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Grading Standards, and Teaching Methods... in Junior High Math...

I recently read a post on Active Rain by my good friend Chris Ann Cleland in Prince William County in Virginia... just west of the Fairfax area.  In it she wrote, and then discussed with her commentors about a more traditional grading system for high schools versus a more currently used one.  It spoke of "dumbing down" (my words) the score required for an "A" from "93 to 100" to "90 to 100."  

Chris Ann's post, and the ensuing comments reminded me of something I used to do when I was teaching in the seventh and eight grades many years ago.

It involved my periodic use of tests... those nasty things that provided the basis for the grades my "kids" would get every six weeks.

Many teachers try to keep what they are going to ask on the tests... (the questions) very hidden.  "We sure wouldn't want the kids to know what was going to be on the tests... would we."

Well... I always took a different approach... my own approach... when it came to math tests.  I gave the kids the problems that were going to be on the test... about a week before the test was to be given.  I know it sounds crazy... but I actually gave my students a "list" of all the things I wanted them to learn... to master... for that grading period... and then told them that in their hands... they had all the problems that were going to be on the upcoming test.

They gasped... at least the first time each year I did this... they did.  I gave them a list of about twenty five problems, concepts, word problems, and formulas... and that is what we all studied together for the ensuing week... the week just before I was to give the test.

I told them that if they could master all these concepts, problems, formulas and other stuff... the stuff that I said I was actually going to give them... that they could be assured of getting an "A" on my test.

They of course wanted to know if I was really serious.

I told them that YES... I really was.  What they had was the test.  Or more truthfully... close to it.  I then shared with them that the only thing different about what was going to be on the test... was that all the numbers were going to be different... but the type of problems would be the same.  So... if they could learn how to "work" and "solve" the problems on the list they had... with the numbers they had... all they had to do on my test was work the problems using the different numbers I used for the test... and they'd get their "A."

The week between my giving them "the test" and them actually "taking" the slightly different test... was pretty frantic.  They'd come into class each day, and from what they tried to do at home the night before... they'd frantically raise their hands... wanting to learn.  

In about a week... when the real test was over... not only did just about everyone in the class do well... they all pretty much knew exactly what they needed to know... to get along in life using the math concepts they had learned.

Funny thing.  When I first used this tactic on them for the first six-week grading period... they thought I was more than a little bit crazy.  But... somewhere along the way during the year... maybe at about the fourth of the six week grading periods... they figured out that they had become better in math than they ever had before.

It was also funny when I would get little notes from their parents telling me that their kids used to hate math... and now it had become their favorite subject.  

Isn't it interesting what happens when a child actually realizes that they are really capable of learning something they never thought possible before.

Comment balloon 6 commentsKaren Anne Stone • February 21 2009 06:33PM

Comments

Great job Karen Anne ! I love that approach ! Very self empowering for the kids !

Cheers !

Sheldon :o)

Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) almost 9 years ago

Karen, What a cool teacher you were!  Knowledge is Power~ you gave it to your kids, then you set parameters and gave them the skills to meet them. They rose to their expectations~ Wonderful!

Posted by Ginger Sala, Wilmington NC Real Estate & Relocation~ (Wilkinson & Associates, Wilmington NC) almost 9 years ago

Sheldon:  Thanks so much for making me smile.  I loved teaching, and miss it very much. 

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 9 years ago

Ginger:  Speaking of empowering... what an empowering comment for you to make, Ginger.  Silly me... sitting here... tears in my eyes... reading your comment and remembering my teaching days from long ago.

Ya know... maybe my reaction here is trying to tell me something.  You got me thinking.  Thanks so much for your very kind words.  Isn't it just amazing how a few kind words can make my day.  Take care... and thanks so much...

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 9 years ago

Hi Karen Anne... I always suspected you were a great teacher... now I am confident of that.  It really is all about empowering students and making them want to learn, not making them feel overwhelmed and as if what the need to accomplish is insurmountable. 

Posted by Steve Shatsky almost 9 years ago

Karen, WOW! I am so humbled by your response to my comment. Words are so empowering, you are right, and they can also serve to demoralize and stifle creativity. Unfortunately one of those teachers crossed my path at a critical time in my life.  In contrast, you will never know the multitude of students that you lifted to higher ground by challenging them, equipping them and believing in them and setting them on a course to greatness!

Posted by Ginger Sala, Wilmington NC Real Estate & Relocation~ (Wilkinson & Associates, Wilmington NC) almost 9 years ago

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