Monday, April 22, 2013

Purpose of homework

What is the purpose of homework?  Is it to assess or practice?  If it is to practice, how do you hold students accountable for the homework without grading the homework?  Whatever the answer is, this should be made clear to students.

Let's focus on homework as practice.

If the purpose of the homework is that it should help students learn, then it is necessary to give students feedback.  Grading the homework makes it into an assessment.  Feedback is much more powerful than a letter or percentage.  Feedback should identify what students can do and what they need to do better.  Homework for the purpose of practice is very powerful.  

Effective practice should encourage students to get help from parents, friends, teachers, youtube, google etc.  After all, practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.  To grade homework would then not reflect the knowledge of the student.  To not allow help from all possible resources would encourage a student to practice without being sure that they are "perfectly practicing."

If the homework is required, it should be at the correct level for the individual learner.  If a student does not bring the homework completed at the due date, then the student should be required to complete the homework at a designated time (lunch, before school, after school) rather than being give a zero for the behavior of not completing the homework.  Most students would think of losing time as a greater consequence than a zero.  Exceptional students who are very grade conscious would see getting a zero as a big consequence, but are those the students that we are concerned about not turning in their homework?

At other times, homework can be optional.  Why would a student complete the homework? He/she would not complete it unless they see the direct benefit of the homework helping improve their learning and then helping them on the assessment.  The homework will only be beneficial if feedback is provided and it is directly aligned to what is on the assessment.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Many Grades Should be in the Gradebook?

I'm trying to get my head around a question.  How often should grades be put in the gradebook and what does best practices tell us?

I will not answer how many grades should be given but I would love to see your comments on how often grades should be given and how you come to that conclusion.

So here are some of my thoughts:
  • Feedback is more effective than grading.  Feedback actually increases learning by providing valuable information.  Put a grade on it, and the student looks only at the grade, even if feedback is also provided.  The research then shows that no additional learning gains are made for the students once the grade has been placed on the paper/assignment.
  • Feedback is number 1 on Hattie's Effect Size.  However, grading can eliminate the effect of feedback.
  • Feedback should be based on a clearly stated goal.
  • Feedback should answer what they have done well and how they can do better.
  • Students should make mistakes on homework. Feedback should be given to students. 
  • Grades should be based on summative assessments.  In other words, the learning is done, now we can assess with a grade.
  • Grades should not be an accumulation but rather a reflection upon mastery of standards.  The mistakes you made while learning should not be held against you.
"Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork." Dylan William

Some interesting articles on the topic of effective grading, feedback and/or assessment.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Positive NeSA Test Message-Duck Dynasty Style

Message from my wife to my 3rd grade son before his NeSA test.  Gotta love it.


Hey, look here Jack.  Today is the day you get to show off your mental prowess.  Just like the black panther in the woods, you are going to go in to this quiet and concentrated, then you’re gonna pounce on that NeSA and show it who’s boss.  Hey, keep in mind, you’re so dope, you’re illegal in 50 states.  You can slam this in their face.  You can slam this in their Momma’s face.  Hey, there’s some people that’s got it, and some people who don’t got it, you’ve always had it, you’ve always had it. Hey, do your best and forget the rest, Jack.  That’s Rule #1.  

Good luck, from Mom and Uncle Si!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Academic Pep Rally: Johnson Crossing Idol

NeSA testing is about to begin at Johnson Crossing.  In preparation for the big week, we held our final Academic Pep Rally-Johnson Crossing Idol.  Ten different groups of students competed to be the Johnson Crossing Idol by creating songs about the NeSA test.  The panel of judges consisted of teachers who listened to the songs and pointed out the great testing tips.

As the judges chose the winners, the students were treated to the "NeSA Shake," which was created by their teachers.

Several winners were announced and their videos will be coming to this site soon.  For now, I've included the teacher's NeSA Shake.

Johnson Crossing Idol was a huge success due to two awesome counselors (Mr. Sutton and Ms. Bottorff) and a whole bunch of teachers who were willing to have a little fun to show the kids that they cared about them and that they are cheering them on going into the testing weeks.

Now is "Our Time to Shine" as we get to do our "personal best" going into the NeSA testing window.

Good luck to all of the students and have fun with the upcoming weeks.