more to the kids sensibilities. Here are some I found on my new favorite website.

funny graphs
see more Funny Graphs

Mo Money Mo Problems
see more Funny Graphs

funny graphs
see more Funny Graphs

funny graphs
see more Funny Graphs

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Sunday, October 10, 2010

First Quiz.

So I gave the first quiz of my modeling career last week. The results were not pretty. The students weren't necessarily 'wrong,' they just weren't detailed enough in their responses. Most of the students scored 50% or less because of this. I spent a long time grading and asking questions that would focus them more and encourage more detail on their responses. I then had them do quiz corrections. I did not go over the quizzes in class at all. They had to tell me the "correct" answer and also tell me how their thinking had changed from their first answer to the corrected one. I then told them I would give them a make-up quiz on Friday. Both quizzes would still count, but those who did quiz corrections would get a fantastic bonus. Whatever grade they got on Friday's quiz would be the grade for both quizzes. I gave them a completely new quiz on the same topics. In the first class I graded, over 90% of my students scored an A on the quiz. It is amazing the detail and thought that was included on this quiz. Easiest quiz I have EVER graded. Oh modeling why didn't I find you years ago.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why today was a great day.

My 5th hour had a breakthrough today in whiteboarding. My students are finally starting to get it. They had about a 5 minute discussion without asking me anything. By the end they had developed consensus on three big issues without me prompting much at all. It wasn't much but it was enough to make me pursue it further. It's kinda the same reason I still play golf. Everytime I swear I'm going to give up the game forever I hit that one perfect shot. I'm hoping I have more great whiteboarding moments than good golf shots. It just reinforces my opinion that taking a simple 3 week workshop may turn into one of the most pivotal important moments of my teaching career.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And things were going along so swimmingly...

Well it was inevitable. It was just going so well. Today we debriefed the buggy lab. We got through it fine. Kids seem to think they understand what is going on (of course we know they don't really have a clue yet..). But I am just so frustrated with myself today. Why can't I shut up? Why do I keep asking questions? Why do I keep giving feedback? I would do or say something and immediately give myself a mental slap to the head. O.k. next hour I won't do that... and then I do again. O.k. 5th hour I'll do it right. Nope. Not even close. I am my own worst enemy today. I felt like I spoon-fed WAAAAYYYY too much. I think I just wasn't prepared for the way the discussion was going.

Good thing: Kids are talking more.

Bad thing: Unfortunately they are having lots of mini discussions. Most are on-topic but it is difficult to control the flow right now. They all have good comments but don't want to wait to share. I am going to have to work on that. I think next time I may have to try the koosh-ball of speaking.

Good thing: Kids who have not been participating or even on task are now engaged.

Bad thing: Well actually there is nothing bad about that one.

Good comment of the day: Student 1 - "Can we just do book work?" The rest of the class - "What are you nuts? This is good I'm actually learning something!"

Best graffiti of the day (I have a board in the back of my classroom that I let students write whatever they want on it. Just no negative or disgusting comments please.): Why can't I ever leave this room feeling smart?

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Quiz

I'm giving the first quiz of my modeling career tomorrow. I'm hoping to see better results than what I normally get, although I have not ever quizzed on graphing like this. I'm not sure how it will go. I don't think that everyone is on board but it seems like everyday and every discussion I win over a couple more students. Yay me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great day of whiteboarding...

Yesterday I had the best whiteboard discussion of the year. I did the intro 6 graph deployment the previous day and had the students whiteboard their results. I had multiple groups board the same graphs so we could have some competitive ideas. We had many that were different and it did provide some great discussion. But the best came from the velocity vs time graph. The graph is a square root function. So the velocity was always increasing but the acceleration was decreasing as it went along. I had a blast twisting the students words around on them and playing it dumb. They were getting so upset trying to explain their ideas and I just wasn't getting it because they were using vague language. My favorite part was when they tried to explain how the acceleration was getting less but they didn't know to use that word so they kept saying that the velocity was slowing down. Then I went "Oh I get it the graph shows the object is slowing down." Them: "Yes... wait, no it is getting faster." Me: "but you just said it was slowing down." Them: "No it just isn't going as fast at the end." Me: "right that's what I said it is slowing down." Them: "I'm so confused." Me:"me too, you seem to be saying conflicting things!" Them: "No it is speeding up the whole time, it just isn't speeding up as much at the end." Other kid: "Yeah it isn't changing as much at the end." Me: "What is it?" Them: "The speed is getting higher, it is just not changing as much at the end." I applauded inside.

It is great to see the progression in my students as I have continued whiteboarding. It started with just a few kids participating and most kids trying to do anything but participate. Every session though I see more kids getting sucked into the conversation. They grumble about it yet I see them getting engaged in the concepts more and more every day. I am loving it. Great day, great day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A brief respite.

Today began homecoming week. We started the day with a two hour pep/competition assembly. As a result two of my three physics classes did not get to see me today. So I decided to get some student feedback on the whiteboarding/modeling we've done so far. They had mostly positive things to say. This hour is one that is closer to "getting it" in that they have actually begun to ask some questions and participate more than my other hours. I told them that as we went on my goal for them is to get to a point where if I happened to be absent unexpectedly and a sub was there, they would still be able to conduct class without me. That got a couple of chuckles until I told them I was serious. After a short pause one kid said, "I think I can see how that could happen." What a glorious day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back for more drawing boards.

Well the time crunch finally did me in. The time to write whiteboards and present them takes too long to do in one hour. I have 10 groups per hour... oh wait I mean for each hour I have 10 groups. I originally thought I would only have 8. The reality of only 25 boards has come in to play a couple times already. So after my first 2 hours when I realized I was going to be short 5 boards I decided to make a run for the depot. And of course once there I thought... Well heck what if I'm doing something in all of my physics classes and want to whiteboard in Biology? So I now have 50 whiteboards and a need of a way to tell my wife I spent more money on my classroom.

In other news my buggy cars came in the mail today as well as some of those cool new push/pull force-o-meters. Which is convenient since I am considering starting motion next week. I also went back to my Junior high and commandeered the ticker timers I had purchased years ago that no one but me ever used. Although I am still contemplating having some groups use the metronome and marker method just because it was so fun watching Kal try and do that! That should be fun.

Finally I decided I am going to try and work some of those reasoning tests into my class just to measure where the kids are. I did the Islands Puzzle with them today. I can't wait to read the responses this weekend.

Are any of you planning on giving the mechanics baseline test?

O.k. I know that last question was out of left field but there it is I typed it. There is no way I can go back now. Well I mean I guess I could cursor up and hit backspace a few times, but seriously who has the time?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Is anyone else having the difficulties I am with grading. Tonight was open house and as of yet I have virtually no grades for my physics kids. While I have done quite a few labs and discussions to this point, I really don't have anything to grade them on. Maybe participation in the talks? I am giving the first graphing deployment activity tomorrow, but even that I question taking for a grade. What have you guys taken for grades yet? How are you going to handle discussions with respect to grading?

First Foray into Modeling whiteboards.

Today began the first time we discussed results of the mini-labs on the whiteboards. It was a dissappointing start to say the least. My first hour was very distracted and it was like pulling teeth to get them to answer questions and think. My second hour I think I was better prepared and I introduced the activity a little differently and I had better success. My 5th hour was even better yet. As Steve pointed out in his blog the other day, I still have difficulty sometimes with being stupid. I still want to answer sometimes or encourage the "correct" answers.

I noticed on one board my students had used a different number of sig. figs. for each number in a data table. I thought that was a great opening to discuss that topic. Unfortunately the consensus at the end was sig. figs. don't matter... I guess I will have to re-visit that topic. I don't really care if they know all the rules for sig. figs, I just want them to realize that the sig figs demonstrate the precision of the measurement.

My students got really restless during the activity after a while. I decided to stop and pick it up again tomorrow. Maximum of 2 per day right now until they start to get used to the dialog.

Coolest moments? One group of ladies in my 2nd hour did the diameter vs circumference of a circle and got a slope of 3.1423! How close is that? I barely had to prompt them to figure out what the number was. Two groups in my first hour did the wire lab, data was different for each one because they used different cuts of the same wire (I had two stations running). Their line equations were nearly identical. I was amazed.

Biggest problem? I made 25 whiteboards. 10 needed per class. If I don't get to all the labs and I save them, I need to have more. Back to the depot I go...

Monday, September 13, 2010

A question for my workshop mates.. and leaders!

I have come to realize that the workshop was too short. While I think it did a good job of covering the main topics for the mechanics unit, there are many things that we didn't talk about much that now I am struggling with. Significant figures, estimation, ratios, etc. How do those things get worked into a modeling classroom? Is it all just brought up during whiteboard discussions? Many times during the class Laura or Don would tell us, "Well we already would have talked about 'x' previously and there is a basic understanding of the concepts so then I would do this lab." And now I am finding that all of these little things are now becoming larger issues as I try to figure out how to work these topics into discussion and still give them the importance they deserve.

What have you guys tried?

Disappointing Start...

I did my first whiteboarding session on Friday with my Physics classes. We were discussing a reading assignment and during the discussion I kept amazing myself by dropping back into the authority role. The kids would ask a good question and I would immediately answer them or validate their response. It was so frustrating to me. I did better by the end of the day, but it was still frustrating.

Today I pre-labed the initial measurement labs that Don started us off with. I think I did a much better job of illiciting their opinions and questions. Yay me.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Time consuming..

Did my spaghetti bridge lab today and I felt it went really well. Will be teaching the excel graphing methods tomorrow so we stopped with some time left. We white boarded about the reading assignment. Unfortunately I needed block scheduling today. They boarded but no time to share. That will have to happen tomorrow. Sigh. I need more time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A new era has dawned

I began modeling today.... in my Biology class. Broke out the whiteboards already. I began in Physics as well, but no whiteboarding until probably Thursday.

FCI tomorrow at the beginning and then the spaghetti bridge lab from Mark Schober's site. We pre-labed (pre-labbed? Pre-lab-ed?) today and I thought I did a fairly decent job of letting the kids go in whatever direction they wanted. I just set up a strand of spaghetti with the cup and the marbles and let them come up with questions. Eventually they pulled out the ideas I had thought of and two of my classes had ideas that I hadn't thought of at all! It will be interesting to see what they choose to do tomorrow. My first hour struggled to share ideas at first and so I broke them into smaller groups to talk about it first and then came back to the whole group discussion. That made them more comfortable and then they really got going. The other hours were great.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Am I really thinking this?

So yesterday Frank Noschese found my blog and made a comment. As is good blogging manners I surfed over to his page and opened a can of worms. The can was so big that I was up until well after 2 reading blog after blog.

I have struggled for years with my grading policies. Every year it is something different. Straight points? Percentages? How heavily should I weight assignments? I had stumbled across Standard based grading before and thought it seemed like a good idea but I just couldn't see how it could work. Well thanks to Frank, now I can. So the question remains, am I really thinking this?

What is wrong with my brain that I would even contemplate starting modeling and standard-based grading all at the same time? And yet they would fit SO WELL together. I am hoping common sense prevails. There is always next year for standard based grading.

If any of you want to learn more about Standards based grading check out Shawn Cornally's site. He does a great job of laying it out. Then click back to Frank's site here where he gives a bunch of resources to implement it in the physics classroom. You are a cruel one Frank to tempt me so.

A new opportunity?

SO I am about to begin this modeling thing and while I feel I am ready for the physics part, I am chomping at the bit to try and include some of the methods into my biology classes as well. However even though modeling nirvana (Arizona State Univeristy) mentions biology on their homepage, there are no resources yet that I can find.

Well as the saying goes in for a penny in for a pound, I emailed Jane Jackson about it. I asked for a contact for someone to talk to who is working on developing the methods and volunteered to help with the efforts. She replied with her phone number and instructions to call tomorrow to discuss it. How cool would it be to be able to help develop this in a whole new curriculum.

I haven't even taught like this for one day and I'm already signing up for more. Talk about faith!

Details to follow.

Participation Redecision 2010

So after typing up my class handouts and deciding on percentages for participation I went reading through the blog-o-sphere/listserve universe and stumbled across several interesting ideas. One of the threads discussed one teacher's issue with a student who does no homework and yet scores 95% on her tests. In my opinion if he can score a 95 on the test without doing homework then the homework seems to be pretty useless and the student obviously needs greater challenges.

Anyway, some other teacher replied back and the topic went to the fact that grades should reflect what the student is actually learning. I realized that my participation grade is kind of the same deal. If a kid doesn't participate but can score well on tests then aren't I doing the same thing? Well sure you know the material but you didn't jump through my hoops so I will add some punitive damage to your grade so I feel better. I think the better choice is just to require participation through class management rather than by some subjective grade being imposed.

Looks like a rewrite is in my future.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Valedictorian Speech

I don't know if anybody heard about this or not, but I stumbled across this girl's speech while cleaning out my listserve inboxes. I totally get her frustration. However I think she was calling for more classes like modeling. This is the direction that I think all classes need to take because it emphasizes thought above the grade. Yes I still have to give grades because that is what is expected, but in my class grades will be based on the growth of thinking ability of the student and not who can jump through the most hoops. At least that is the plan.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What to do?

So here I am on the eve before I report back to work. Tomorrow is normally the day I begin copying all the items for the first day with kids. On those sheets is the grading policy.

Yeah. I've been thinking about this since the beginning of July and still have not come up with anything. Obviously with modeling class discussion is a big part of it. How should I grade that? I know myself. I am not a good record keeper. I can't make a tally mark every time someone speaks. So what should constitute an 'A'? Because of this I am hesitant to make participation a huge grade but it should definitely be included.

Add that to the normal war I have waged with myself for the last 13 years of points vs. percentages for grades and it will undoubtedly be a late evening.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's all falling into place.

Whiteboards from home depot bought and cut?  Check.
Composition Notebooks?   Check.
Buggy cars and push/pull spring scales ordered?  Check.
Ready for the first day of school?  Not even close.

As the day approaches I am beginning to freak out.  Will the students buy 
in to the process?  Will I totally screw up this first month?  Will I 
make it through and be a successful modeler?  Of course the answer to 
all of these questions is yes, but still the butterflies are unusually 
strong this year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Getting geared up.

School is around the corner and I am getting it in high gear to start a new phase of my teaching career - modeling. I have debated since my workshop this summer over attempting to go modeling across the board as I also teach Biology in addition to Physics. But after wrestling with it I have decided only to do it with physics for now so I can get comfortable with the process. Once I am more accomplished with the methods I will start to phase some of the techniques in at that point.

I plan to use this as a way to document the progression as I start this new phase. I plan on inviting my workshop mates to read along and join in the discussion if they like, but even if I am just typing to myself I hope the reflection will do me good. Plus maybe some poor soul starting out on this path a few years down the road may benefit from my ideas and situations. Onward and upward!