Thursday, May 5, 2016


I've thrown my back out. Again. Might have something to do with the enormous amount of personal-life stress, coupled with trying to teach 85 angsty teens 3 weeks from the end of school.

Anyway, it hurts to walk. So I had to come up with a way to teach from behind my desk today. So I uploaded some old powerpoints of today's notes to NearPod, checked out the school's iPad mini cart, and voila! Quick, easy way to make a lesson interactive. They liked having the notes sitting on their desk. I heard lots less whining about not being able to see.  I will definitely have to do this more often (and not just on days when it hurts to walk)!

Next, we did a page on Central Angles and Arcs. Not the most exciting page, but I think it got the job done. And the kids LOVED being able to try the examples and get immediate, individualized feedback on their work. It also let them make mistakes safely. A wrong answer is often the best teaching tool. "Nope, that's wrong. Here's why." A few even got ruffled because I didn't specifically call them by name when they got it right. Sorry, kid! We were running out of time!

Here's a sample Wrong Answer. Nearpod will let you share one students work onto all devices (without showing the student's name). I showed them this one and we talked about how arcs have to be named using their endpoints as the first and last letter, and how a middle letter is only required when the arc goes the long-way-round (major arc). If there is a point on a minor arc, its letter doesn't have to be included. Arc LP is only part of the intercepted arc, so this answer was incorrect. 

Here's a correct answer. I showed them this one and we talked about how we could write a lazier answer by leaving out the unnecessary P. 

By number 3, most of them had it down but there were still issues of wrong thinking we could address. I told this student they were on the right track, but they subtracted from the wrong "total" number. Subtracting from 180 in a geometry problem has better-than-even odds of getting the right answer, but not this time. 

Still have no idea what this kid was thinking. 

Subtraction mistakes. Still a struggle in high school. He had the right idea though. 

Friday, March 11, 2016


I. Hate. Retests. 

Which probably means I was doing it wrong. Whatevs. Here's what I tried. 

I grade "standards based" I put it in quotes because I'm sure I'm not doing it the exact right way. I grade on a 0-4 scale, 3's and 4's stand, no retest. 0, 1, 2... failing. Retest. Test days usually had multiple skills tested, but never more than 4. It was a way to weed out skills mastered vs skills to try again. 

The first time I offered retests, they had a mandatory work component. Students had to complete a worksheet and get it checked by me before they could complete their retest. I would let them retest any time during class, before school, after school... anytime. This ate up HUGE amounts of copies (Which were only $0.01 at the time) and students generally didn't make any attempt. I was juggling a ridiculous amount of paper work for nothing. Total waste of energy. 

The next semester, I scheduled retests. On the next test day, they had a retest on the material they'd failed from the previous test. They still had to do the work component to get credit. Still a ton of wasted effort, but at least I wasn't jumping up to give a retest every hour of the day. 

Enter "Learning Management System."  For the next semester, retests were now online, I could assign retests to only the students who needed them AND make the work component mandatory... all while using ZERO extra copies. That was honestly the best part, because now we get only 1500 copies for the year and additional copies cost $0.02 PER SIDE.  This is great, right? Wrong. They still didn't take advantage. Ok, some students did. But as a general rule, I was spending WAY WAY WAY more time on this than they were. We were spending hours in the computer lab, and since every student's assignments were individualized, I couldn't possibly keep track of who was supposed to be doing what. A lot of that time was wasted because they told me they were done, and I didn't have time to check up after them. Class sizes were only in the high 20s.

Next semester (now with over 32 in each class), I removed the work component. Because in the state of Alabama, the best way to make sure everyone succeeds is to place the bar so low, even a slug could flop over it accidentally. All of the HOURS I had spent writing retests, assigning them, reassigning them for absent students, finding lab time in a school with 2 labs and over 100 teachers... Might have made a difference in the averages for a couple of kids. That should be worth it, but it wasn't. It wasn't worth it to me because it was burning me out. And honestly, those averages might have been better if the students knew there wasn't a massive safety net to catch them when they didn't make the effort. 

So for the final grading period, I removed the retest option altogether. No late work, no rechecked daily grades, no retests. Do it when it's due, or get a zero. Make-up tests online on your own time within 48 hours of the scheduled test, or it's a zero. I wish I could say that this has lit a fire under my students and made them try harder than they did before. Maybe a couple. I still have more than a few who seem unmotivated by their grades. 

Honestly, my sanity is worth more than the few tenths of a point on a kid's 10th grade math average. I cannot even tell you how much stress has vanished from my days. Correction, it didn't vanish. It was put on my students, where it belonged all along. Now the only one stressing over their grades is THEM. I'm out. I'm no longer going to try and try and redo and recheck and retest... Get your grade or don't. Maybe that's a bad attitude to have, but it's my attitude toward retesting, not instruction. I will talk my self hoarse re-explaining, more examples, say it a new way, tutoring, extra practice... Anything I can do to help until test day. Then it's on you, kid. 

Maybe with the right group of kids, one of these methods would have worked. Maybe not. Maybe I'm presenting it wrong. I don't know. All I know is, I'm not trying it again with this group. 

Has retesting worked in your class? HOW? What did I do wrong? How can I try again without losing my mind?!?