Archive for June, 2011
1. Attendance is key to success. Each year I graph final exam grades against student attendance. The correlation is amazing – and unsurprising.
2. Students should choose higher level classes. Not only will they be challenged more often and in more meaningful ways, they’ll also enjoy a learning environment with more focused peers.
3. Teachers appreciate parent feedback. We’re teachers because we love kids, and you know your kids better than anyone. Let us know what’s working, and it will encourage us to foster those activities and topics.
4. Students are not all treated the same. Teachers realize kids are different, and it’s our job to help each individual grow to their potential. This may require varying assignments, strategies, goals, and expectations. Fair is not always equal.
5. Busy students tend to be the happiest and most successful. Johnny takes a full course load, music lessons, plays two sports, is active on Student Council, and receives high marks. Rob isn’t taking any electives, has three study halls, leaves school immediately at 3 pm each day, yet doesn’t turn in homework and falls behind. Guess which student is always smiling?
6. Cell phones should not be used during the school day, regardless of what your child tells you. In an emergency, call the school office.
7. Computer access is a requirement in today’s high-tech world. But it’s not an excuse… there are many opportunities for those who don’t have access at home, including the school itself, friends, libraries, etc.
8. Don’t be afraid to contact a teacher if you have a concern. Teachers and parents all want what’s best for their kids, so team up to see what can be done to provide the richest opportunities and experiences possible!
9. If you receive a call from a teacher about an issue with your child, please take it seriously. Teachers hate making the call as much as you hate receiving it, and the goal of the call is to work with you to resolve the concern. Teachers call because they care.
10. There is great power in dinner conversations. Ask your kids what they’re doing in their classes, but don’t be afraid to push past the blow-off responses. Follow up with questions about why, how, and what they are interested in.
Steve Warner’s 32 Most Effective SAT Math Strategies is more than a book of secrets to help students maximize their SAT math scores… it’s also a guide to problem solving and learning strategies that extend considerably beyond the bounds of the SAT exam itself. As a physics teacher, I can strongly assert that the most effective review book for any test is the book the student will use, and that requires a friendly, concise text that is clear, easy-to-read, and well paced. Warner’s book does this and more, coaching students to maximize their results while minimizing effort.
Outside the context of SAT exam preparation, the strategies detailed in The 32 Most Effective SAT Math Strategies provide a pathway to grow the reader’s general problem solving skills. Readers are encouraged to solve problems, learn independently, and attempt higher level challenges, enhancing their mathematical and logical maturity levels as they attempt to not only solve, but understand, the given problems.
I highly recommend this book for anyone preparing for the SAT exam, as well as those looking to refresh their basic mathematical skills and enhance their ability to think logically. And make sure to check out his website, which has free problem sets, tips, and videos!
Although by no means an exhaustive list, these 10 quick tips may help you secure that extra point or two on your upcoming Regents Physics exam.
- Mass and inertia are the same thing.
- To find the resultant, line your vectors up tip-to-tail, and draw a line from the starting point of the first vector to the ending point of the last vector.
- Any object moving in a circular path is accelerating toward the center of the circle.
- Acceleration of an object is equal to the net force on the object divided by the object’s mass.
- The normal force always points at an angle of 90° from the surface.
- Opposite charges and magnetic poles attract, likes repel.
- Gravitational forces and electrostatic forces both follow an inverse square law relationship, where the strength of the force is related to one divided by the square of the distance between the charges/masses.
- The force of gravity on an object, commonly referred to as weight, is equal to mg, where g is the gravitational field strength (also referred to as the acceleration due to gravity).
- The mass-energy equivalence can be calculated using E=mc^2. If a mass is given in universal mass units, however, you can do a straight unit conversion using 1u = 931 MeV.
- Protons and neutrons fall into the category of baryons, which are hadrons. Smaller particles, such as electrons, fall into the category of leptons. Mesons are rare, weird particles you probably haven’t heard of.
Most importantly, use your reference table. When in doubt, write down the information you’re asked to find, what you’re given, and use your reference table to help you narrow down what you should be doing. In the free response part of the test, make sure to show your work in detail with a formula, substitution with units, and an answer with units.
Find these and many more tips for success at APlusPhysics.com.
I’m going to try out Skills Based Grading (SBG) next year in my Regents Physics courses. I’ve talked to lots of teachers using it, read Marzano’s “Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading: Classroom Strategies That Work,” many terrific blogs, tweets, etc., and I’m convinced that providing students quick and detailed feedback on exactly how they’re doing with respect to course standards will benefit us all.
But I’m also worried. Worried about the hiccups, the unknowns, the corners I may drive myself into. Worried about tracking, about keeping up, about consistency. And I’m worried about my ability to provide and record all the detailed feedback necessary.
Without a doubt I’ve been one of the hardest-working teachers in the building… I’m usually in my room by 6:30 a.m., most afternoons I don’t leave until 4:30 or 5 p.m., one night a week I often spend working until 8 to 10 p.m., and I come in for half a day or so on weekends fairly regularly.
I enjoy what I do, and I don’t mind the time commitment. But I don’t want it to increase, especially with a family at home that I adore (and my daughter now believes watching baseball with Daddy is more fun than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!!!). So I can’t allow SBG to take any more time from me during the school year. But how do I provide 100+ students with detailed, by-skill feedback on the larger standardized-type assessments, with multiple reassessment opportunities? (Yes, I know about the standardized assessments, but here in NY emphasis is being heightened on standardized testing, including up to 40% of a teacher’s performance evaluation).
I spent several months researching this problem, with potential solutions ranging from a multitude of “punch-out”-type answer keys for individual assessments, all the way to having students do multiple self-assessments and exam breakdowns. Of course, the personalized assessments that pervade the SBG mentality still apply, but for larger standardized assessments, including mid-terms and end-of-year practice exams and final exams, spending day after day grading the same exam across multiple skills just doesn’t make sense.
Finally, with the help of some terrific support folks at Gravic, I decided to try out Gravic Remark OMR. Remark OMR is a software package that allows you to scan multiple choice bubble sheets in a standard sheet-fed scanner, and evaluate them against an answer key which can break down questions into individual skill scores. Further, with multiple exams and versions of exams, you can bar code the exam answer sheets against the answer key to help prevent mis-scoring.
The software package comes with a built-in analysis package which makes breaking down scores by class, individual skills, demographics, or any other student input quick and easy.
Setup of answer keys is fairly straightforward — you can make your answer keys in Word or any PDF creation system, and print them out on a standard copier.
The downside – Remark OMR is expensive. A single-use installation license runs $995, and support is free for only 30 days. Getting up and running with the software takes a little bit of tinkering, but within a few days you can be creating exams, scoring keys, and grading 50+ MC question sets across 100 students in 10-15 minutes.
I wouldn’t recommend it for all courses, but in a course where standardized testing is emphasized, and you want to provide many students detailed score breakdowns on a repeated basis across many multi-skill assessments, Remark OMR has terrific potential. I used it as part of our Regents Exam review process this year… we gave the students old Regents Exams, and scored them using Remark OMR, providing each student detailed feedback on areas of strength and weakness. Then, students developed an individualized action plan to work on their greatest opportunities of improvement independently using each other, review books, course notes, and the APlusPhysics physics tutorials before sitting down for a reassessment.
This process was repeated several times, and student feedback has been tremendous – they love how their review work is tied directly to their performance, they appreciate being able to track their improvement as we get ready for their culminating exam, and they particularly love the immediate feedback facilitated by the quick scanning and scoring process.