Daily Archives: September 7, 2011

What If Angry Birds Didn’t Grade With SBG?

Last year I tried out Standards Based Grading the first time and really thought it was a game changer for my classroom. Though I haven’t worked out many of the tweaks yet, and some departmental pressure is conflicting a bit with my ideal way of running things, I am still very excited about using SBG this year in class. One of the mistakes last year was that I did a terrible job explaining the whole system in the first few days of school – the whole thing was far too abstract and different from what they were used to that the first presentation went over their heads and it took some students a while to actually figure it out. One of my goals of this year was to sell/explain SBG much better so that I could have everyone on board, and I figured that this would be a worthy use of about a day total of class (I ended up integrating it with problem solving and review).

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to explain all the details of SBG, but of course making a simple analogy to scaffold off their existing knowledge is far more powerful. I realized that they already know Standards Based Grading from playing games like Angry Birds. Here is how Angry Birds grades with SBG:

Right? Levels graded separately that you can play over and over until you gain mastery? I’m sure others have thought of this analogy, but it seems pretty solid to me. So now contrast this to what the Angry Birds score screen would look like if it “graded” in the traditional manner:

This would suck because I never get 3 stars the first time around. I’m really hoping that these pictures can do almost all of the explaining for me, especially when we compare them to the way I graded their diagnostic tests from the first day. I have never done a diagnostic test in the beginning of the year like this, but I wanted to do it this year for both its diagnostic purposes and to have them learn how SBG works experientially. I graded it today two ways for them – in the traditional points manner and with SBG (and I will give them back tomorrow with my 4 point rubric and a full description of the standards):

I hope to have a discussion about what SBG tells you that traditional points based scores do not, and talk about the very different reaction you would have to quizzes graded in the two ways. I hope that with sample grades in front of them that mean something to them and a fitting metaphor, they will be totally sold on SBG before the second full day of school finishes.

Other Materials I Used to Introduce SBG…

1. Getting them in a Growth Mindset

I have decided that metacognition is going to be a big goal of mine this year, of which one of the lynch pins (especially while grading with SBG) will be getting students to realize the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. This boils down to the idea that those that believe they can always grow and always get smarter will end up growing far more easily than those that believe that intelligence is fixed. I gave them a little math learning questionnaire adapted from Math Hombre (gracias!), who mathified Carol Dweck’s original research questionnaire for use with his math students:

I had them first fill it out silently for a few minutes. Then, in partners, they found and discussed a statement about which they had differing opinions and a statement about which they had similar opinions. Then each pair found a new pair and shared with them the two statements that they had discussed previously. This really helped pave the way for an awesome class discussion. My favorite comments were when one student said that intelligence has to change because he is a lot smarter than he was in 9th grade, and then when others came to the consensus that in a fixed mindset you are comparing yourself to other people whereas in  a growth mindset you are comparing yourself to yourself (beautiful!). Though some students were really resistant to the idea of not thinking in terms of “smart” and “dumb” anymore, I think many students really bought into the idea of a growth mindset and will hopefully be able to connect that idea to SBG in general…

2. The Nitty Gritty Details of my Hybrid SBG System

And theeeeennnnn, finally, after getting into a growth mindset and experiencing SBG through a diagnostic test, I am going to give them all the details of the grading system – percentages, processes, resources, philosophy etc. This is basically what I did last year without all the prep. I made a pretty awesome Prezi to do all of this, which I am really excited to show tomorrow (not in small part because it includes a hand drawn picture of an angry octopus).

I hope this will really stick because then it’s onward and upward to the magical land of Calculus!