Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Frustrated Part 2

I had about a 30 minute discussion with each of my math classes today.  I began by expressing my frustration at the time loss (of me creating/printnig the retakes) and paper loss occuring when student dont' show up. We also had a quick math lesson (since we talked about rounding fractions yesterday) about approximately what 9/20 (I misquoted this in my previous post, but it has been corrected) of the class showing up means.  They concluded (yes!  They remember what we did in class yesterday.) that is was about 1/2.  I also discussed how it is sad for me to see that they aren't taking advantage of this opportunity.  I gave them about 5 minutes to talk in their groups about what should/could be done about this.

Students in my first class came up with this list:
  • Keep them after school/at recess to compensate for Mrs. G's time
  • Have them do clerical work for Mrs. G.
  • They can't take a retake next time (some said this could occur after multiple offenses)
  • Write retake time on a sticky note and put it on desk or on accordion folder
  • Mrs. G chooses/assigns retake times
  • Write an appology letter for not showing up
  • Reward those who come
  • Start a student-led retake punishment committee
We went through the list and briefly discussed how some of the options still took up my time.  I was surprised by that class's lack of preventative behaviors.  They were focused on the punishment.  We discussed for a few minutes the "reward" they wanted for showing up.  They came to the conclusion that the opportunity to retake is a reward in itself.

The second class came up with this list:
  • If you don't show up, you can't take a retake the next time (or forever)
  • Detention for 30 min. or working with the janitor for 1 hour
  • Come in the next day
  • Post a schedule in my room and the other 6th grade teacher's room
  • Reschedule if you can't make it
  • Remind yourself with a sticky note (and a discussion occured as to the various places you could put the sticky note, including their forehead)
  • Write it down in your planner
  • No show = no recess for 1 week
  • Post a reminder in your locker
  • Take points off
  • Give them lots of homework
  • Help the teacher (to make up for her time)
  • Put the no show students' names on the morning announcements for embarassment
  • Write an "I'm sorry" letter
  • Write "I'm sorry" repeatedly
In this class, after since I had the time to process the conversation from the first class, we actually went back through the list and put a red mark next to ideas that still consumed my time.  We also put green stars next to ideas that were proactive behaviors.  I've noted that with the red/green text on their list. This class, when making the list, wanted to go a little overboard with "how bad of a punishment can I think of."

Overall, I don't think the students or I really came to a conclusion as to any punishment for not showing up.  In both classes, they came to realize that any punishment would result in even more of my time being wasted.  Also, we discussed how taking points off (2nd class's idea) doesn't go along with my s-b grading at all. 

In both classes, we discussed how it all comes down to effort and responsibility.  I told them that my brother, a high school math teacher (Matt Townsley), questioned if 6th graders were really responsible/capable enough to handle the retakes system.  Both classes said they were.  They said if people are showing up, it shows that anyone can be capable of showing up. 

I ended the conversation with saying that I hope the next time they sign up for a retake, they keep this conversation in mind.  Even though the 2nd class said posting a schedule would take up my time, I still might consider doing it to see if it helps at all.  But, if they write it down in their planners and don't look at those, will they look at a schedule?


  1. I think you forgot something through all this, 9 showed up to retake the test. That was 9 students that presumably studied to do better on the test. Wouldn't it be worth your time if it was just one?
    Mr. C

    BTW I have had a similar situation. As frustrating as it is, some are still taking advantage of it and more importantly they are still trying to learn the material.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thinking and effort in this post! Have you read Popham's book _Transformative Assessment_? He advocates a learning progression model that builds check-ins and opportunities for anticipatory remediation/extension. It's really helped me re-figure the way I handle re-teach/re-test. I've found the best way to show that I value re-takes is to make them a part of shared class time. This takes time away from new whole-group instruction, but creates time for remediation (without which some students' success with new content is in jeopardy) and extension (which can generate buy-in for quality work/deep understansing with kids who master material quickly.) Keep struggling to find what works!

    All the best,