Jon's Weekly Update 9-22-16

posted Sep 22, 2016, 10:49 AM by Cynthia Friedman
Tues, Sept. 27, 3:15-4:00: First TRUE Rehearsal (Seasoned 8th Graders Only)
Thurs, Sept. 29, 3:15-4:00: TRUE Rehearsal
Thurs, Sept. 29, 6-7pm: Middle School Meeting (Starts in your student's 1st Period Classroom)
Tues, Oct. 4, 3:15-4:00: TRUE Rehearsal
Thurs, Oct. 6, 3:15-4:00: TRUE Rehearsal
Sat, Oct. 8, 1-2pm TRUE Performance, Spencer Creek Grange
Tues, Oct. 11, 3:15-4:00: TRUE Rehearsal
Thurs, Oct. 13, 3:15-4:00: TRUE Rehearsal
Fri, Oct. 14 NO SCHOOL: Statewide In-Service
Fri, Nov. 11 NO SCHOOL: Veteran's Day

Fri., Nov. 11 ALL DAY TRUE Performance, Oregon School Board Association Conference, Portland
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 3:15-4:00: First ALL-IN TRUE Rehearsal
Dear Middle School Family,

Things are heating up. Next week, I will go more in depth into the content we're digging into in our Humanities curriculum. The short of it is that we are looking at how government works from the ground (We, the people) up. We're going to learn how each of us as individuals can act as political forces for positive change.

I mis-spoke, incidentally, about the no homework thing. There's plenty of time to do the regular work in class, it's true. Sometimes, however, the students will need your input, or the input of other family or community members to help diversify their adults' perspectives.

This Friday, your student will bring home a short "Pre-test" survey that they, themselves, will have mostly failed to complete (because they haven't learned it yet). (Please note: I don't expect your student to already be an expert or a master of the skills and content I am guiding them through. I sincerely endeavor to engage them in Learning.)

They are going to ask you to answer the same survey questions, and will need to record the answers of (hopefully, please do your best) two adults. Please help them complete this assignment. It's crucial!

The lesson they're going to get from this exercise is: most adults don't even know the answers to these crucial questions, because most of us never learned them.

Dun dun DUNNNNN!

If you don't know, please don't fake it. "I don't know," is a legitimate answer. We're taking on the real deal. We are going to take civic action in our school and our community. (More on this later, I promise.)

What I really want to talk about is the new Grading Policy, which is better called the new

Progress Monitoring Process:
Your student will still earn traditional grades: ABCDF, each Term, in their academic subjects. Pass/No Pass in their electives, PE, and Spanish (Starting next Monday!).

For Humanities/Communications, however, I've completely changed how we evaluate and interact with student work.

First, there are 3 categories of assignments: Process Work (quick and rough, almost daily), Edited Work (clean and polished, 1-3 weekly), and Project Work (massive and multifaceted, 1 every 1-2 terms).

Weighing Assignments
Process Work counts as 1 assignment. Edited Work counts as 2 assignments. Project Work counts as 8 assignments. They are weighted towards their letter grade.

Each assignment will be evaluated on a 'Plus,' 'Check,' 'Minus,' 'Missing' scale.

Scoring Assignments

A Plus is worth 5 points, a Check is worth 4 points, and a Minus is worth 3 points.

I think of this as "Very Good:" 100%--minor fixes and errors; "Good Enough:" 80%--Roughish, but ideas are clearly expressed, could be better; and "Not Good Enough:" 60%--minimal effort, serious need for improvement in grammar, ideas, etc. "Missing:" 0%--you didn't do it.

Students have until Friday of the week after an assignment's due date to make up a Missing assignment before it turns from 'Missing' to a 0.

You can see pretty quickly how this quickens the process of subjective scoring: On a 100 point scale, what is the difference between a 93 and a 94? On a 10 point scale, what is the difference between a 7 and an 8? (You could drive yourself insane scoring student work. No more!)

Organizing Work
I've already mentioned the work planner for Humanities and Communications and the Binder, where the students turn in their work. We'll look at that more closely at the Parent Meeting next Thursday. Maizzy and I designed the planner and we're super excited about it.

Even more exciting is the way we're going to interact with student work. (This is the game-changer.)

Interacting with Student Work
Students must connect, personally, with Maizzy or Jon during the 105 minute Block Periods during the week to "turn in" assignments. Some of these will be super quick "check-offs," especially for Process assignments. Get it done, turn it in. We have a backup list on the board, so students can sign up for turn-ins and get back to work.

Today we checked off the Sentence Combining assignment for 25 students in less than 3 minutes. The students had all engaged in the extended process during the lesson. "Show me you did the work:" BAM! Done! Many of the process assignments will be this quick to check off.

Less intensive lessons will also give us the opportunity, even on the small stuff, to provide live feedback as to how the work could be improved.

Some of these will be more engaged, process-oriented individual lessons: "Here's what I see you trying to say. Am I correct? Here are some suggestions to better organize your thoughts. Here are some punctuation/grammar points you need to clean up. I'm giving this a Minus right now, but you can use the scribbles on the page, and our discussion to improve your draft." (Longer conversation, obviously, and then, of course, a check for understanding about how to move forward, and whether they need more clarity... and, Next!)

Learning happens in Doing, in the Work and Practice we Engage in. We are all learning many things slowly every day, just by getting out of bed and engaging in the day. The value of a teacher, beyond their charting a course through the vast ocean of possibility of learning, isn't their expertise. The best thing a teacher can do, after knowing us and loving us, is to show 'me' how to improve 'MY' Practice to get better results.

Is what I'm training your students to teach me to do better. The teacher is the student.

In other words, we're going to be refining this process as we go. Please don't panic.

We're in this together,
Jon and Maizzy