## Tuesday, August 30, 2011

### Something I really did right: Day 1 lesson on really working the rubric

I know I said I was going to go to bed at 8:07, but I wanted to capture and share the essence of something I really did right today in my (mixed 7th and 8th grade) Algebra 1 class.

It was an actual mini-lesson on interpreting -- and more importantly, on using -- the five-point rubric my teammates and I adopted.

Here is my version of the rubric (as a PDF): Rubric handout - Algebra.pdf

WHAT I DID
After the syllabus and the course requirements, I handed out the rubric and had the kids read the bulleted description of each element of a full-credit five-point answer.

We discussed each element, most of which were familiar to all students, but then I really stayed with the topic of "presenting one's work in a neat, organized, and logical manner according to the standards recognized by mathematicians around the world."

My kids are from very varied backgrounds, so we talked about how mathematics has become a lingua franca in our modern world -- so much so that a math teacher in Russia or in Egypt or in India or in Italy could easily read and assess the essence of a math problem written out by a well-trained student who does not speak the same language they do. We marveled at this for a bit (they're very smart and curious middle schoolers!).

Then this was the piece that really pinned the whole thing home.

HAVE THE STUDENTS ASSESS A WORKED PROBLEM USING THE FIVE-POINT RUBRIC
I wrote a very elementary prealgebra problem on the board and told them that the solution I was about to show them was presented on a math assignment turned in by one Hermione Granger. I told them that they were going to have to assess Hermione's work on the problem and justify their score using the rubric we had just reviewed.

Now, of course, being Hermione, she was very meticulous in solving problem #4, showing every step of her work, spacing her work out on the page so that it was easily readable, lining up the equals signs so that equivalence was as visually obvious as it was algebraically.

Then I asked them to give this work a score.

I was really excited by how engaged they were in assessing Hermione's work. One student gave it a five, and then another agreed, citing each of the criteria in the rubric in turn. Then one of the eighth-graders said, in summary, that this made sense because she had shown both that she understood what she was doing AND that she understood that how she presented her work was important in communicating to others that she understood the value in communicating clearly, logically, and neatly.

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded.

I then showed how Ron Weasley had approached the same problem. Unfortunately, Ron started by labeling his paper from 1 to 22, and squashed in problem #4 to fit the meager space he had left on the page, writing smaller and smaller until he had to have his solution creep up the right-hand margin of the page toward where the paper was dated in handwriting so cramped it verged on mental-patient scribblings. He circled his answer near the top of the page.

Then I asked them to assess his work using the rubric.

The students had a hilarious time criticizing the insane-looking presentation of the work. Much hilarity was had at poor Ron's expense, which was fine, since he is a fictional character without actual human emotions.

CONSOLIDATION OF LEARNING
To drive my point home, I took Dreikurs' strategy of using natural and logical consequences as a framing device and asked the class about the different choices Hermione and Ron had made in how they presented their work and their answers.

Everybody agreed that Ron had made lazy, poor choices because even though he had arrived at the "correct" answer, he had done so in a way that sabotaged his own efforts to do well in the class.

There was a lot of repetitive, reinforcing discussion of this point and we concluded that in a situation where you have control over choices (such as how to present your work), it would be foolish and short-sighted to sabotage your chance to have your learning be recognized by a scorer just because you're feeling a little inconvenienced.

And THAT was exactly the point I was hoping they would discover for themselves. Low-cost, high-impact point made.

And now I'm really going to bed.

UPDATE: 14-Sep-11
I created a completely generic downloadable version of my 5-point rubric as a PDF which you are welcome to use / steal. It's on the Math Teacher's Wiki at:  Rubric-5-point-generic.pdf

## Sunday, August 28, 2011

### The Unspoken/Unconscious Curriculum - keeping it both urgent AND important

Setting up my new classroom has caused me to think a lot about what is often called "the hidden curriculum" or "the unspoken curriculum" — the idea that we speak volumes about what value through the unconscious messages we send kids through the way we organize our classrooms, our schools, and our teaching.

Wikipedia has a nice brief overview of the idea of the hidden curriculum:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_curriculum

When I first arrived at my new school and got my classroom, it took me several days to figure out why I felt so depressed whenever I unlocked my classroom. It was only after about a day of taking down the previous occupant's wall hangings that it hit me: everything hanging up was about rules, schedules, and basic skills. Without saying so explicitly in words, it all said, "I the teacher am more concerned with managing your behavior than I am with inspiring your learning." It said, "I too am counting the minutes until the end-of-day bell rings."

It was a big "Ouch" moment.

Now teachers don't do this because they are bad people or boring people. It is simply a conditioned habit of teaching behavior. It's a trance (or a ditch) we've fallen into. But as my mentor always says, "Noticing shifts the energy." And once I've noticed it, I can address it.

So I made a radical U-turn in my classroom design and decorating philosophy. As much as it bothers me to have disorganized shelves and messy cabinets, this both more urgent AND more important:

In my classroom, I want students to be focused on things that are both urgent AND important.

I'll add some pictures later but I wanted to get these thoughts down. In the meantime, I'm wondering, what unspoken curriculum is being emphasized in your classroom?

## Monday, August 8, 2011

### Favorite Tweets: Predictable Tweets Edition

 fnoschese Khaaaaaaan! @fnoschese #predictabletweets 8/6/11 5:44 PM

 fnoschese My life with 5 sons! @dcox21 #predictabletweets 8/6/11 5:58 PM
 park_star Unicorns! @cheesemonkeysf #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:04 PM
 dandersod I (went/ate/listened to) to some totally awesome (bar/snackfood/indie band) only found in Brooklyn. @sarcasymptote #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:10 PM
 dandersod I (went/ate/listened to) to some totally awesome (bar/snackfood/indie band) only found in Brooklyn. @sarcasymptote #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:10 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @dandersod @sarcasymptote Then I passed out on my couch only to wake up covered in Doritos & Nutella. #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:36 PM
 dandersod Sarcastic smart comment. @dcox21 #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:19 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @park_star I love B but he is driving me batty! #predictabletweets #inanadorableway 8/6/11 6:37 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @park_star It could just as well have been "Cute baby behavior captured and shared on Instagram!" #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:40 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @samjshah I just finished another fantastic book -- my __th of the year! #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:41 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @ddmeyer Flying from to and boy are my arms tired! #predictabletweets 8/6/11 6:42 PM
 cheesemonkeysf @cheesemonkeysf Making brownies. #predictabletweets 8/6/11 7:43 PM
 calcpage @fnoschese If Lucy had lived 100 years, she would have been 100 years old (today)! #predictabletweets #fb #in 8/6/11 8:29 PM
 dcox21 I'm trying to read but this Dora the Explorer night light is causing a glare on my iTouch. @jybuell #predictabletweets 8/6/11 8:40 PM
 dcox21 Khan uses the wrong kind of modeling. @fnoschese #predictabletweets 8/6/11 8:41 PM
 dcox21 I finished this Euler problem during the second intermission. @dandersod #predictabletweets 8/6/11 8:42 PM
 dcox21 Where's the ^@*&%# cheese puffs. @sarcasymptote #predictabletweets 8/6/11 8:43 PM
 stardiverr Khan Academy Sucks! @fnoschese #predictabletweets ;P 8/7/11 6:19 AM
 park_star Check out my awesome hair! @k8nowak #predictabletweets 8/7/11 8:58 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @fnoschese Angry Birds in the physics classroom. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:03 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @druinok @fouss Love to laminate. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:08 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @druinok Yet another amazing discovery to share about classroom organization. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:08 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @park_star It's been hours since B did something mischievous. I'm afraid to look. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:09 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @lmhenry9 Sharing something genuinely valuable and insightful about teaching. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:11 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @jreulbach New idea for distracting three high-energy sons while sharing great ideas & funny stuff on Twitter & iPad. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:13 AM
 EmergentMath @cheesemonkeysf "#predictable tweets" #predictabletweets (did I just BLOW YOUR MIND?) 8/7/11 9:14 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @samjshah Time to blame someone on Twitter for something that's annoying me. #predictabletweets #followedbypetulanthashtag 8/7/11 9:15 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @samjshah Justin Bieber #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:29 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @sarcasymptote AM I THE ONLY F***ING TEACHER IN MY BUILDING WHO KNOWS HOW TO READ????? #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:30 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @fnoschese Now I'm going to pretend I'm a serious teacher who didn't start the whole #predictabletweets thing in the first place. #whome 8/7/11 9:38 AM
 samjshah @ddmeyer watch this video of paint drying #anyqs #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:41 AM
 lostinrecursion @ddmeyer watch this video of paint drying #anyqs #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:41 AM
 samjshah @ThinkThankThunk just had a sdnt discover the higgs boson. also, here's 2 blog posts and a 10,000 line program i wrote #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:39 AM
 samjshah @k8nowak frak! school's making us listen to a consultant talk abt withitbutwithoutitness. let's mock it relentlessly NOW #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:36 AM
 samjshah @jreulbach im on the dock with wine whining about my neighbor's LAME party. oh, also here's a math song i wrote. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:34 AM
 samjshah @sarcasymptote i am not a hipster. i play the ukulele, wear cardigans, live in wburg, have a beard, drink in dives #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:32 AM
 calcdave @Mythagon I've had that same problem! Have you tried... #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:49 AM
 calcdave @EDTECHHULK SOMEONE SAY TECH SOLVE ALL WORLD PROBLEMS. SMASH! #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:51 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @fouss Ran 312.2 miles. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 8:58 AM
 cheesemonkeysf @sophgermain Something dry and witty, signed "Love, me." #predictabletweets 8/7/11 8:57 AM

 cheesemonkeysf RT self: @jybuell Just overheard #cubelady say #predictabletweets 8/7/11 8:48 AM
 calcdave @rdkpickle You guys, I missed the convo again because I was listening to some cool band that plays in 17/5 #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:54 AM

 samjshah @cheesemonkeysf finished knitting another dodecahedron. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 9:00 AM
 Fouss Bret Michaels rocks! @Mseiler #predictabletweets 8/7/11 11:19 AM
 Fouss Making some random food that no one else has ever heard of. @cheesemonkeysf #predictabletweets 8/7/11 11:18 AM

 jbrtva @cheesemonkeysf I'm loving the #predictabletweets posts 8/7/11 11:58 AM

 jillbacklund @cheesemonkeysf: How bad can things be when you have 11,842 -10n won tons in your freezer? #predictabletweets" (on nth day of school) 8/7/11 12:08 PM

 cheesemonkeysf “@calcdave: You can pick yr online friends, you can pick yr nose, but you can't pick yr online friends' noses” #predictabletweets 8/7/11 1:17 PM

 park_star @sophgermain aren't they close or something? How long can it take to move into Hogwarts? #isntthereaspellforthat 8/7/11 12:55 PM

 lostinrecursion @lostinrecursion oh no! Something about my flight. Blah blah. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 2:14 PM

 calcdave @vihartvihart Just doodled a solution to P=NP while bored in MATH527. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:54 PM

 calcdave @rjallain New blog about reanalyzing this viral video (that Mythbusters messed up) using Tracker. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:48 PM

 calcdave @sumidiot 30 miles in 1:22:05. Felt like I was going faster, but not bad for morning run. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:32 PM

 calcdave @MSeiler Your printer is fine, just "Open Up and Say... Ahh!" #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:30 PM

 calcdave @CardsChic On a fieldtrip with the kids, but did you see that Westbrook slider? #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:27 PM

 Fouss [insert something totally off the wall but brilliant here] @calcdave #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:26 PM

 calcdave @SweenWSweens Just popping in to say that I have a dance that will show students how to conceptualize the 4th dimension #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:24 PM

 sarcasymptote @jreulbach OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:14 PM

 calcdave @CmonMattTHINK How many sudoku solutions have a box with the numbers in order? #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:21 PM

 calcdave @chrislehmann Philly sports! Also, my adorable kid. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:22 PM

 sarcasymptote @calcdave oh, predicting tweets? kind of like this youtube video? http://t.co/fV0kidU #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:17 PM

 calcdave @approx_normal Was somewhere normal and did something confusingly crazy. The world is different down here. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:15 PM

 calcdave @lmhenry9 Did anybody actually read the chapter this week? #sbarbook #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:13 PM

 sarcasymptote @park_star I'm going to get instant frostbite if I go outside, but it's ok bc we have socialist healthcare! #predictabletweets 8/7/11 12:06 PM

 dethornSTEM @GoGoAliza New blog post about life and NYC and theatre! #predictabletweets 8/7/11 3:16 PM

 cheesemonkeysf @sophgermain -> Amazeballs. #predictabletweets 8/7/11 3:14 PM

 dethornSTEM @paulshakesby The Paul Shakesby Daily is out! #predictabletweets #tooeasy 8/7/11 3:19 PM

 dandersod Hating khan doing yoga while taking care of adorababy. @fnoschesek8nowakpark_star #mergedtweets 8/7/11 3:42 PM

 calcdave "This unicorn on my knit cap vomited sparkles all over my book!" @cheesesamjshahmonkeysf #mergedtweets 8/7/11 4:05 PM

 sockington check check check is this thing on OH WAIT IT'S A PILLOW fair enough FLUMP zzzzz 8/5/11 4:42 AM