Wednesday Wars: Assessment

In this response to Schmidt’s Wednesday Wars, talk about what you noticed in the book relative to assessment, grading, and testing. As you respond, feel free to connect what you learned/observed in the reading to your own experience (both as a student and as a soon-to-be teacher) and the discussions we’ve had in class. You should either log in to a WordPress account or include your name somewhere in your comment so I know to credit you for your participation.

You might consider commenting on some of these ideas:

  • What kinds of assessments does Schmidt highlight in the story? Especially consider the assessments used by Mrs. Baker. Would you classify these as traditional or more progressive?
  • What about informal assessment techniques? Do you see any of these highlighted in the story?
  • What do the assessments given by Mrs. Baker (and others) capture about student learning? What do they miss?
  • How does the way you see testing and grading through Holling’s eyes similar to and different from the way you see it as a student?
  • Students are not the only ones assessed in this story–react to the way that teachers are assessed, especially given an increased focus in today’s system on teacher evaluation.

As you comment, remember that you may build on comments left by students before you. Please post your comments and/or responses to the thread below by the date indicated in the syllabus schedule.

Unit Planning (Fall 2015)

So I’m going to start a post where we can share some of the directions we’re going with the essential questions for the units you’re planning for this course. I’ll start the post with my own current thoughts (and update as things become more clear for me). I’d encourage you to respond in the comments below by sharing your own thoughts (at the least) and then adding to any others’ ideas as you see fit.

I’m starting with the anchor text, in this case Frankenstein, and developing an essential question from that novel. Here’s what I’m thinking of now: Continue reading

Storytelling in the 21st Century

I’ve long been interested in different ways of telling stories (aside from the traditional, print forms that tend to be privileged in ELA classrooms). When I taught high school, I spent time teaching students how to “read” films and saw some solid success with that as students became much more critical about how they viewed films (not the negative “critical” but, rather, more thoughtful and analytical). Part of my motivation behind this was the sense that my students were likely to view more films in their lives than read books, so I wanted them to gain some knowledge of how stories are told through that medium.

Video games represent another medium with huge potential for storytelling and with a broad reach into the lives of many of our students. (Perhaps more so than film, as video games have surpassed films in terms of revenue.) Interactive storytelling has a long history (almost as long as the history of computers), and I recently came across one venue for this kind of storytelling that I think is worth a look. We’ll talk more about this in class when we discuss integrating technology in the classroom, but you might want to take a look at the story linked at the site below. (HINT: to begin, click on the red text and look for colored text throughout the story.)



Literacies for the 21st Century

weblitmapHanging out on Twitter this morning, I ran into an unexpected surprise in the form of this literacy map from the Mozilla organization (the same folks who bring you the Firefox web browser, but I think this comes from a non-profit arm of the company). I’ve never seen this resource before and, although I’ve only had a chance to briefly preview it, I wanted to pass it on to you.

Continue reading

The Influence of Student Surveys

This NY Times piece from its technology blog is ostensibly about the innovative ideas coming from a tech startup that seeks to facilitate the surveying of students about their schools and teachers. From my reading, it looks like the company described is offering some great tools for schools to accomplish this. But I think there’s a bigger story here and something important for you to consider as you move into the classrooms.

First, I think many teachers feel a sense of ambivalence about student surveys: on the one hand, we recognize the importance of understanding how students are experiencing the classroom and our instruction; on the other hand, we recognize that sometimes students (a) don’t take the surveys seriously or (b) aren’t always capable of making sound evaluations of a teacher’s performance. I’ve had plenty of student surveys returned with suggestions such as “Have more pizza parties” or “We need less homework” that are really unhelpful evaluations of the classroom experience.

Continue reading

Extra Credit: To Give or not to Give?

One of the first questions a new teacher asks about grades and grading usually has to do with extra credit. It would be nice if there were a universal policy that met all the needs of teachers and students, but that’s not the way it works. Instead, I think each of us needs to establish a policy based on what we’re comfortable with and our personal views about grades and grading.

As you consider an extra credit policy, I’d remind you of some of these questions that we explore in class relative to grading and assigning grades:

Continue reading

Standardized Testing Craziness

Read this article earlier today about the testing schedule in Miami-Dade County Schools where the district testing schedule for the year has been posted to the public. Click the link to check out the schedule, and pay special attention to the number of times high school students and especially English/Language Arts students are tested.

Wow, right? As ELA teachers, one of the sad realities you’ll need to get used to is the number of instructional days you’ll lose because so many extra-curricular things are done through your classes. In the schools, I dealt with everything from school pictures to class scheduling to SEOPs to testing being conducted through my classes since every student in the school was enrolled in an ELA class, making my class the easiest place to conduct school-wide business.

But while I can understand some of these things taking time away from instruction in ELA classrooms (and I can even appreciate some of them), I’m befuddled by the increased amount of testing that we’re starting to see in schools, and ELA classes (along with some other core areas like math and science) seem to be special targets. The more I look over this testing schedule, the more I’m left scratching my head about why we need all this testing and what it’s designed to accomplish–or, perhaps more worrying, what we’re sacrificing in our classes to accommodate these tests.

Continue reading

21st Century Cliff Notes

OK, when I was in high school English and needed some “help” with understanding an assigned book, I could avail myself of Mr. Cliff’s seemingly limitless knowledge of classic literature. (This venerable series was actually started by a man named Cliff Hillegass; I always wrongly assumed that Cliff was his last name.) You may have relied on these familiar yellow-and-black-striped books yourself, or maybe you spent more time with Spark Notes or Pink Monkey notes.

As a student I always felt a bit disingenuous consulting books like these, as if I were cheating somehow (even though I don’t recall any teacher explicitly forbidding us from using them). As a teacher, I encouraged my students to use resources like Cliffs Notes or Spark Notes since they helped them establish a clear sense of what was happening in the text; as a scaffold, these resources could be very helpful, as long as they didn’t take the place of reading the actual, assigned texts.

Today’s students, though, can take advantage of some hip, modern resources to provide both summary and helpful analysis of classic and even some young adult texts. Continue reading