Sunday, June 28, 2015

Revising Retakes

Although the middle and high schools in my district do not use Standards Based Grading (the elementary schools do), students are allowed to retake quizzes and tests, which is a concept that often goes along with SBG.  I didn't know about this until about 3 weeks into my first year of teaching German, so I kind of had to figure out a system on the fly.  Students would ask me at all sorts of random times during class if they could retake a particular assessment.  Since I only had two classes, it wasn't too bad trying to keep track of who was retaking what and when.  

But I knew that this past year when I moved up to two-thirds time with 4 classes, I would need a better system.  I wanted something that would help me keep track of all the paperwork and would push students to think about how they could prepare differently for an assessment to be more successful.  Sarah's Request to Retest Form (scroll down to the bottom of the post) gave me a starting point, and I developed this half-page form: 
Overall, it worked very well.  Once students turned in a retake form, I printed out a their quiz or test and stapled the form to it.  I kept them in a folder, organized by date of retake.  So, when I had a retake tutorial scheduled, I could just pull out the retakes for that day, and we were ready to go.

The one continuing frustration that I have with retakes is students who score worse on the retake than on the original assessment, or who only improve by a point or two.  I don't understand why students expect to earn a different grade when they haven't done something different to prepare.  This seems to me to be a huge waste of everyone's time.

Also, it drives me crazy when students show up for their retake and ask if they can study a bit right there before they retake.  I feel like this encourages cramming, which really only gets things into students' short-term memory, rather than into their long-term memory where we want the information to be.

My goal for next year is to make it more clear to students that retaking is a privilege and that they need to put in some work in order to earn the chance to retake.  So, my policy for next year will be that students must correct their original test or quiz before requesting a retake.  (For vocabulary quizzes, students will write each missed word five times.)  Hopefully, this will get students thinking about the mistakes they made prior to retaking the assessment.  And I hope it will eliminate some of the frivolous retaking where students just hope they will magically score better the second time around without putting in any additional work.  

Here is next year's retake form:

I reduced the size to a quarter of a page.  Since my school is going 1-1 this fall, I might be able to switch to an online form eventually, but for now I still need the paper to keep myself organized.  

Click on the pictures for an editable copy of the forms.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New books!

Our new books are here!  I stopped by school yesterday after getting an email from our head custodian saying that the books had arrived and were in our classrooms.  And there they were - a classroom set of shiny new textbooks in each German room!  Yay!

This is especially happy news for me because the book which we has been using (which was adopted several years before I started) really didn't work well for our students.  It was designed (I think) to be used for German as a Second Language instruction in Germany, not for American high school students in a semi-rural public school.  

  • It was all in German, so parents and resource teachers couldn't help students. 
  • It didn't explain grammar structures in an organized way (which drove the math teacher in me crazy!).  
  • And it didn't contain any cultural information (I think because it assumed students were living in Germany and were surrounded by the culture.)  
Bottom line, it didn't meet our students' needs well at all, which meant that teachers had to supplement A LOT, so much that it was basically like writing a whole new textbook.  Which is kind of fun, but also VERY time consuming.  

After a two year process of discussing the various options, our district approved the adoption of Mosaik for German 1, 2, and 3.  Since our students will each have their own tablet computer, they will have a digital textbook only, and we will have print copies in the classrooms.  

It's not perfect, of course, but it's much better than what we had been working with, and I am very happy to start working with it!