Okay, so I have had some major shifts in my grading this year. As we start thinking about closing out this trimester, kids are really, REALLY starting to panic. And to tell the truth, I am getting a little nervous. As of this moment, out of all of my classes, I have one B. And that is as high as it goes. A smattering of C's. Lots of D's and a few too many F's. While it is not uncommon for my principal to comment that I have the lowest grades out of anyone, I normally don't care how my grades stand up against other teachers'.* But even for me, I feel like this is a bit on the low side.
I love the grading out of two. If I could just get my kids (and some teachers) to let go of the percent thing, all would be well (well, better anyway). I didn't realize how stressful and time consuming it was for me to have to decide whether or not a question should receive a 2 or 3. Oh yes, this is the way to go.
But not all is well. I am rethinking how I have set up my chemistry standards. This summer, I loved the idea of having a few overarching ideas that were non-negotiable in terms of understanding matter. Actually, I still do like that idea, but it is truly driving everyone crazy. This whole system has been a much larger shift for my kids than I anticipated, and adding in the extra step in deciding your grade is about to push some of us over the edge. It just seems like too much to decode at this point. So I have changed every standard to a gold standard and adjusted my figuring accordingly.
F = 3 or more 0
D = Any 0
C = Any 1
B = All 2
A = All 2 plus 3 successful capstone projects
Capstones in chemistry are turning out to be a huge challenge. I knew this would be true, so I have not been surprised at my kids really not knowing exactly where to start. Physics is, I think, a little easier to come up with something to test. Go outside and observe nearly any phenomena and you can turn it into a physics project. In chemistry, even if you have an idea what it is you want to test, there are so many unknowns to take care of that really aren't common sense-type things. How much sodium hydroxide do we need? Should we do this in the fume hood? Will it blow up?**
At first, I told the kids that their capstone had to be in the form of a lab investigation. I still prefer this, but I have also opened up on that requirement. Students can, of course, still do the lab investigation, but they also
have the option to write a research article, create a podcast or a KA style video. I am also allowing them to work in groups of up to two, but each student has to have a separate write-up.
Really, though, I have only had two groups even attempt a capstone. I have one girl (who stares out the window a lot) who keeps saying her parents are soooooo mad that she doesn't have an A. In the same breath, she tells me a capstone would be too much work. I guess we'll see how that turn out.
Tomorrow is an early release for us. My plan is to show everyone what their grade would be at this point and talk about what can be done to show what they know. Maybe getting everyone on the same page and reminding them of the deadline will put a fire under them.
We also have parent conferences next week. I have this strange feeling that I will have a better turn out than normal.
*This was a BIG deal when I started teaching chemistry with SBG.
**This is more often than not said in an extremely hopeful tone.