Monday, October 26, 2020

Grade Calculator

 I give this to my students at the end of the first quarter of each semester.  Since we are on a block schedule, their grades average to this formula -

1st Quarter - 40%

2nd Quarter - 40%

Final Exam - 20%


I'm sure you school district has a similar set up with only minor differences in the weight of each thing. The problem is, students often do not fully grasp how this works both for them and against them.  Many will come into the new quarter with an idea that they will work extra hard after slacking off and pull their grade up to a B, when mathematically, that is just not going to happen.  

I decided long ago to be a bit more transparent so that they can formulate a plan and know EXACTLY what it is they need to get.  That involves understanding both why they didn't get the grade they may have wanted (was it test average, was it missing assignments, was it poor grades) and what they need to get now.

I often start them off with a worksheet (will be doing it a bit different this year with it being remote - still working that one out) and the first question I ask is what number grade do they want for the whole course.

Then I give them their number grade for the first quarter.

Then I give them this chart:


You can get the whole chart with the link.  The thing is, no matter how much your percentages are for the final exam, this chart still works!  Here's why:

Each quarter will weigh the same in regards to each other.

The two quarters are ALWAYS much more weighty than the exam.

The two quarters are the thing that students have the most control over.

The exam, while weighty, is not nearly as important as the quarters to determining overall grade and since most students will score within 15 points of their averaged quarter grade, the impact to the final average is low.

So now the students can look at the chart, run their finger down the left side to find what they they have, run their finger across the top to find out what they want, and then follow the row and column until they intersect, which is the grade they need this quarter to get that.  

For example, a student has a 73.  He wants a B, which in my state is an 80.  His fingers follow the lines until he sees that this quarter he must make an 87 for that to happen.

The formula is super simple - basically for every point your first quarter grade is BELOW what you want, your second quarter must be that many points ABOVE what you want.  

Conversely, for every point ABOVE what you want, you can go that many points BELOW what you want.

This saddens some students, but it also gives them a solid number.  There is no guesswork.  They know they NEED a 68 or they aren't passing the course going into the exam.  Then you can have them check their grade periodically against their magic number.

About the exam?  Well, if you have my district's percentages, then the exam will affect the final grade 1 point for every 5 points above or below the quarters averaged together.  I tell my students to add three to five points to their target second quarter grade just to be a buffer in case the exam is not what they want it to be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Teaching Students to Write a Formal Email

This is a repost from last year, but a couple of people have asked about it and I used it again this semester, so thought I would pass it along again.

We all know students can write emails, but we also know that they often lack formal protocols needed for communicating with professors in college, potential employers, or even when asking teachers and counselors for letters of recommendations.



I recently uploaded a new lesson on the Extreme English Teacher Teacher-Pay-Teachers store.  This is a self-paced lesson (although easily adjusted to be a teacher-directed classroom activity) that is ideal for students stuck at home (as during the pandemic), for homework, for when students are working on assignments at their own pace, or when there is a substitute.  Plus, it is an easy assessment for the teacher.


 The presentation is 20 slides long, but many of them are short.  All in all, it will take a student anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete the slides and all activities.

The presentation starts with the students sending an email to an address and getting back a standard response.  Then it moves on to some famous humorous email fails and shows the students step-by-step what they need to do to make their emails look professional when they need it to be.  Areas addressed:

  • email address
  • subject line
  • salutation and the importance of knowing who is reading the email
  • the body
  • the signature line
  • the follow up

I used it recently with my stuck at home seniors with much success. Find it here:

If you have a Teacher-Pay-Teacher store you would like to promote, do so in the comments!


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Cosmobuzz - Alternatives to Kahoot!

 Want some fun gaming in class, but also want to vary it up for yourself and your students?  This is an ongoing series of alternatives to Kahoot! so that you can experience variety (which is the spice of life, you know).

COSMOBUZZ


https://www.cosmobuzz.net/#/

Cosmobuzz does one thing and it does that one thing well!  Instead of you needing an account, you just click the link and open a room.  when you choose to Host a room, it gives you a room number to share with the students.  

The game play is simple - you ask a question and the students hit the buzzer.  The site shows you who hit the buzzer first.


Here is what they see:


Here is what you see:

When a buzzer is hit, it not only logs in the time (down to the thousandth of a second!), but it also numbers responders in order to help you quickly find.  Or you can just set it to only show the first person who buzzed in.

Students can type in an answer or you can just make it oral response.

This is super easy to do in class or remote!  Plus, my school filter was giving me some issues, so I contacted the guy who runs the site.  He responded within minutes.  We quickly found that the problem was not on his end at all, but the school filter.  If only my school IT worked as fast!  After four weeks, they came through and I am loving this new way to play in my classroom.

Give this one a whirl, guys!  People pay $$$ for buzzer systems and this one does it all for free and does it extremely well!

We will continue our search for ways to change up your online quizzes.  If you have a site I should check out, or if you have or will try this site, leave a comment!








Friday, October 9, 2020

Eat One of These and You'll Find How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Goes

 So someone left a waterlogged copy of Alice in Wonderland in a dark place and this happened:


I saw this all over Reddit and Pinterest, but most of them had no attribution for the photographer.  It is clearly a professional photo, so I finally found it on a site with the name Igor Siwanowicz watermarked on it.  


I checked for a web page of his and the closest I found was his Photo.net page, but I could not find this image on it.  He has tons of closeups of bugs of all sorts and are pretty interesting.  However, i did see am image when I was looking for his work of what appears to be Medusa's skull, so if you are into mythology, you might like this:





Wednesday, October 7, 2020

10 Day Blitz

 Just a quick thought here - many of us are working in some sort of remote or hybrid schedule and it is difficult for the students to sometimes get their head around it.  Even though they are doing (most likely) less work than what you would be assigning if you were in class as normal, they are feeling like it is more work than ever.

We get that.  We see it in our own daily schedule.  Who would have thought teaching remotely would take this much effort?

So I've been doing something to help my students get their head around their work.  I looked at what was still left to do and what was most commonly needed to be made up and I broke it down for them by days of the week.  This way, it doesn't feel so overwhelming.  It went something like this:

Monday - do the first Common Lit article; work on vocabulary.com for 5 minutes

Tuesday - do the second Common Lit article; work on vocabulary.com for 4 minutes; if you did not complete the vocabulary crossword then do that today (link to online crossword)

Wednesday - If you are missing a past Common Lit article, do the make up article; work on vocabulary.com for 3 minutes (test tomorrow); work on Author Revision paper for 10 minutes

Thursday - If you did not do the Edmentum Reading Diagnostic test, do that today; if you are missing the Quizizz for chapter 25, do that today (link); if you did not need to do any of the above, work on you Author Revision Paper for 10 minutes

Friday - If you did not do the Grammar Blast, do it today; work on your Author Revision Paper for 15 minutes (you should be done with the 950 words requirement); I will give a make up vocabulary list 2 test at 12:00 - look in your email for login information; Vocabulary 3 test make up will be given at 12:30.

Saturday - If you are missing the Email Etiquette assignment, know that out today.

Sunday - Take a break!

And so on for ten days worth of work.  

This does a few things:

  • Helps the student who is feeling overwhelmed to get his/her assignments together.  It is much better for them than to just give them a list of missing and upcoming assignments.
  • Model for students how to keep up with assignments, especially those who are looking to go to college in a year or two.
  • Helps the parents to assist their child at home by giving them what to remind their child to do (I send this to the students AND parents).
  • Helps you in case an administrator wants to know what YOU  did to help the student.
I try to get the students to Zoom with me one on one and work out a specific schedule just for him or her.  that's always better than a generic one, but a generic schedule is better than no schedule.

It is a bit more work on your already overloaded shoulders, but in the long run, it is time spent that pays off in several ways.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Tech Tuesday - Triventy

Hello fellow Extreme Teachers!  I'm starting a new series that I will put up here every so often called Alternatives to Kahoot!  Her's the first in the series!


Looking for alternatives to Kahoot?  It is hard to find one that is better, but there are others out there that offer a variety.  EVERY teacher is using Kahoot! (and well they should), but here is one way to stand out from the crowd a bit.


Pit Triventy head to head against Kahoot! and Kahoot! wins hands down int he flash and pizazz department; however, there are quite a few standouts that makes Triventy worth looking at:

1. Score doesn't decrease if it takes a student longer to answer.  You have only three scores - 2 points for the first one to answer, 1 point for a correct answer, 0 points for a wrong or no answer.  If you teach students who struggle with reading a question fast enough to get the big points in a Kahoot! or Quizizz game, then you've seen these students give up during these contests (that's why it is always good to call out the people that marked as on fire or on a streak but aren't in the top five).  Triventy doesn't care how long it takes to get it right once the first person has answered.  This evens the playing field some for your students who just need more time.

2. Students aren't penalized for getting hints. When making your questions, you have the ability to add a hint to give students a boost.

3. Fun 'Did You Know' statements. These pop up after the question is finished for a little bonus between questions.

4. Collaboration.  This one is the biggie.  Triventy knows this is their selling point and even puts it in their title.  You can open up a quiz to be created by multiple students.  So how is this useful?  Put students in groups.  Have them come up with a review quiz that another group will have to take (and they can take the other group's quiz).  Another way to do it is to have every student create a review question then you go through and weed out the bad ones and give the quiz to your class the next day.  Students have the incentive to come up with good questions since if you keep it, they are more likely to get it right (one would hope, at least).  

5. It's all free.  No upgrading to fancier options.  If they have it, they give it to you.

I like to use different quizzes just to keep things fresh.  Before all is said and done, we'll take a look at Quizizz, Socrative, Quizlet Live, Vocabulary Jam, and maybe a few others.  If you have an online quiz site I should put in for consideration, then post it in the comments!

If  you want to give it a test run, but don't want to put in the time to create it, then give this Spider-Man themed literary term practice a whirl and see how you like it! http://triv.in/17361




Thursday, October 1, 2020

Better Book Titles

Dan Wilbur, stand up comedian, developed a web site a while back where re-titled books to more aptly convey what the book was about.  His site, Better Book Titles, has a ton of books re-titled for your reading pleasure.  Here are a few:


(Oedipus Rex)




(Game of Thrones)




(War and Peace)

(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)