Archive for October, 2016

End of Q1 Support Responses


I categorized and tallied responses to the handout I gave today.  The official prompt was “Three things that will help me:”

I wonder how this will change if I ask the same question at the end of Q2.

Q1 Reflection Handout

I made a handout to help the students organize their thoughts.

I’m an algebra support teacher, so I will look at the grades they’ve earned from their respective Algebra teachers and help the students interpret them accordingly.

Today we will be completing these sheets and I will snap a pic for their personal files in my OneNote.

Most students have a skewed view of THE FINAL.

They either see it as this mythical thing that can rise grades from the ashes like a phoenix, or they see it as this horrible impassible thing that is going to get them no matter what.

Some of them are repeating algebra because they had a D going into the final and didn’t understand that one test could make so much of a difference.  Alternately, some of them will say ‘I’ll just pass the final!’ as a catch-all any time I suggest they do homework or practice in class.

I hope I can help each student set and stick to a realistic goal.

Q1 Physics Data


My Q1 Objectives:

General Knowledge

GK.1    I can properly use scientific notation.

GK.2    I can properly use significant figures in calculations.

GK.3    I can use dimensional analysis to convert units and check the validity of equations.


Constant Velocity

CV.1    I can differentiate between position, distance and displacement.

CV.2    I can solve problems using constant velocity in one direction.

CV.3    I can draw and interpret graphs and visuals to represent motion with constant velocity.


Constant Acceleration

CA.1    I can draw and interpret graphs and visuals to represent motion with changing velocity.

CA.2    I can describe the motion of an object in words by viewing a velocity-vs-time graph.

CA.3    I can solve problems regarding motion in one direction by using kinematics concepts.


Vector Operations

VO.1    I treat vectors and scalars differently and can distinguish between the two.

VO.2    I can solve problems by graphically adding and subtracting vectors.

VO.3    I can apply the Pythagorean Theorem and tangent function to calculate the magnitude and direction of a resultant vector.

VO.4    I can resolve vectors into components using the sine and cosine functions.


Projectile Motion

PM.1    I can accurately represent a projectile in multiple ways (graphs, diagrams, etc.)

PM.2    I can solve problems involving objects experiencing projectile motion


I decided on these concepts after looking at our textbook and the district curriculum guides:

I also knew that I needed to quiz on each concept at least twice, and offer the students the option to retest at any time.  (Some students did, but those informal quizzes on individual objectives are not included in my quiz schedule down below.)

I ended up giving 10 quizzes this quarter, and aside from Quiz #6 and #10, most quizzes took between 15 and 20 minutes of class time and did not take an entire day of instruction.

My quiz schedule and objective attempt numbers are shown below:


By having all objectives from GK.1 to VO.4 appear more than once, it meant that if a student was absent for a certain quiz, Quiz #6 served as a catch-all makeup for the 1st half of the quarter, and Quiz #10 did the same for the 2nd half.

Students were required to test twice on each objective.  The 1st attempt was on a 6-9 point scale, and the 2nd was on a 6-10 point scale.  After the 2nd attempt, the objective becomes out-of-10 in the grade book instead of out-of-9.  I provided this cushion for two reasons.  The first being that I didn’t want to assign a student a failing grade for their first attempt on an objective on a quiz.  A 6/9 would hold as a passing 67% and give them until the next attempt to improve.  If they received another 6 or did not retest, it would become a 6/10 or a failing 60%.

The second reason is that I did not want to award perfect scores for a first attempt either.  (Especially if I was going to let them keep their highest scores.) A 9/9 on a first attempt would satisfy my honor students, letting them know that their understanding was on track for my expectations, and allowing them to have an A until the next attempt.  Because the questions scale in difficulty, the second attempt question always sets the benchmark for concrete understanding.  So if the student has not made gains in understanding to tackle the increase in difficulty for the 2nd attempt, their 9/9 becomes a 9/10, or a high B grade.  This requires students to maintain their content knowledge after the first attempt.  I think this is a big deal because so many students cram for tests and then let the knowledge slide.

It’s simple:  A-level understanding on the first attempt is not going to be the same as A-level understanding on later attempts.  The class increases in scope and difficulty, and topics are revisited.  Likewise, a lack in knowledge on the first attempt should not lead to a failing grade unless that lack of knowledge continues to be present in later attempts.

We had some very honest discussions in class about what this grading scale means, and what I actually want from them.  Once the students settled into the quizzing schedule, I think they’ve grown to like it.  They are quizzed more often than previous classes I’ve had, but I think that has alleviated some of the test anxiety I used to see.  They are comfortable doing their best, and knowing that they have the safety net of upcoming attempts and ‘pick-your-own’ style quizzes has really relaxed the vibe in my class.

Now, let’s look at the final grades based on objective.  (I’ve sorted each objective from highest to lowest scores so it is easy to see how many students got each grade.)


(Looking back at this, I’ve noticed that the 3rd time is the charm for a lot of students.  I just know we could have gotten better scores on Projectiles with one more attempt!  I will do my best to make sure all objectives get 3 attempts next quarter.)

I love having data like this because I can say “Where does my class excel? and Where do they struggle?”

By looking at CA.2, I can say that my students kick serious butt at reading graphs and determining whether or not acceleration is constant.

But by looking at VO.3 and VO.4, I know that I should probably review vector operations before we start talking about forces.

It feels better than my old system where I would say “Well Chapter 2, Quiz 2 was rough…I guess they have trouble with acceleration?”

Likewise, a student can see this info in the grade book too.  Rather than just ask to retake a vague chapter quiz, they will say “I don’t like my score on *Specific Concept*”  As a teacher, that makes my job a lot easier when the students know exactly what they need to review and what they need to ask of me to help them.

Speaking of individual students, for anonymity’s sake, I mixed the data for both physics classes and sorted by highest grade to lowest to create the table below:


I also added a column that keeps a count of how many of their homework assignments were submitted for feedback.  I don’t assign letter grades to homework (new decision as of this year), but I always recommend practice and offer feedback.

Surprisingly, I’m still seeing a lot of the same all-or-nothing that I saw in my previous classes.  Some students like to have every homework assignment checked over, and some have submitted nothing.

However, these are the highest overall grades I’ve ever given a physics class at the end of 1st quarter.

This got me thinking even more.  So I went back and looked at my previous 2 years of physics classes Q1 grades.  I made an excel column with their given grade, and then a column with just their assessment grade percentage.  (I had been treating tests as 40%, with labs/projects at 30% and homework as 30%)

I discovered than on average, a student’s given grade was 7% higher than their assessment grade.  At the extremes, I had 3 students who managed get a grade that was more than 20% higher than their assessment grade just through homework/project completion.  I also had one student who got a grade that was 27% lower than his assessment grade because he did not do homework.

With the inclusion of non-assessment items in the final grade, I had really diluted the grade as an indicator of a student’s knowledge.  I see students who only passed because they did the homework, and students who only failed because they didn’t.

I was very apprehensive about eliminating the homework grade from physics, but after noticing how much homework could inflate or deflate a grade, and after several run-ins with academic dishonesty from honor students trying to preserve their 4.0 because they were afraid to try and fail on homework, I feel it was the right thing to do.

Changing my class so much this year has been uncomfortable, sure.  I didn’t know if I’d get any students turning in homework simply in exchange for my help.  I didn’t know if they’d truly take advantage of the opportunity to retest.  But they have.

I think my physics students trust me more this year than they ever have.  They are more willing to try and ask for help.  They are more invested in the content because they see it broken into objectives rather than lumped into tests.  The conversation has changed.  I have yet to hear a physics student say, “What can I do to bring up my grade?”  Instead, they are saying, “I need to work on *concept*.  Can you help me?”

I’m using the same notes…same lectures…same labs from last year.  I assign the same problems as last year for practice instead of homework.  All I did was remove the grade and change my assessment format.

If I had known the difference this would make, I would have started last year!

Bathroom Log: A.K.A. The Poop Report


Thanks to to pre-populate this spreadsheet with names during testing!

It’s pretty simple.  Enter all of your students into the appropriate class sheet, and just check them out and in as necessary.

There is also a sheet that lets you edit the list of destinations.

(I have bathroom on top because that is where they usually go.)

There is an Archive sheet that keeps track of every student’s trip that can be easily sorted and copied.

During my regular classes, I am spot-on with keeping track of where students are, but during algebra support, I can easily lose track of time when I work with a small group.

This was inspired by another teacher at my school who is collecting data on bathroom visits, and let’s be honest, I just wanted a good excuse to use a poop emoji.

I’m going to try using this in 5th and 7th hour next week.  Wonder what kind of data I will get.

Feel free to modify and use if you have a need for such things:

Bathroom Log