Posted in going gradeless, individualized learning, mini conferences, self-paced learning, student engagement, student-led assessment, Teaching

I cannonballed in! Aaaaaah! #IMMOOC


So here is the text of the email I just composed and hit send to my principal:

Since this summer I have been learning about how to do assessment differently. I have read the book: by Starr Sackstein and have subscribed to the author’s Youtube channel (Watch her TEDxYouth talk here: ) with her video reflections about implementing a classroom without traditional points or letter grades for her assignments.

Obviously, she had to enter letter grades at the grading periods but she was given permission by her principal to use a coding system in a standards based grade book (Like JUMPROPE) for the assignments rather than points and percentages and she conferenced constantly with students with helpful feedback like the SE2R explained here:

One of the keys to a successful student-centered, Results Only Learning Environment is the use of narrative feedback over grades. Although feedback isn’t …

She used projects with clear guidelines aligned with the standards they had to focus on and she interspersed mini lessons and discussions for concepts that needed to get demonstrated in the project. She conferenced on a weekly schedule about the learning, and sent them back to re-do and improve until the grading period came. By the end of the year she had students talking about their learning and not the points they had earned.

There is research to support the idea that when students receive a grade, they tend to shelve the learning and stop wanting to improve anything on that one thing
How One Weird Finding Changed My Perspective on Grades Now that I know, there’s no going back

At the grading period she would give the students a reflection assignment in which they had to provide evidence of their learning according to the standards they had been working on and together they decided on the grade that they should have recorded in the grade book. All of this is also supported by the characteristics of growth mindset as well.

Here is a podcast with Mark Barnes speaking on his book Assessment 3.0 (which I have yet to get and read myself). He is speaking with the hosts of the podcast, a superintendent and his assistant from Pennsylvania.

Each episode we leave you with a couple of questions to think about…with the idea of provoking conversation. This episode’s question: Ask us a question or suggest …

And this is a TEDtalk by Mark Barnes explaining more about giving feedback instead of grades:

I would very much like to embark on this journey of downplaying grades and up-playing enjoyment of and awareness of learning to reduce the number of D’s and F’s in my DL classes. If you give me the go-ahead, I will be making a series of YouTube videos myself to document what I am doing, keeping data, and teaching students about how to take and give feedback. I will make my experience public to share with the parents and kids.
Let me know what you think and if you are ok with this, I will make a more deliberate, detailed plan of what I will do.

Mrs./Maestra Espinoza

South Meadows Middle School

Dual Language Science teacher

Room 118

503-844-1220 ext. 5878

Posted in Chromebooks, Google classroom, individualized learning, middle school science, NGSS, Project based learning, student engagement, Teaching

Where’s the passion?

I am naturally curious about the way things work. My children are naturally curious about the way things work. Most youngsters are naturally curious about the way things work, however, I don’t see many signs of this curiosity in most of my students.

I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s just the age. They are 12-13 years old and their lives are changing so drastically. They are focused on themselves and where they fit in the social scene, where they rank in the games they play, who is the best or worst at soccer or getting the attention of the opposite sex.

Sometimes I think that maybe it’s me. Am I a boring teacher? Do I fail to be “with it”?

I am challenged to include videos and online activities in my lessons but all too often the students don’t’ get as enthusiastic as I expected about it all.

Could project based learning be an answer? I read and watch videos about other teachers doing things within the community, projects that seem to be meaningful to their students. But are these teachers having us look through rose-colored glasses and we only see the great things that are happening? I wonder…

How do I find the things that will turn my students on to science? This is what I am taking up as a challenge this summer as I prepare for next year.

I have been granted enough Chromebooks to have a near 1:1 ratio in my 2015-16 classroom. I am boning up on the NGSS in a class I will take through the local University and I will be taking several PD courses about using Google classroom and Chromebooks.

My vision is to have an interactive, hands-on, computer data crunching, student centered classroom that will come alive with budding science enthusiasts. Woah! Is that too idealistic or just optimistic?

We’ll see.