Ready for round 2?

Second semester is starting tomorrow and I just wanted to get down my ideas on things I will be changing and things I will be keeping…..

New things…

I’ll be using the spreadsheet I modified from @alicekeeler. Although I plan on using Kyle Pearce’s further modified version.

I have slightly modified old my assessment approach (again). I’ll share later.

Kyle and I have been Tweeting back and forth all weekend about spiralling our grade 9 applied classes. We have been teaching using an inquiry based approach (4 part math lesson) and thought that spiralling would fit right in. We’ll keep you posted. Here is my day-to-day plan by topic and task, so far .

I’ll Continue….

a ton of stuff….but here are a few

Keeping my students curious.

Strengthening the connection between algebraic representations and graphical representations using Desmos! 

Documenting my class by taking a picture/tweet for every school day.

Warm ups – To start every class we do a warm up / starter. Most of these starters are math related but for me the most important part is that the starters allow our class to “Gel”. My buddy @Regan_bio is an advocate for always saying we should show our students that we are human and remember they are human too. Take the first 5 minutes of class and be a good human with your kids…..maybe they will be more ready to do some math!

Recently Mary Bourassa has shared her great list of daily warm ups for her grade 10 applied class. Check out her warm ups.

Here’s what we have been doing…

Monday’sEstimation180 – As a class we complete one of these great challenges (10 minutes). We track our progress on Andrew’s / Michael Fenton’s provided handout.

Tuesday’s – Visual Patterns. I choose a pattern for us to determine the equation.

Wednesday’s – Pictionary – Our class is split into two teams. They take turns drawing and guessing objects, sayings, math ideas that I have picked out. Most of the time this is a non math game. (10 minutes)

Thursday’s – Throw Back Thursday — I choose a question / skill that my class has been exposed to in the past and we work on our whiteboards on this as a review question.

Friday’s – 20 Questions. — I pick something and the class has 20 yes or no questions to try and guess what I have picked. We then play a second round where the class together picks something and I try to guess. (10 minutes).

Have an exciting second semester everybody!


Around this time of year we get bogged down. The semester is ending, we’re getting our exams in order, EQAO is here, kids are realizing that this is the end too!, extra help sessions at lunch.
I was feeling the crunch a bit this week and then read this post from @stoodle

I thought I would throw a list of my ten good things from 2014 together. It’s good for my self reflection and to remind myself I did some good this semester. I’m going to tag a few teachers on Twitter and challenge them to put a list together.

Here are my ten good things from 2014

1. I’m adaptable. I try lots of new strategies, tools, tech out in class and when something doesn’t go as planned I make do!

2. Students seem to not hate me

3. I’m not afraid of technology. If I see something that will enhance my students’ learning. I’ll give it a shot! My favourite this last semester: @PearDeck

4. My students now use Desmos as part of their vocabulary.

5. My use of open questions gets kids to think first. They try it first —instead of waiting for me to show them.

6. Because of Twitter and my pln I have grabbed lots of ideas and have tons of strategies for lessons.

7. Using estimation180 is making students see reasonableness in their answers. The estimating we do as warm ups is carriying through to solving problems. They are better are judging whether their answer makes sense or not.

8. I love creating three act lessons like here and here. Vowing to do more in 2015!

9. Changing my assessment practices has been working great this year. Mastery of learning and Standards based assessment is my new norm.

10. I’ve always felt that I’m disorganized but the other day my senior class called me the most organized teacher in the school. Maybe they were being sarcastic?

What are your ten good things?

We Like Those Stinkin’ Badges!

I was sick one day this week and instead of laying in bed binge watching Netflix I spent a good chunk of the day reading blogs on assessment.

For the last year or so I’ve been trying out different methods for students to keep track of their own learning. I’ve been slowly moving my assessment techniques away from the standard unit test (too bad kid if you failed that test….try harder on the next unit kinda thing) to mastery learning and standards based assessment.

I’ve been using a system like Dan’s and have wanted to jazz it up a bit to incorporate a more game like feel (Especially after seeing his talk on Video Games and Math Class)
I came across Alice Keeler’s blog and wow!!! she is a Jedi on Google! I especially love her google sheets for levelling up and awarding badges and Gamifying Searching Google Drive. I felt that a combination of these two ideas was exactly what I wanted.
So again instead of watching House of Cards on Netflix, I modified Alice’s sheets to create a system that works form me.
Here is what I came up with….
I created a Master List which will keep track of each student and their level/achievement on the expectations/learning goals.
Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.27.06 PM
 I created a Student tab/sheet which will show a student their current mark on each learning goal, the level (stars), and a mastery badge (if awarded). The best part about the student tab is that it is completely automatic. Everything on that tab is populated using formulas. The only thing I need to enter on that page is the individual student numbers.
Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.30.49 PM
This student page is what the student will see. They can look here to check their “score” on each learning goal. See how many badges they’ve earned toward mastering their learning. I just need to publish each of the student sheets and share the public link with each of those students. (Read at the end of the post to see how)

Here is the process…..and this is where I may need some help…

For my senior students:
We will have weekly to semi-weekly “rolling” assessments. On each assessment I’ll assess up to 4 learning goals. For example, the first one it will be learning goals 1 through 4. The second assessment will assess 2 through 5 and so on. The second and third times assessing the same learning goal will include tougher questions.
Every time a student does better on a learning goal they get the better mark. I go to the master sheet take out the old mark and put in the new one!! Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.52.50 PM
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It magically shows up on the students score page.
To get a badge the student will have to have demonstrated mastery of the learning goal. For me this is the student has demonstrated that they know the concept repeatedly. To award the student a badge I just have to put an M in the second column of the learning goal…..and voila! a badge shows up on the student score page!
Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.04.17 PM
My students will have a visual record of their achievement. They can also request “upgrades” on any learning goal! They can set a date and time to come in and get another assessment testing that learning goal. Their mark should always reflect the amount of knowledge they know rather than the knowledge they know on test day.
Check out the badges tab, Alice has included a ton of different badges. You could set up the different badges you want displayed. You will need to just edit the formula in the badges column on the student tab. (Do this before you make a copy for each student).
Here are some samples of badges I’m creating to award mastery of learning goals.
Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 8.27.27 AM
Currently my sheet is set up for 20 learning goals. If you need to add more, do it before you make copies for each student. Fill all the formulas down on the student page.
If you want to try this out:
    1. Definitely go and see Alice’s blog and see what she’s got.
    2. Download a copy of my Spreadsheets and give it a whirl 
    3. Let me know how it’s going by commenting here or sending me a tweet @MrOrr_Geek


After showing Alice the new sheets she pointed me to her Template Tab sheet which will automatically create tabs/sheets for each student!! Awesome.

Here’s how to share the student tabs with kids

Share the first student sheet by choosing publish to the web..

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Choose the first student to publish and hit publish (Do not choose Entire Document). It will give you a link copy that link!

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.34.43 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.34.49 PM


Create a brand new spreadsheet and paste that link beside a cell with the student’s student number.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.34.59 PMRepeat this for every student. I know it seems like a lot of work at the start, but that will be it!!

Now you can share that one document with your class and they can always access their score sheet!



Changing the Test!

I’ve never been comfortable with how we traditionally evaluate students in math. It has bugged me that I test on a specific date, then move on. We tell the kids to not forget that material, but never really give them credit for doing that!

Yet our curriculum documents say we should do otherwise…..

First one,

From The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Mathematics, 2007 (revised)

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 3.12.02 PMThis document DOESN’T say that students will know __________ skill by Nov. 3 (or any other date). We have traditionally done this! We have set a unit test after we have taught the unit…..the student prepares for the test; writes the test……then they concept and skill is not assessed or evaluated formally again until the exam!!!

We’ve got all year/semester to get them to demonstrate these skills. We should have an assessment/evaluation policy that reflects this.

Second one,

From Growing Success:

“The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning.”


Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 3.01.00 PM

Our main goal should be to help students learn math “better”!!! Our assessments should be apart of this!

Traditional teachers are going to argue “We need to prepare them for university”—- My argument is that I want them to know their stuff well! I want to show them that they can always do a little better. I want their minds to grow, their math knowledge isn’t static. (Also, I remember from my university days, professors saying that if you did better on the final then they would take this mark as your whole mark…..rewarding learning!)

My new philosophy:

Everything is upgradeable!!

Here is what I’ve been doing for grade 12 evaluations lately:

1. I still have the test on test day! No different than before.

2. I mark the test and hand it back. I remind the students that all skills/concepts are upgradeable!!

3. The students then sign up for help/upgrade session at lunch, or down time during class.

The student is to bring their test/evaluation with them….we go over it together discussing missed concepts. We pick together curriculum expectations that they can upgrade.

Say, for example A student received 1 out of 4 on a question testing the skill  “Solving polynomial Equations”. We discuss the mistakes and the students can re-do that question. Once that question is correct I give the student another, new question that tests the same concept. If that student can prove they know the concept two times in a row….then I give the original test marks to the student….they now get 4/4 on that question. (I keep helping and giving questions to the student until they can complete it on their own. )

5. I then go into my markbook and change the marks!

Here is a recording sheet (nothing revolutionary) I use so that I can track their upgrades. Most upgrades span multiple days.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 3.58.36 PM

They can do this for any concept/skill from the test….they can do this for every test.

So can a student get 100% on a test? My answer: Sure! Does every student in my class get 100%  Not even close…. I wish they would! They have that option.

If my students know and can demonstrate the skills and concepts of my course consistently why wouldn’t I give them full marks!!! Their mark is supposed to represent their learning and knowledge…..not their work ethic!

The students’ attitude toward test days have changed. Some are working harder before the test so they don’t have to spend their lunch time upgrading…..some have told me their anxiety towards their tests have been lifted!

Other teachers who helped my with my thinking:

Dan Meyer:  The Comprehensive Math Assessment Resource

Evan Weinburg: Standards Based Grading: Bridging the Gap

Most recently: Mary Bourassa: Rethinking Tests – who inspired me to write this post.

This process is most likely debatable and definitely can be improved upon. I am still learning this process myself and would love to discuss these ideas, so please leave some feedback!