We’re looking forward to attending the National Middle School Association’s Annual Conference. We hope to provide you with several posts about our experiences there. This is always one of the very best conferences around. If you have the opportunity- Go.
Posts by Troy:
In episode #6, we take a look at Common Assessments. We discuss the various levels of common assessement, the structure and Formative vs Summative assessments. We also take a quick look at the assessments from a students point of view.
We even take a look at a video from Carpenter Middle School. (This one is from TeacheTube).
We also take a look at some technology that can help.
Finally, we discuss rubrics (and where you can make them easily).
Hey, on this week’s show we take a look at Homework. Why do we even have homework? What is the theory behind homework? Why are some parents trying to stop homework? Shawn and I discuss whether or not homework should be an every night experience and how much is enough? how much is “too much”? What are some ideas behind getting more homework turned in? Tune in to the podcast for all the answers, but here’s a taste of some of the discussion.
Vicki Quinn is a new teacher who writes about her experience in examining homework. She found that the best came from (surprise, surprise) students. She had started by always giving homework under the belief that it would help students stay focused and learn new skills. However, she soon discovered that the students weren’t participating in class discussions, (why read the stuff for homework if the teacher is just going to discuss it anyway?), and were failing basic comprehension quizzes. She also came to the realization that her 20-40 minutes of homework was combined with other classes to add up to 4 hours of homework every evening. She asked around about homework policies and discovered that there was no uniformity in ideas, beliefs or theories. She decided to ask the students. They also gave her mixed results. Some had no problem with time management or outside activities. Others preferred to do homework during the week and have weekends to relax.
One idea is to make sure that the homework has more relevance. Wormeli points out that students will quickly tire of copying sections (answers) from the chapter. There are a myriad of other ways that students can demonstrate knowledge, or move the information from short term into long term memory. One of those methods is called RAFT (Roles, Audience, Formats, Time). This allows students to take a point of view and “argue” from that point. Wormeli provides an example, borrowed from his article, below:
RAFT [from Rick Wormeli’s “Help With Homework“]
|Joseph McCarthy||PTA||Comic Strip||1950|
|Zoologist||Reporters||Invitation||Arrival of Endangered Species|
|Dot.com CEO||Senior Citizens||Card Game||1995|
One of the really nice things about this is that a teacher could quickly set this up. It allows for students to take different roles without a ton of time or work from the teacher. Once the students had done a couple, the teacher could provide a couple for each row and then solicit other examples from the students.
Some tips for parents (or to share with parents):
- Emphasize quality over quantity.
- Take time to discuss homework completed. Ask your child to explain the key ideas.
- Ask to see homework that has been checked by a teacher. If students know homework will be checked, they are more likely to complete it.
from the NMSA webpage, The Family Connection, 2004, Vol. 8., No. 1
Tips for Success! [from: http://www.waunakee.k12.wi.us/midlschl/homework.htm ]
- Write down assignments. Calendars, planners, or learning logs are great!
- Use self-stick notes. Attach them to books needed for homework. Take home everything with a note on it.
- Get organized. File papers and divide a binder into sections or designate folders for each subject.
- Make “to do” lists. Create a list of tasks to complete during study time. Crossing them off will help stay focused and feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Set up a study spot. Choose a place that is well lit, quiet, comfortable, neat, stocked with the needed supplies, and attractive.
- Stick with study routine. Consider setting a required work time when your child is most alert.
- Set priorities. Make test preparation a priority over other activities. . It is probably best to start with the hardest subjects because they demand the most energy and attention. However, sometime starting with the easy parts may help get started. Short, regular breaks help most people think better.
- Be supportive. Expect that homework/studying will always be done well. Keep a positive attitude. Keep criticisms to a minimum. Be a good listener to your child’s frustrations, and help your child set reasonable goals for reading and writing assignments, test preparation, and projects.
- Follow through. Encourage your child to review all assignments before placing them in his/her backpack If your child doesn’t complete homework, consider reducing the freedom your child has until grades and effort improve.
- Reward orderliness and hard work. Display well-done work in a prominent place in your home.
We also discuss the movement against homework. Most of this seems to be centered at the elementary level, but still we need to be aware that there are some parents against it.
Join us next week. Our intended topic is Common Assessment. Drop us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
As noted in the previous post, podcast #4 is ready to go. This podcast revolves around the issue of grading with emphasis on zeros. We take a look at an article by Douglas Reeves, an article by the wonderful Rick Wormeli and an article from the Principals’ Partnership.These take a look at the effect of zeros. Dr. Reeves states “Most state standards in mathematics require that fifth-grade students understand the principles of ratios — for example, A is to B as 4 is to 3; D is to F as 1 is to zero. Yet the persistence of the zero on a 100-point scale indicates that many people with advanced degrees, including those with more background in mathematics than the typical teacher, have not applied the ratio standard to their own professional practices.” This is a very powerful statement.
There is a lot to consider in terms of grading. The one thing that educators really need to do is to understand how grades are determined and figured. We need to understand the realities of how grades are earned. Even more importantly, students need to understand how grades are determined and figured.
Also in this podcast, we take a look at a couple of way to address tardiness and homework. Specifically, we look at a couple of ways to get homework turned in (see post below)
Next week, we’ll take a deeper look at homework and common assessments. If you have questions you’d like answered, contact us.
There is a difference with this podcast. This one is an enhanced podcast. The difference means that you have clickable links (if you’re listening using iTunes), album art, and chapters (which allow you to skip to a particular part of the podcast easily). The tradeoff is that it is harder to sync to non-iPod players. We can easily provide a link to an mp3 version, which should play on anything that plays mp3’s if need be. If you’d like an mp3 version, just let us know.
It looks like we have our technical issues licked. That’s right, if you subscribe via iTunes, you’ll be able to grab both shows so far. This would also automatically download the freshest podcasts as they are posted. You can preview each episode in iTunes as well. We are happy as a well, let’s just say that we are happy. Now we can get on to important middle school stuff.
One of my first adventures will be working with our Advisory programs. This year we are going to use some of the ideas from the Adventure Education program. What an exciting time!
Today’s news story:Test Scores show early prep key
Here’s what I found most interesting about the story:
- “The effective way to raise ACT scores is to strengthen the rigor of the curriculum,” Drew said.
- Summer reading — reading during summer vacation
has been expected of older students for a long time, but Drew said the
summer reading requirement was extended to second grade recently.
“The summer reading program isn’t enrichment, it is required. The
students are scored for their projects associated with the books,” Drew
- “Vocabulary books are used starting in the second grade. These vocabulary books correlate to other subject areas.”
The first point seems obvious and we say it often enough. But do we really implement it?
The second point is the one that fascinates me the most. It really talks about several different things. All of these things are quite beautiful. First of all, there is the presumption that students will work “independently”. Second, this assumes that parents will play an active role in the education of their child. Thirdly, there is a spiraling effect in place. Students are expected to just learn stuff and then move on.
The third point is equally interesting. It’s really easy to forget about the basics when teachers are told to teach to higher level critical thinking skills. And that is what we need to do. However, that doesn’t preclude the teaching of basics. Teachers do feel time pressures. That can lead to “skipping the basics” to get to the teaching of higher skills. However, what really needs to happen is that teachers need to fully utilize their time. Certainly teachers can’t take all of their teaching time on basic skills but need to incorporate them into the lessons.
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I was thinking back to a story that I had heard quite a long time ago. For some reason, the story has stuck with me. (Stories are really terrific ways to learn things as all middle school educators know). Anyway, the story is the story of Jerry. It’s a story about attitude that puts some things in perspective. Here’s a link to the story. It is an extremely short story, but worth your time. I hope that you enjoy it. Anyone who reads the story will certainly remember the part about the doctors.
Anyone else have a similar story about attitude?
I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar through ASCD today. The topic was the “whole child”. This is a natural tenet for middle school educators, but it is interesting to see ASCD take on the issue. (You can check out the ASCD project through this link.) There were several interesting things about the webinar. There were about a dozen participants. We ranged geographically from California to New York. Our occupations ranged from State level administrators to Superintendents to Principals. It was an interesting way to discuss and share amongst people that wouldn’t have gotten together at all. It certainly was a different experience than a normal conference.
We had the opportunity to look over some of the documents and give feedback. The crux of the conversation formed around involving the community into the development of children. Part of this was focused around lobbying politicians, but most of it was very hands on about getting individuals in the community involved. This is something that is always easy in theory, but harder in practice. With everything else that is going on in school right now, this is one more “ball to throw into the air”. However, it is very important that we remember that kids are more than test scores. Please don’t misconstrue that statement. Academics is extremely important. Test scores are crucial. All kids need to achieve to high scores. However, schooling should also be about even more than that. Not at the expense of academics, but in addition.
Well, after months of planning on the hows, we’ve finally finished out first podcast. We had a good time. I’m sure that some of the segments will change over time, but we’d really appreciate some feedback. Take a listen and let us know what you think.
Our next podcast will be published at the end of August. We’ll go to weekly podcasts after that. We have some exciting guests lined up. Give it a listen and let us know what you’d like to hear for the future episodes.