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!

Posted on September 7, 2011, in Growth Mindset, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Excellent ideas here…I’ve been in school for a month, but I’m definitely using some of these ideas afters today’s quiz. Thanks for the post.

  2. This is a brilliant idea. One that I wish I had myself or had seen three weeks ago. Sadly I am already three weeks in and did the terrible explanation that no one understood until we had taken our second assessment. At this point they all get it because we’ve had three of them. I guess that just leaves me with the continually improving teacher’s mantra: Next Year!

  3. Greetings from Qatar! It’s cool to connect with another blogging teacher in the Middle East 🙂 Great idea using the Angry Birds analogy. I’ll have to steal this for us with my students as well.

  4. I love the growth mindset. “Smart isn’t something you are, it’s something you get!” TFA is huge on this, but it’s hard for me to prove it to students without the kind of data-driven instruction methods you’re using. I can only aspire to be this organized.

  5. I used your photos in my classroom with my students…

    Can I use the photos in a publicly viewable Prezi?


  6. Leigh Ann Mahaffie

    I love the angry birds pictures and the analogy – I used them with parents at back to school night! It is such a simple way to show what the point of SBG is, and how it is different than traditional grading.

  7. I love your SBG-hybrid system. I had been lurking on blogs reading about the SBG buzz, and pondering how to institute it with my classes. Your Prezi answered a lot of my concerns about the whole method, and I introduced it to my ninth grade algebra/geometry students for the second quarter. It has been going wonderfully so far! Thank you for the push to get me started.

    I do have one question. Does student performance on tests influence their skill grades?

    • For me it doesn’t, which I think confuses a lot of people who use SBG. My rationale is that the danger of splitting up the curriculum into small parts is that students can succeed in isolation for those parts and then not be able to bring them together as whole concepts. I tried my first year doing SBG having tests influence the standards, but with 10+ standards on a test for each student, it was SO HARD to grade. Also, I found that students weren’t bothering reassessing, they were just studying for the test and trying to do well on that so their standards would go up. I’ve found it works much better just to separate the formative and summative aspects of the grading.

  8. Wow! NIce Prezi. I am using a hybrid SBG system very similar to yours. I am using new category names, corresponding very closely with what you are doing. I use the acronym EMmART:

    Engage (10%: formative assignments, pop quizzes) – One & Done
    Master (20%: summative assignments, announced quizzes) – SBG
    maintain (20%: tests) – SBG
    Apply (20%: Labs and projects) – SBG
    Retain (20%: semester exams) – One & Done
    Timeliness (10%: percent of work turned in on time) – One & Done

    See http://jamesbuckner.comxa.com/drbuckner/policies.html#rightHere.

  9. I have never been as excited about SBG as I am now that I’ve seen the Angry Birds analogy. Even if somebody else came up with it first, it is still the simplest, most applicable way I have seen to explain the basic idea of SBG to high school students. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Your ideas are so accessible and they have inspired many…may I share them with teachers this summer and suggest they follow your blog? Thank you for your energy and all you do to shift the mathematical experiences of our young people. Thank you for considering

  11. What grading system do you use? Is there a timeline of objectives you keep? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  12. I’m curious as to what website builder you use to interact with students in your classroom…? I like the ability students have to see their grades, request make up quizzes, and find links to homework/practice assignments…

  13. I have been inspired by your Angry Birds analogy and I’ve used it with my elementary students this year. In addition to my students and parents having a better grasp on what SBG is all about, it has boosted the motivation in my classroom. Students are more willing to “keep at it” when they think about learning a concept like passing a level only earning one star. Instead of hoping to be done and move on, they are more willing to keep working to improve their understanding! Thanks for the genius connections!

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