Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reflections from my second week of hybrid SBG/SBL

This week concluded my second week of a hybrid approach to SBG.  I have already learned so much!

Last Friday I returned the first SBG assessment to my students.  On that same day I had four students ask for a reassessment.  They said they knew how to do it and they wanted to show that they were Exceeding and not just Proficient.  On their original assessment, they had made a few small calculation errors or they simply didn't explain something fully.  These four students did reassess and they showed evidence that they had Mastered/Exceeded!  That was exciting!

This week was even more exciting!  I have researched and investigated SBG but there are things I just didn't understand or realize until I put my hybrid SBG system into practice.  Here are a few highlights from my week:

1) My mindset has completely changed.  Now when I am grading student work I think to myself "How well does the student know and understand this concept?"  Instead of "how many points should I deduct?"  The focus has completely changed to "What do you know?  What did you learn?"

2)  Students have learned that they really need to know and understand the material to get a 4.  This has made them study and learn more.  I have also learned to improve my assessments.  My assessments are now stronger and show true authentic learning.  Today my assessments were only a few short answer questions.  Students are asked to explain, provide examples, apply instead of just selecting a correct answer from a list.  I have determined that it is difficult to show "true learning" through multiple choice or similar types of questions.  Now students will ask me to look at their assessment while they are taking it..."Mrs. Hurst is this enough explanation or do you want me to explain and show more?"  My responses are "Show me more."  "Explain more."  "Draw a picture."  "Provide an example."

3)  Yesterday I was grading my chemistry assessment on molecular geometry.  On the bottom of the assessment a student wrote me a note (See picture below).  WOW!  In my traditional grading system she would have just failed it, stuck it in her folder, and moved on without learning.

4) I have a student who failed first quarter, second quarter, the final exam and therefore the entire first semester.  This week, students had a few reading and reflection questions.  Each time this student submitted his work I shared with him what I liked and what areas needed some improvement.  Or I would ask him some clarifying questions.  He resubmitted both of them (more evidence of learning)!  He is asking questions for clarification!  He took his assessment today and he knew the material!  I haven't graded it yet but I think he will do ok on the assessment because he was asking me to help him spell "conserved" and "absolute" (zero)...he's on the right track with those sciencey words!

So why do these failing students suddenly care?  I believe it is because they now know that I care.  They know that I'm not going to give up on them.  They know that I'm going allow them to relearn and reassess.  They have hope!  Isn't this what teaching and learning should be about?

I would love your feedback!  I still have so much to learn!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I am always trying to find ways to improve teaching and learning.  This summer and fall, I started researching Standards Based Grading.  With the start of second semester, I am going to take a few baby steps towards SBG.  Here are the areas that I am focusing on:

1) Feedback.  When my students submit personal and authentic work, I provide personal feedback.  For example, this week, my chemistry students turned in a lab conclusion via email.  I replied to each email and provided them with positive feedback.  I also provided them suggestions on how to improve their conclusions along with the opportunity to resubmit their conclusion.  Nearly every student improved their conclusion and resubmitted it to me.  I think that by doing this they learned more than if I simply would have provided them with a grade.  

2) Corrections and reassessments.  I am also going to allow students the opportunity for improve and correct their work and/or reassess as long as they show me that they are willing to relearn the materials through extra practice or meeting with me before or after school.  My goal is a teacher is that they learn the material.

3) Reorganizing the grade book.  Instead of arranging my grade book by chapters, I am organizing it by standards.  I feel that this gives me a better indication of what they really know and what they don't know.  This has been a complete shift from traditional grading and it has been challenging to create a grade book based on standards.  Under each standard in my grade book I will provide evidence of student work.  This evidence might be practice, a lab, projects, independent authentic work and assessments.  I am still grading by percentages but I think this organizational piece will help me to continue to move towards full implementation of SBG.  I have found that organizing my grade book by standards has really made teaching and learning more intentional.

If you have any suggestions on how to transition from traditional grading towards SBG, I would love to hear from you.  I am eager to learn! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

21st Century Skills

Today with the help of our district's Technology Integrationist Rachel (check out her blog for awesome tech tools), we taught 21st Century skills to my 9th grade students.  Our inspiration was from this blog from edutopia.  This lesson was full of technology as students discover their learning style, study habits, and character traits while creating a flipsnack book to display their findings.  I hope to continue to use flipsnack in my classroom to display student work.

The students were engaged and excited to learn more about themselves as learners using the following webpage.

They were discussing their findings with their neighbors.  They were thinking, learning, and having fun!  It is my hope that this lesson will allow my students to learn more about themselves as students and this provide them with opportunities to be more successful.  As a teacher, I hope to learn more about them too so I can help them lean and reach their goals.

Below are the expectations that I provided for my students.  The "pages" in this document correspond to the pages in their flipsnack book.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BC An assessment tip.

I assess often in my classroom.  Typically I give a quiz or a "quest" (quiz/test) once a week to monitor their progress.  One tool that I really like for giving quizzes and tests is (make sure you use the beta version).  There are many features of beta.socrative that I like.  As a teacher I can enter in all the questions and answer them as I go.  When I have the students take the quiz, I can have beta.socrative mix up the question order as well as the question choices.  You can also add pictures into beta.socrative which is another nice feature.  Once the quiz is finished, a report is created.  This report not only shows you the student names and scores, but it also shows you the commonly missed questions.  When the students are taking the test "live" you will see a list of all the students taking it.  This is just another way you can make sure a student from another section isn't trying to take it during study hall :)  I have also increased the validity of the assessment by having student enter not only their name but also their lunch number as well as a specific code written on the board.  My students thought I was so smart to fool all their plans!  I find this type of assessment great for a quizzes and multiple choice questions.  I always give a two part test.  The first part is using beta.socrative and then a smaller second part done with paper and pencil to allow for more problems and short answer questions.

I have also used beta.socrative as an exit ticket.  You can also select an option to have the correct answer shown right after they answer the question.  I have used this as a review game prior to an assessment.

This is the teacher view.

This is the report.  It states the question at the top and it marks the wrong answers in red.  On the far left of the screen are all the student names along with the number they got correct and their percentage.

This is the bottom of the report screen.  It shows the percent that answered the question correctly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

BC 3 A website I can't live without...

A website I can't live without...

Hmmm...there are so many websites that I love!!!

Common Curriculum is a website that I just started using this year.  It is basically an online lesson planner.  It is easy to use.  One feature of this webpage that I LOVE is that it provides a searchable data base of standards.  You can select the standards that you are teaching and they will display at the top of the lesson plan.  You can also create a template to design the lesson plan according to your preference and you can attach documents and links to the lesson.  There is a tutorial on the website that explains how to use it effectively.  I highly recommend it to manage your class!

Here is a picture showing a daily example for my physics class.

Here is a picture showing a week view (this isn't from my class).

Saturday, January 4, 2014


picmonkey collage

I discovered this great group and tech challenges on facebook called techformers unite.  The current challenge is to create a collage.  I decided to use  This was my first experience using picmonkey.  I found it very easy to use and I really like my results!

I created a picmonkey collage to show my 2014 goals.  I am going to do this same activity with my students this week when we talk about goals and goal setting.  I am also thinking of other ways I could incorporate this into my teaching.  Picture collages could be used for any concepts that could be explained using pictures or picture examples.  A feature that I really like is that after you insert the pictures into the collage, you can put text on top of the pictures to label and identify them.

Here is my collage:

BC 2

Blog Challenge 2  An organizational tool...

I enjoy using technology, however my go to organizational tool is a notebook.  I keep a small notebook by my computer and/or desk all day.  I write myself any notes or reminders or "todos" on this notebook.  I think part of the reason that I enjoy using paper is that I get to scratch out items on my list when I have completed them!  I do get great joy from completing these tasks!

One area that I struggle organizing is when students have been absent.  If anyone has any great tips for organizing that I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Blog Challenge 1

I'm going to use Kelly Hines Blog Challenge topics.  I'm a bit behind so here it goes...

BC1 A book used in classroom instruction

As a high school science and chemistry teacher I don't use books and literature in my teaching.  However, I have used movies to connect science to something interesting to my students.

Transformers Dark of the Moon

Actually, I use this movie two times in my class.

1) I use this movie in my physical science class to discuss "the dark side of the moon".  This leads to discussions about the moon's orbit.  I also have the students watch the first 15 minutes of the movie and while they watch they are asked to write down things from the movie that are real and things from the movie that are not real.  The first 15 minutes of the movie includes footage of the moon landing.  Then I ask the students to blog their findings and to use the internet to support their findings.  This is also a great history extension.

2) I use this movie in my chemistry class to discuss radiation exposure.  There is a clip in the movie about Chernobyl.  This clip is used as a starting point for students to investigate radiation.

Do you use movies in your teaching?

My background.

I am blessed to have a great job...a job that I love!  I started my teaching career in a large middle school.  There were about 800 students in this 7th and 8th grade middle school.  I taught 7th grade math and I was so excited to find a job right after graduating.  I taught with an excellent team of teachers there for 3 years.  I learned so much about teaching from them.

After 3 years, my husband and I moved to a rural area for his job.  When we moved, I decided to stay home and raise our family.  I took 8 years off from teaching to be a full time mom to our three children. Three years ago, a science teaching position opened in our rural community.  My "baby" was now 3 and we felt this would be a good time for me to return to the classroom.

I am so excited about my current teaching position!

I currently teach three sections of Physical Science to all 9th graders.  This course is required for graduation.  This allows me the opportunity to work with all students with a variety of needs.  These 9th graders continue to challenge me as a teacher as they always keep me on my toes!

I also teach three sections of high school chemistry.  My chemistry classes have a smaller class size.  I enjoy this class because these students are dedicated students.  I also enjoy teaching chemistry because for the most part much of what they learn in my class is all new to them.  I enjoy watching them learn new concepts and problems.

I am blessed to see some of these students again as seniors if they chose to take physics.  This class is a very small class size.  This allows us to do many projects and labs.  Last month they created a Rube Goldberg Machine and this spring we will be participating in an area physics competition.

I can't imagine having a better teaching experience!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome 2014!

With a new year, I have accepted a new challenge…the blog challenge.  I'm not sure if I have anything profound to share.  Instead, I believe that this blog will allow me to reflect on my own teaching practices and it will provide me with the opportunity to learn from other educators both of these things will help me to continue to learn and grow as an educator.  Further, when my fellow educator and friend posed this blog challenge to me…how could I resist?

Today I'm hoping this blog post will help get me back into the "school" spirit.  With two full weeks off for Christmas break, I had a long list of things to accomplish (both personally and professionally).  I am a bit disappointed (only a bit) to say that I didn't cross many things off that list.  Instead I enjoyed some much needed R&R and time with my family.

To help inspire me (and maybe a few of you) here is a short list of things I learned in 2013:

  • Teaching in a 1:1 environment has completely changed my teaching.  I can't imagine ever going back.  I have learned in a 1:1 teaching environment, students will play games, chat, watch movies etc.  This has challenged me and in the end I think I am a better educator.  I have learned that students must be engaged for the entire 42 minutes.  To do this I use educational technology and lots of variety in my teaching!  There is never a dull moment.
  • Students will moan and groan when I tell them they will submit something on (I think we all know the reasons for that)
  • Co-teaching is a great experience because two minds can think and develop outstanding lessons better than one.
  • I can swim!  (A personal achievement for me).
  • To function well I work better well rested.  (Which is a challenge for me as someone who works full time and has three small children.)
  • I still have A LOT to learn!
  • There is no greater joy (and yet challenge) in life than being a parent!

To further inspire me, here is a short list of goals for my 2014:
  • Continue to learn as an educator and develop my teaching.
  • Create an eportfolio.
  • Complete a triathlon (or two) and a half marathon.
  • Continue to grow my PLC through twitter.
  • Care for my students.
  • Blog
  • Take a picture each day for 365 days.
  • Work smarter not harder (so I can be an effective educator as well as live in the moment with my family).
I'm sure I missed a many things here but this is a good start.  
What have you learned?  What are your goals?