Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Word of the Day - Villain

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It's Dr. Evil, I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called "mister," thank you very much. 

So our word of the day is VILLAIN, but what's the fun in that?  We already know this to mean bad guy or antagonist.  An evil character designed to push the plot.

Image result for evil villains

But that definition wasn't used for the word until 1822.  Before that, it was used to mean a peasant.  Here is what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say about it:

c. 1300 (late 12c. as a surname), "base or low-born rustic," from Anglo-French and Old French vilain "peasant, farmer, commoner, churl, yokel" (12c.), from Medieval Latin villanus "farmhand," from Latin villa "country house, farm" (from PIE root *weik- (1) "clan").
 The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows: 'inhabitant of a farm; peasant; churl, boor; clown; miser; knave, scoundrel.' Today both Fr. vilain and Eng. villain are used only in a pejorative sense. [Klein]
The root word is where we get the word "villa" from, meaning a large and fancy country home.  We know "village" to be a small country town (villa meaning country) and "villager" meaning one who lives in a village.  A "villager" at one time meant an uncouth country hick, instead of one living in a village.

So when you are giving that Middles Ages introduction and you hit the feudal system, consider letting them know that serfs and peasants were the original villains of the world.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Grading Policy Change

I don't like change.

I don't know if you are like me in that regard.  That is not to say that I don't try new things.  It's just I try new things that I want to try and typically those new things don't impact more than a lesson or two.  Major changes to policy?  Nope.  Major changes to pedagogy? Nope.  That said, I'm being forced to make some changes, so since the change is happening, I might as well use this moment to make more.

What prompted this change was two fold - an article I read last year and my principal.  My principal is very passionate about mastery based learning and his interpretation of that is by increasing out assessment weight to 75% and practice assignments at 25%.  My gut feeling is that my lower level students will not do the practice assignments (it is hard enough to get them to complete assignments as is), and so they will perform poorly on the tests.  I teach seniors, so a higher fail rate is a cause of concern for me.  (You want to get to know the community? Fail a senior.  You'll meet everyone.)

There are some safeguards in place.  We are to allow for retests and such.  I understand the concept and I agree that a child should be able to demonstrate more mastery to get that grade.  But I hate change and I'm happy with the current system.  However, my principal is passionate about this.  For him this is not just another program to put in his portfolio.  It is a change that he wishes to see enacted across the nation.  He believes in it, so I'm more willing to listen to him on it.  This is long term for us, not just for the moment to be replaced next year with the new system.

Plus, the decision has been made for me, so I'm going with it (I like a pay check more than I hate change).  So I've decided to try out this new grading system I read about (well, new to me, at least).  You know, since I'm changing.

I used to have a very simple system - Daily/Homework, Quizzes, Tests/Projects.

Now I am breaking up the grades in a more specific fashion - For my 75% assessment category, I have Vocabulary, Literature, Research/Writing, and Achieve (our state test reading comprehension program).  For my 25% practice I am breaking it into Vocabulary, Literature, and Research/Writing.

The hope?  That students will be forced to demonstrate mastery in all areas and not be able to excel in one that pulls them over the grade line.  Plus, I will be able to, with a mere glance, say exactly where the student is lacking skills for when we have IEP meetings and such.

Will it work?  I think so.  I have to be extra careful that I don't end up with too few of grades in one section.  I wouldn't want one quiz to end up being weighted more than it should (that's a rookie mistake new teachers tend to make - so if you are a new teacher, keep an eye on those weights - I've seen too often teachers not realize that they only had one quiz in that section they set aside for 15% of the grade.  That one quiz ended up being worth more than test because they did not have any other assignments to average in).

I'll let you know how it works.  It may be the greatest thing I've ever done or it may turn out to be a headache.  I'm eager to hear from any of you if you've tried this and how it worked for you or your thoughts on it or the 75% test weighting.

So I'm ready for change.  Now, If I can just gear myself up for this new Capturing Kids Hearts program they are also putting on us....