Thursday, September 29, 2016

What's the Best Advantage? Continued (Day 31)

Well, here are a few things I want to say about the new mousetrap project thus far:

First of all, it turns out that the music teacher was absent on Wednesday. Therefore I was able to perform the project with all three grades as well as have an extra period with my eighth graders for the online assignment on forces and motion. This still, of course, doesn't clear up the confusion regarding the new music schedule.

Students were confused with how to attach the string to launch the mousetraps. And so I'm definitely extending the project an extra day.

The eighth graders were also having trouble trying to figure out the online assignment on Newton's Laws. I think part of the problem is that physical science -- the main topic of the upcoming NGSS test -- is always more obscure than life science. Some students in all grades wonder whether I will give any life science projects this year. The problem is that most of my projects go back to either the NGSS physical science test or the Illinois State text -- which also appears to focus on physical science, even in the sixth and seventh grade texts.

Meanwhile, at the Common Planning meeting on Wednesday, the administrators introduced us to the new online software that we will be using to take attendance and grades -- yes, we're just now being introduced to it fully a hexter into the year. And, sure enough, the software has a built-in grading scale that we're required to use.

Remember how I once mentioned a quick-and-dirty weighting for the grades:

40% Tests
30% Quizzes
20% Classwork
10% Homework

Then I figured that with so many Illinois State projects -- such as the current mousetrap project -- the classwork section needs to be elevated:

30% Tests
30% Quizzes
30% Classwork
10% Homework

Well, here is the actual weighting that the new software will be using to calculate grades:

40% Tests & Projects
20% Quizzes
15% Homework
15% Participation
10% Classwork

Recall what I've said about previous online grading software -- it doesn't matter how many tests or homework assignments I give or how many points each it worth, because they will automatically be weighted so that tests are part of the 40% and homework part of the 15%. I've said before that this is deceptive from the students' perspective -- one homework point isn't the same as one test point.

I've already promised to circumvent this weighting simply by making the trimester 1000 points. Then I make sure that of these 1000 points, the tests add up to 400, the quizzes add up to 200, the homework up to 150, and so on. Then a point is a point no matter what, since the computer will calculate that the number of points I'm giving already fits the weighting percentages.

Earlier I wanted to include the projects as Classwork, but now I see that the projects now belong under the Tests category. This already fits my plans -- I want to give three tests per trimester (and if there's a fourth, the lowest score is dropped) for 300 points, and there will probably be about five projects per trimester worth 20 points each, for a total of 400 points.

But I will have to tone done the quizzes a little. The quizzes I've given so far are already worth 50 points each. My plan was to give three Dren Quizzes and three general quizzes for a total of 300 points (with a fourth quiz of either type to allow dropping the lowest grade). Now instead, I'll give only three quizzes of each type per trimester. This means that there will be only nine Dren Quizzes (10's, and then 2's through 9's). Scoring below an A will still result in a score of 1/50, but now it can only be made up by taking the next Dren Quiz -- for example, if a student fails the 7's, he/she will still have to take the 8's the next time.

I'm also having to differentiate between Participation and Classwork. Warm-Ups, Exit Passes, and of course Participation Points are now considered Participation, leaving Classwork (the smallest category) for worksheets only.

Here is the song I sang today:

What's the Best Advantage?

Life is full of patterns.
They show us the way.
School starts at the same
Time everyday.
What's the best advantage?
To tell us every time
We can go how far
When we build a better mousetrap...
Mousetrap car!

Life is full of patterns.
The sun and moon follow patterns.
We can use math
To learn about patterns.
What's the best advantage?
To tell us just how fast
We can be a star
When we build a better mousetrap...
Mousetrap car!

Yeah, that's right -- this is mostly the same song that I sang for "The Need for Speed," the first project where students worked on the mousetrap cars.

I did take pictures during the project, but most of these include students' faces, and so in order to protect their privacy, I will not be posting them here on the blog.

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