New Year (Semester End!) Musings

The November/December high-speed train has made its yearly visit, and though I am certainly still exceedingly busy I've got some thoughts swirling around that I'd like to share. 

With only about 10 days left with my students I am firmly entrenched in a familiar January struggle that has me torn between doing what I need to do (some marking, end of semester conferences, prep for exams) and what I want to do (drop everything and work on plans for next semester). Spending a few minutes blogging seems like a great way to avoid making a decision about the other things. :)

Shortly before the Christmas break, my pre-holiday frenzy was interrupted by this blog post by Susan Campo. She wonders about the meaning of a 30% final evaluation in a gradeless classroom and reading her post put me into a strange head space. Having jumped back into the classroom this year trying lots of new things I hadn't posed this question myself...and it really threw me for a loop.

My path this year has led…

Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I've got an hour to spare and need to get caught up on this blog (not a little bit, a 'lotta' bit, as my daughter would say) is hard to express how busy October and November have been, personally and professionally, but I am determined to remain committed to writing about (and reflecting on) my teaching and learning this year. (In other words, WAY too early in the year to fall off the blogging bandwagon!)

This post contains:
#BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations/Conversations
Scroll down to the part you want to's a very long post! :) 

November 9-10 at #BIT17 Conference

It was wonderful to return to BIT this year, but so different than the last three years because I was leaving my classroom. Preparing for the conference while planning for my absence had my mind spinning a bit. I was presenting on work that I had done in the last two years as STEAM coordinator on the Program and Innovation team. This work was very dear to me, yet…

Student Voice in Science

I have been thinking about ways I can invite student voice into my Science classroom. Here are a things I have found valuable so far this year.

Revisiting Lab Notebooks
Many years ago, I asked that my Chemistry students keep a lab notebook to use for lab work. The purpose of the notebooks, at that time, was for students to record their data during the lab activity, then to write their 'lab report' in the notebook when the activity was over. I abandoned this practice at some point, finding the stack of lab notebooks made a formidable marking pile that I dreaded tackling. I think now that it may have been the monotony of marking 30 or 60 identical labs that I was actually dreading.

This year, my grade 12 students are using lab notebooks for some of their lab activities. Their first use of their notebooks was during our first learning cycle when they were asked to design and perform an experiment to electroplate a metal object. I made it clear to my students that their lab notebo…

First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 2

OK, so it has been about a week since the last brain dump...time for another. Lots of turkey between then and now. :) I hope everyone had a restful weekend.

Last time, I left off explaining that my grade 12 students and I were going to come to a consensus about a grade that represents their learning in the first chemistry unit. For this to happen, the students and I each had some homework to do first:

Students completed a self-assessment based on the overall learning goals for the unit, assigning themselves a level (1-4) for each item. After that, they had the option of assigning themselves a grade or grade range) that they felt represented their learning so far.Using my data (from product, conversation, and observation) I assigned each student a grade range based on their progress (75-80, 80-85, etc.) 
Students submitted their self-assessments to me so that I had time to read their comments. The majority of students in my two classes have submitted their self-assessments for the firs…

First Unit Gradeless in 12U Chem, Part 1

I would love to write a very long blog post right now, but just don't have the time, so I'm going to try to share what's been happening in a few 'shorter' posts (they won't actually be short, because I don't have time this week to edit them down to their I hope you don't mind if it feels more like a train of thought).

Student Point of View so FarAt the end of last week my grade 12 students had come to the 'end' of their electrochemistry unit having not received a single grade. I used single point rubrics to give feedback on their lab reports and written & verbal feedback for our quick quizzes and the unit test. On Friday my students were asked to complete a very brief survey with a single question.

What are your reflections about our gradeless classroom so far? Be honest and open. This survey is anonymous.

I currently have about 50 students in this course, and the responses from students varied. Here are some of the respo…

Knowing my students and focusing on feedback

Getting to know my students

Three weeks in and I am feeling at home in my classroom. I have had one-on-one conversations with most of my students to find out about their expectations and concerns related to Science class. I asked students to provide me with a range of numeric report card grades that would make them feel successful at the end of the semester. I plan to use these ranges as a reference for me throughout the semester so that I can let students know if they are on track since they will not be getting grades on their assignments. 

I had a few difficult moments during these discussions. A handful of students (in grade 9 and 12) expressed concerns about being in the 'right place,' in some cases questioning whether they were 'smart enough' to be there. I asked questions to find out the reasons for their concerns, and tried to push back as much as possible without discounting their concerns completely. I always struggle a bit with this early in the semester, when …

First Week Back

So, I've been back in the classroom for a full week after 3 years away from the classroom. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections in no particular order...

Who are all these people?
I am teaching at the same school that I had previously taught at for about 10 years. It is wonderful to have the comforts of 'home' (I can find things I need, lots of familiar teacher faces, routines are similar) but it is disorienting that I don't know any students. At all. With my grade 9's this doesn't make a difference, but my grade 12's have their 'stranger danger' radar on, wondering who I am and whether they can trust me. This means more work for me when it comes to building relationships. The silver lining is that my students and I are all starting out with a clean slate. A fresh start like this is worth the skeptical glances and skill-testing questions being thrown my way.

Changing how I do business
"Less me, more them" is one of the general the…