Thursday, August 30, 2012

Involve Me and I Learn

Today I tried a new formative assessment with my AP Computer Science students. We are working in bases and I was having a difficult time telling who was really getting it and who wasn't getting it. I realized I needed a new formative to check for understanding.

That is when the above Chinese proverb came to mind. I told them, but they were forgetting, I taught them and they were remembering but not able to apply it, so I needed to involve them. So what formative assessment would work in this case? Simple, involve them and let them write the assessment.

It started with a piece of lined paper for each student. I had them fold it down the middle the long way, or as one student said "hotdog style". They put their name on each half. On the right they had to come up with 9 problems: 3 problems that convert from Base10 to Base2 (or visa versa), Base16 to Base2 (or visa versa), and 3 more that convert Base16 to Base2 (or visa versa). They could put the questions in any order they wanted. On the right half, they had to create the answer sheet.

That's right, I had them creating pop quizzes.

That meant they had to work through the 9 problems they created to come up with the answer sheet. I told them they could ask for as much help from me as they wanted to write these quizzes. My stragglers quickly popped up. Most did OK, some wanted me to check their first few questions then completed the rest on their own. One student needed one on one help through the whole process, and I had to reteach her most of the concepts. She had an "Ah Ha" moment and completed writing her quiz and answer sheet.

Then came the exchange.

I used a ruler to tear the page in half. I kept the answer sheet and the other half went to a different student, who put their name under the creator's name. They took each other's quizzes, and went to the student who originated the quiz if they had a clarifying question. I collected the quizzes as they finished them.

I collected them but I didn't correct them.

When we return to school next week, I will hand out the quiz and answer sheet to yet another student. That student will add their name under the quiz taker's name and will use the answer sheet to correct the quiz. If there is an answer on the quiz that does not match the answer sheet, then the student doing the correcting needs to determine which one is right, the quiz or the answer sheet and mark them accordingly. I will then take the quizzes back and enter their formative grade before giving them back their completed quizzes. If I see any patterns that need to be addressed, we'll take time to do that in class.

If all goes well, we can start Base8 on the next class day!

This formative is a keeper. I was able to reteach on the spot and it gave confidence to the students who understood the work.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Setting Up a Competency Based Classroom

Our school has been going through a redesign and transformation to a competency based system. Every year has been a little different than the year before. One of my pitfalls during this process has been the posting of the competency we are working on.

I started setting up my classroom this week and decided to make it a priority to come up with a system that would be easy for me to follow, and right in front of the students.

I have put my competencies on construction backed strips with magnets on the back. I sectioned off the dead space on either side of the SmartBoard portion of my white board. One section for each prep. Each class has 6 competencies. We usually concentrate on one at a time, sometimes two.

I can remove the competencies that we are not working on that day, which also frees up space in that section for me to write items of importance (such as the essential question!).

Helping students reflect on their work is also another area where I have struggled. I have put together a board of prompting questions for reflection on learning so that students will have it at their disposal.

Clock Watchers

Not really a part of the competency based class room but in a computer lab where the clocks on the computers have a different time than the clock on the wall, it can cause much confusion. To resolve this confusion, I have cleverly covered the clock in my room to encourage them to keep their eyes on their computers, where a clock is readily available.

I would like class room management ideas from other high school teachers who run competency based class rooms. Thanks in advance.