Using single-point rubrics & Checkmark to make your life easier & your kids smarter

We’ve all been there. You just finished putting together a great instructional lesson or unit. Kids are gonna love it. They’re working together. Doing research. Creating stuff, not just consuming it. The historical thinking will be off the charts.

Then you realize . . . you haven’t created the rubric yet.

You know that clear expectations and feedback are critically important to the learning process. You know that rubrics can help you in assessing what students know and are able to do. So you sit back down and eventually decide to use four scoring columns instead of five. Six rows of criteria instead of three. Clear descriptors. Nine point font all crammed into your matrix so that it fits on one page. Definitely tons of feedback gonna happen from this beauty.

But it’s worth it, right?

Mmm . . . using a great rubric can speed up the grading and assessment process but they can also create other issues besides the amount of time it takes to create them. A student shows creativity way beyond what the rubric asks for in a way that you hadn’t anticipated and your columns and rows aren’t able to reward that. Or a kid spells everything correctly but the grammar and punctuation is terrible. Maybe she nails the document analysis but fails to use evidence in her claims and your rubric has those two things together.

And is there any way – other than individual conferences – to really know whether students actually go deeper into your scored rubric than to look at the final grade circled in the bottom left hand corner?

Yes, analytic rubrics are useful. I’m not saying rubrics shouldn’t be part of your assessment toolkit. They can help you develop and create assignments that are aligned to your end in mind. They can provide clear expectations for students and a way to share feedback. But they can also be difficult to design correctly and may seem so overwhelming to students that the expected feedback we want never really sinks in.

And, sure, holistic versions are much quicker to create and use. So that’s nice. But they fail to provide specific and targeted feedback. You get a kid who wants to know why they got a two instead of a three or worse, he won’t ask at all. Missing the whole point of providing feedback in the first place.

So . . . why not look at a third way to the rubric game? And use some tech to make it even better? Continue reading Using single-point rubrics & Checkmark to make your life easier & your kids smarter

I Can’t Count That High: PBL in the Social Studies Classroom

statistics-of-population-research-paperOne of the new initiatives in my school district during the 18-19 school year has been to begin a Project Based Learning community.  This is a group of teachers who came in over the summer for two full days of training, and have continued to meet quarterly during the school year to learn about PBL together and support each other as they implement PBL in their own classrooms.

My mentor teacher, Kim Zielsdorf, teaches 7th Grade World Geography and Kansas History, and she jumped right into PBL from the beginning of the school year with a highly engaging, yet short and sweet project to introduce the students to the World Geography curriculum.  Kim presented this question to the students: How big is 7.7 billion? The students then worked with partners to find creative ways to represent the global population.  How long it would take Crayola to make 7.7 billion crayons, how far you would travel after taking 7.7 billion steps, each partnership came up with their own way to represent a number that is so high it can be hard to grasp.

Beginning the school year with a short PBL unit allowed the students a fun and engaging way to ease into the school year and get to know each other, while also giving Kim a chance to practice the fundamentals of PBL and learn more about her students’ interests through the decisions they made while completing the project.  Do you use PBL in your classroom?  What is your favorite PBL unit to teach?  Share in the comments below!

Economics is for Everyone!

Angela head

This week’s post comes from Angela Howdeshell: I work as the Vice President for Programs and Administration for the Kansas Council for Economic Education, a non-profit organization housed at Wichita State University with a mission of helping Kansas K-12 schools integrate financial literacy and economic education.


Green BookEngage your students by integrating economics into your social studies classes!  Any kindergarten teacher all the way to a high school history teachers is bound to find many places were economics can easily be expanded to add great value.  The Council for Economic Education has simplified job by giving you the background and the lessons & activities.  Take a few minutes this week to start reviewing the many free online lessons and professional development opportunities that have recently been added to www.EconEdLink.org. There is something for everyone and the new website features allow you to search by grade level, topic, subject, keyword and more!   Be sure to join for free and you can save your favorites and receive updates on new opportunities for training.

Below is just a few examples of what you’ll find for pre-recorded webinars:

 

Check out the full list of upcoming webinars.

Make every Word Count! Tips for a Standout Resume from a School Administrator

02E60666-E98C-4FC2-9D19-12AB9200E874Zlatnik_Joseph_71Scott Peavey and Joe Zlatnik are both administrators in the Kansas City area.  Scott is currently the Assistant Principal and Activities Director at Basehor-Linwood Middle School.  Joe is the Assistant Principal at Eudora High School.


careerbuilder-ar_post-484As the calendar approaches spring (which is hard to believe as I sit here looking out my window at an ice storm) school districts throughout the state of Kansas are preparing for another round of hiring.  Many schools have already had multiple vacancies while the majority are now receiving letters of resignation, retirement notices, and board approval for brand new positions. Many area universities are holding their career fairs soon and hundreds of aspiring new teachers are preparing their materials to do what they can to stand out from the crowd.

Although cover letters are undoubtedly important, the reality is that most applications get vetoed before anyone even gets to reading the letter.  We are both administrators in the Kansas City metro area, and it is not uncommon for schools in this region to receive well over 100 applicants for most teaching vacancies; this is especially true for most social studies openings.  When school districts are looking through these applications a “sorting” process often takes place. Based off of an initial look of the submitted resumes a small number are chosen for closer examination; from there an even smaller number are selected for interviews.

The following are a few simple recommendations to help your resume truly reflect the aspects of your candidacy that you are hoping to convey; and hopefully get you to the next round of the process!

Continue reading Make every Word Count! Tips for a Standout Resume from a School Administrator