To Grade or Not to Grade….That Is The Question

Tonight’s #flipclass #flashblog focuses on grading.  I’m sure that I will definitely be in the minority when I say that grades are necessary.  Do I think that grades are necessary all the time? No.  And maybe not even with all students.  But my students need grades.

I work in a high poverty school.  When you ask the boys what they want to be when they grow up, they all say some type of professional athlete.  If you ask them to come up with a second choice…they can’t.  They are each going to be the one who MAKES IT!  They don’t do my homework or study or read because they have practice. In the fall it’s football practice…in the winter – it’s basketball practice… the spring it’s baseball practice.  In this agricultural town where the unemployment rate is 5.8% and the job growth is -0.03% my students need to find a way out.  They need the opportunities to see other options for them.  They need to see that their education is a priority.  One that is more important than any sport they can play. But I digress….

Do I make grades the end all be all? No.  In class, we talk about determining our individual strengths and weaknesses.  I stress to them that the goal is mastery.  If they don’t do well on an assignment they can always redo it.  I work with them in small groups and on an individual basis to see what they know and what they’re stuck on.  I stress to them that it’s not who learns the material the fastest – the important thing is that the skill is learned.

Do I think that the 100 point grading scale is ridiculous?  I do.  How can there be 30 points to show that a student is passing and 69 points to determine failure.

Maybe they don’t need grades, but they need to be held accountable.  If a student feels that the assignment will not be graded – they half tail do it.  So, although I don’t put every grade in the gradebook, they don’t know it.  So, I guess my issue is not necessarily with grading but with accountability.  When I was growing up, my parents held me accountable for learning.  They made sure that I did those things that would make me successful.  That’s not always the case.

So I’m sure you’re saying “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!”  So here are my final thoughts.  Grades are a necessary evil as a part of holding students accountable.  Are my students more than a grade?  Heck yes!  Do we focus only on grades in my classroom?  Heck no!  And so continues this tight rope that I walk….

Until the next time,


Making The Learning Stick – With Adults!

I have sat in so many horrible…horrible….did I mention horrible?? presentations!  Some forced upon me – some straight up voluntary!  Part of my issue is that I am ADHD….like really bad.  So, after a few minutes if you haven’t caught my attention – I’m gone onto the next thing.


Ever been there?


I’ve always been a tech geek, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about the Tandy computer my dad bought for our family back in the 80’s…..and I’ve always been willing to share what I know with other teacher to help.  I’d presented at my school and for my previous school district many times but I had never considered expanding out.

As I became more involved with technology integration, I took it upon myself to attend different conferences and I began to think…”Hey!  I can do this!”  I mean, I have some amazing kids and we do some amazing things…why not share those things?  And so I did. I saw where a school district was hosting an summer tech conference and I submitted my proposal.  After that I was hooked!

I’d like to think that I am able to share what I know in a way that excites and motivates someone else.

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As I’ve evolved as a presenter, my expectations have evolved.  I really don’t expect to get “wow’ed” every time.  If I can take one piece back to use with my kids (or even in my own presentation), that makes me happy.  The part that I enjoy the most now are the connections I’m able to make through these opportunities.

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So many times I’m able to put a face to a Twitter handle (right, @bgoza?) or add to my already amazing PLN.  Sometimes I’m able to have conversations with or spend a few moments with some of my tech heroes and sheroes.  And every single time I’m able to find at least one little thing that I can share with my kids!

Until the next time,



In Over Our Heads….

Question:  How do I balance covering content with student’s stress levels/mental health?

Everything is written in pencil….that’s what we sixth grade teachers say….

One of the things that I struggle with is the stress level of my students. I mean…they’re kids….SCHOOL is their JOBS. All that extra (football, basketball, etc) stuff is just that….extra.

But, as an ELA teacher, I do realize that sometimes the text they’re designed to read is too difficult so I do make accommodations for that.

I make “visual videos” where I record the audio with the text so they can listen to the story as they read it.

I give them multiple opportunities to complete assignments. But, if I don’t MAKE them stay – they don’t.

We have morning “Breakfast Club” and afterschool. We have Homework Detention and we’re allowed to pull students during their elective times to make up assignments or get additional assistance.

One of the greatest benefits of the Flipped Classroom is that I do have more time to work with students in small group or on an individual basis if they don’t get it.

But for many 6th graders, “I don’t get it” really means, “I don’t want to do this”…’s a coping mechanism in my opinion. One that we have to break in 6th grade or else everyone is MISERABLE.

I will continue to make accommodations, but I won’t enable -nor will I lower my expectations. I think that’s my responsibility as an educator….to create responsible citizens. So I won’t stop – I can’t afford to. The lives I shape and mold are too important.

Until the next time,

Student Created Content

Book Review Tellagami

Many people ask me about where my videos come from and if I pull from other places. I’d spent years on perfecting Promethean flipcharts that I was determined would not go to waste. It was so easy for me to take those flipcharts and turn them into screencasts. I prefer using my own videos, because the kids like to hear my voice and I know that the content that I’m presenting contains ALL of the content that they need.  I love Flocabulary, so I use their videos for my vocabulary units and sometimes I do use Learnzillion videos, but the majority of the content that my students access are created by me.

I’m all for student creation….all for it! I think that when students create it shows that they have mastered the content shared. I love when they create because it takes them to a higher levels of Blooms.

In my classroom, students create things like Visual Vocabulary Videos, Book Reviews, and Digital Booktalks – but I’ve yet to have them create content that I would use for instruction.

ELA content is just so complex, right now I don’t think my 6th graders are mature enough to handle it. Plus, I have to continuously make them review their work for careless mistakes, I don’t think I want the hassle.

I have had students create videos that highlight key concepts and they’ve done great with that; but I’m also very particular and maybe just a tiny bit “controlling”?

Maybe I’ll get there – but it would have to be very detailed and thought out.

What are you thoughts? Student Created Content or nah?

Until the next time,

Off the Cuff

Today’s #flipclass #flashblog post:

What is your strangest/most-off-the-wall lesson ever? Where did the idea come from? How did it work?

I live off the cuff.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am THE procrastinator.  Which is probably why I created today’s video at 2 AM this morning.

I do my best thinking in the shower….or right before the kids are gonna walk through the door; so I have a difficult time coming up with an answer.  I’ll talk about my most recent activity – Visual Vocabulary Videos.

We read The Gift of the Magi every year, because I love it so; but I know that the vocabulary is really difficult for them.  This year, I planned a week long unit using some of Erin’s (I’m Lovin’ Lit) materials.

I decided that I wanted to vocab activity to be more in depth, so I decided that students would create Visual Videos. HUGE hit!  I did a little research and found out that New York Times does a yearly competition and I let students use that as a resource.  Find them here.

Students had to act out the words and they LOVED it.  I showcased my favorite last week (Idiocy – you can find it here), so tonight I’ll share another groups.

I thought they did a pretty doggone good job for two day’s worth of work!


Until the next time,