Organizing for Evaluations

When preparing to be evaluated (or when getting ready for the ProCert/National Boards), list all the criteria you’ll be assessed on and make a file for each part. As you teach and the year progresses, put copies of student work and other pieces of evidence (photographs, notes, etc.) into the appropriate file.

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Standards and Data

So this is my life now – thinking and blogging about standards and data.

Here’s an idea about making sure you reach most (all?) standards and have evidence thereof: make a list of all standards (in a spreadsheet?) and write the summative assessments for each. Make sure grading is standards-based and then use the grades to collect data about who and how many have met which standards.

Advice on Tests

Gary Rubinstein gives some advice on tests, specifically the first one:

  • Collect homework so you know what students understand
  • Don’t make it too long. Err on the side of making the test too short so as to allow students to check their work.
  • Make the test easy enough so that every student can do well. While I’m all for high expectations, I think he has a point here. Students who are used to failing will have their hopes dashed once again if they don’t do well on the first assessment or test. On the other hand, if they do well, their entire outlook on school (or at least your class) can change. I’ve seen it happen.

I’m not a fan of using the words “easy” and “hard” to refer to tests. If students have been engaged and learning, the test should be what my old English professor called an opportunity to show off your knowledge. A “hard” test to me is one that asks questions you weren’t expecting and tests your knowledge of trivial details. I think that teachers should have the expectation that all students can do well on every test (and by well I mean pass at the least) if they work hard and understand the objectives of each lesson.

Basically, tests are just assessing what the students SHOULD know, led by standards and objectives, as opposed to testing information that students don’t need to know to excel in the subject. Putting the latter on tests is what I call “hard.” For example, testing students on specific dates and places is way less important than testing them on their knowledge of the importance of the Federalist Papers or their ability to use standard writing conventions. Not scary. Just practical. And the test shouldn’t be “hard” if students have worked diligently to understand and master the parts that were difficult at the beginning. If students are aware of all this, I think that test-taking will be much less scary. If students have slacked off and know they don’t understand what’s on the homework, then yes, the test will be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

So many quotation marks. Apologies.

Class Responses

Here are some ideas for getting students to respond as individuals, pairs, groups, or as a whole class so as to assess their knowledge and learning. Asking students to raise their hands and calling on the first or so hand up or listening to the first blurt-out leaves behind the quieter and less confident students as well as those who need some time to think and process.

  • Good ol’ think-pair-share, then call on a few pairs to share
  • Write responses on individual white boards or pieces of paper as individuals or pairs that students can hold up and show to the teacher. For example, students have a certain amount of time to write an answer. When you ring a bell or say “go,” all students raise their boards or papers so it’s not a race to finish first.
  • Students write short responses/ideas on the front white board – used more to collect variety of ideas instead of a single right answer (whiteboards for sale here)
  • Exit slips at the end of class
  • Students write answers/ideas in notebooks and then some volunteers share after everyone has had time to think and write something. Or call on specific individuals without asking for volunteers.
  • Establish rules to how students should answer by not blurting out by saying “raise your hand and tell me…”
  • Group answering by asking one-answer questions and the class chants the answers back
  • Write students’ names on Popsicle sticks to choose students at random to answer questions. (Can also be used to put students into random pairs or groups while giving you the opportunity to chose another stick if some students shouldn’t be in a group together.)
  • Chose students at random with Excel. List students’ names in column A. Under the last name in column A, paste this: =INDEX($A$1:$A$34,ROUND(34*RAND()+1,0)) where 34 is the number of students. Copy and paste it as many times as necessary. Allows of repeats. (Thanks Gary Rubinstein for the tips)

More to come…