Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Extra" Grading Category - From 0 to Infinity

Over the summer I took a grad class from Advancement Courses called Level Up!  Student Achievement Through Gameification and Game-Based Learning.  Yeah, I know it's a mouthful, but it was insightful.  I was required to read two texts, "Video Games and Learning" by Kurt Squire and "The Multiplayer Classroom" by Lee Sheldon.

The Multiplayer Classroom introduced an idea to me that was intriguing AND was compatible with my wanting to add more student-choice to my classes.  The XP category.

Lee Sheldon based his students' grades on XP or experience points.  Basically, all students start the semester with 0 points and do stuff to earn points.  Their grade is then based on how many points they earned throughout the class.

I found this interesting in that their grade was based on earning points rather than an average of grades.  However, I wasn't ready to completely commit to this grading style, so I have one assignment that is graded like for each marking period.  You can see that assignment below, it's the pink one.

I called it "Bonus" because I felt it was something the students would understand.  In hindsight, this was not a great idea because some students fail to realize that this could hurt their grade.  I think I will just call it XP next marking period.  You can see a screen shot of my grade book above.  Each student starts with 0 points and throughout the marking period, they have opportunities to earn "bonus" points.  It is worth a test grade and I allowed students to earn up to 125% (another mistake on my part).  Next marking period the highest will be 100%.  

Ways to Earn Points:
If your group's test average is 70% or higher --> 10 points
If your group's test average is 80% or higher --> 12 points
If your group's test average is 90% or higher --> 14 points
If your group's test average is 100% --> 20 points
I found that students are more willing to help their group members because of this.
I try to give exit tickets at least 3 days a week and award points through those.
If we play a review game, winners get points.
Homework is worth points. 
When I need the class to work on a certain behavior (like not yelling) I award points for those who cooperate.  
Next marking period, I will create lessons that the students can completely learn and practice online and on their own and then assess with me.  That too will be worth points.  

Knowledge Loading....

When our department first started SBG (standards based grading) we were strongly encouraged to not include behaviors in grades.  It was happening too often that students were passing classes because they were good at "playing school" and not necessarily skilled in the course.  The reverse was also happening: students who were knowledgeable in the course but didn't behave well were failing.  You know the type: smart kid, passes all the tests but refuses to do homework (why do they have to do homework if they're passing the tests?).  

Anyway, I feel that not including behavior at all is a mistake too.  There has to be a happy medium and this seems to be working for me.   

Here is my list of benefits for using this XP grading category:
Sense of (more) control
Can choose which assignments you want to do
Poor work doesn't negatively affect grade, it just won't go up.
Attendance affects grade indirectly (miss too many exit tickets)
Groups help each other to earn more points
Number/grade never goes down, is always moving in a positive direction.

My list of disadvantages:
Parents (and students) don't always understand that it's a work-in-progress and wonder why they have a low grade.
More paperwork for me (hard to keep track of in PowerSchool).

Questions I still have to work out:
What happens after a student earns all their points?
Can something happen with the points they earn over the maximum (not grade related)?
How do I handle students who transfer to my class late in the marking period?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Baseball Jerseys

Yesterday I gave my students this problem to work on.  Baseball Jerseys.  I tried to not be helpful and they were not liking it (at first).  I monitored groups and asked questions as I walked around to point them in the right direction.  I loosely followed the 5 practices for mathematical discussion for this activity and the discussions were fantastic!

Here are the images I used (in order) to lead the class discussion.

I picked this one, because this is where most groups started, they picked a number and determined the price to each company just to see what would happen.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get this group to go beyond this one example, even though I keep asking them "Which company should I pick if I have 10 people on the team?"

After most group picked a few random numbers to try, they decided to organize their work in a table (some took some convincing).  

Part of the assignment was to give advice.  The group that created the table about stopped with the table, they did not give advice.  I picked this work next to show how nice this sums up everything.  BTW: this group only had the advice and no work.  *Sigh*

I included this one next because this group has a table (I wish they had gone beyond 15) AND the advice below.

Finally, I showed the class this one because the group wrote expressions for each company, but then plugged numbers in.  I wish they had gone further and set the expressions equal to each other.  When I mentioned that to the class, they said they did do that but they thought it was wrong.  DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE WRONG!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drive by Daniel Pink and Lesson Planning

The book Drive by Daniel Pink is changing my life.  I think this book is a must-read for all educators.

Three Elements of Motivation:

1) Autonomy 

We all want freedom.  How often have I dreamt of working part-time to have more freedom to do the things I want to do?  Most of the time my projects are school-related, but sometimes they're not.  When I don't have the freedom to work on the things I want to, I feel frustrated and overwhelmed.  Now, my first thought is, "suck it up, that's life".  But while reading this, I thought about how great it would be to not have someone telling me what to do every hour of my work life.  And wouldn't that be great for our students as well (within reason of course)?  Pink points out 4 areas of Autonomy.

  1. Technique
  2. Team
  3. Time
  4. Task

2) Mastery

People want to master things, they really do.  When I think of my projects, hobbies, and career, I can see the desire for mastery at work.  Why do many of us teachers blog?  To become better teachers.  Why do some people run 3+ days a week?  To become better runners.  What is the reward for doing these things?  Certainly not a bigger paycheck.  It's the desire to get better.  

3) Purpose

But the questions beg: Why do we want to be better teachers or runners?  What's our purpose?  I run to be healthy and honestly there's some vanity too :).  I want to be a better teacher because my job is important and has an impact on the future generation(s).  

Using the Three Elements of Motivation in Lesson Planning


1) Technique:  Let the students decide how they're going to accomplish their assignment.  They decide if it's analogue or digital.  Maybe it's a video, a puppet show, whatever.  

2) Team:  I don't think students should be allowed to pick their own groups willy-nilly, but I do believe they should have some input.  I had a lot of group-creating success this year with student-input.  First, I asked students to list their classmates that they work well with.  I emphasized that this was not a list of their friends, it was a list of the people they work well with.  From their suggestions I created their groups, making sure to separate students who I know don't work well together.  

Also, students have very little say as to who their teacher will be.  For example, I am the only Algebra 1B teacher in our district.  I have a student who prefers her teacher from last year and she does not want to be in my class.  She is cooperative and seems to have nothing against me, she just prefers a different teacher.  Is that so terrible?

3) Time:  In our school system we don't have a lot of leeway over time.  We are assigned a time slot in the day to meet with each group of students and that is that.  Period.  I struggle with this one and I think a lot of people do.  This is why so many of our students who leave for cyber school come back; they have not learned time-management yet.  Two years ago, I tried the flipped-mastery model in my classroom.  That's where the students could work through the curriculum at their own pace and I was there to help.  Many students wasted their time in class but also didn't complete their work at another time.  I could use some help on this one.

4) Task:  I'm trying to include more options for students to learn and practice in class.  I also try to hit each area in Bloom.  This way students have more of a say in which task they are going to complete, rather than me telling them exactly what to do that moment.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Robot Function Fighters - Classroom Game

I am so excited to tell you about my new game Robot Function Fighters.  I will be presenting this game (and others) at the NCTM Conference in Philly.  You can join me on Tuesday, November 1 from 3:15 - 4:30 in room 201A.

If reading about games isn't your thing, there is a video explanation at the bottom of this post.

Educational Objective:  Students will be able to evaluate expressions and compose functions.

Game Objective:  Collect the most victory tokens by winning bot fights.


Deck of Cards (1 per player)
I printed my cards on computer paper, then placed them in a clear card sleeve with old playing cards.

Building Mat (1 per player)  This is printed on 8.5" by 14" paper and laminated.

Dice (D4, D6, D8, D10, and eventually D12)

Victory Tokens (buttons, pennies, anything small to keep score)

Game Set Up:

Each player takes a deck of cards and a building mat.  Shuffle the cards and place them face down on the "Draw Pile".

Place the victory tokens and dice in the middle of the table.

The Cards:

There are two types of cards in the deck: robot base cards and enhancement cards.

These are the robot base cards.

These are the enhancement cards.

To have a complete robot it must have a robot base and two enhancements.

In the photo above you can see two completed robots.  The one of the left uses a 6-sided die (the number is indicated on the upper left of the card) and has the enhancements of annoying poke and fire breath.  The robot on the right uses a 10-sided die and has the enhancements of speed and magic.

To determine a robot's fighting power:
Let's take a look at the robot on the left.  I would roll the D6 and let's say I rolled a 5.  I would substitute the 5 into the first enhancement of annoying poke and get (5) + 4 = 9.  Next I would take that answer of 9 and substitute it into the second enhancement of fire breath and get 2(9) - 1 = 17.  Therefore the fighting power of the robot on the left with a roll of 5 would be 17.

Another example:  This time let's take a look at the robot on the right.  This time I would roll a D10 and let's say I rolled a 7.  I would substitute 7 into the first enhancement of speed and get 2(7) - 2 = 12.  Next I would take that answer of 12 and substitute it into the second enhancement of magic and get 2(12) + 1 = 25.  Therefore the fighting power of the robot on the right with a roll of 7 would be 25.

If these two robots were battling each other the robot on the right would win.

Game Play:

There are three phases to the game:

Phase 1)

All players take cards from the draw pile until they have 5 in their hand.

Phase 2)

All players can place up to three cards face up in the building area of their mat.

Phase 3)

Any player who has a completed robot must place one in the arena (middle of the table) to battle.

Move any robot in the recharge station to a building station.

Each player with a robot in the arena rolls the corresponding die and determines his robot's fighting power for that round.

The player who has the highest fighting power that round is the winner.  He takes a victory token and places his robot in the recharge station of his mat.

All players who lost the battle must place their robot in the junkyard on their mat.

End of Game:

The game ends when no one is able to battle.

Winning the Game:

The player with the most victory tokens at the end of the game is the winner.
If there is a tie, the players who are tied take the robot from the bottom of their junkyard to battle.  The winner of that battle is the winner of the game.


Can I disassemble a robot to use its parts for another robot?
No.  Once a robot is built, it must stay that way.

Can one robot have the same enhancement twice?
Yes.  For example, a robot's first enhancement could be magic and the second enhancement can be magic again.

What if I have no room left to build a robot?
If you are unable to place any cards in the building area, you will skip that phase until the next round.

What if I'm the other person with a robot out in the arena?
If you are the other person to have a robot in the arena, treat it as a win: place your robot in the recharge station and take a victory point.

What if I only have enhancement cards or only robot base cards in my hand?
You may (but are not required to) put them on the bottom of your draw pile and draw five new cards.

Do I have to place three cards in the building area during phase 2?
No, you may place 0, 1, 2, or 3 cards at that time.

Print and Play:

Rule Document


Mat (This is printed on 8.5" x 14" paper)