Thursday, May 8, 2014

Class Take-Aways

This year’s class gave me a lot to think about and many new ideas to try.  A lot of issues discussed in both books help reinforce what I already do in my classroom.

My biggest take-aways

A Repair Kit for Grading:

1. I already don’t penalize for late work.  I also allow students to resubmit projects for a higher grade.  I believe students should get credit for their work, no matter when it is done.  On the other side of the coin, I don’t permit them to choose a zero for a grade.  If they are far behind, they need to come in outside of school to work.  I also have no problem calling coaches, advisors, and parents to communicate with them that the student is missing work.

2. I have been modifying my grading policies to not include grades for formative assessments and practice.  It becomes very difficult to elicit participation from students when things are not graded.  This generation has next to no intrinsic motivation.  I have stopped telling them if the assignment is going to be graded until after it is handed in.  Sometimes I give check marks so they can track their progress.  Often I will hand things back with comments and no grade.  This drives students nuts!

3. The idea of not factoring effort into my grades has been a difficult concept.  A huge part of completing an art project is effort.  I have stopped calling it effort and now tell my students to focus on “craftsmanship”.  To me, this is the same thing.

Formative Assessment:

I have gotten so many ideas from this book.

I have really strived to give my students feedback that is specific and timely.  I already spoke to my students a lot during class to find out how they are progressing.  What has changed after reading this book?  I plan more of the questions that I am going to ask and record the results.  I also utilize weekly reflections to communicate with my independent study students.  They answer about 5 questions and I respond to what they write.  The feedback has been very positive for using Edmodo.  I am going to incorporate it into my advanced class next fall.

I track more evidence based on my formative assessments and use that in planning for my classes.  This has created a little more work for me, but at least I know how my students are progressing.  I adjust my lessons for reteaching and/or expanding on things that the students are really interested in.

I have also tried to vary the formative assessment activities that I do in my class.  I have been trying to use the internet to find different activities.  Some of them go over really well, and some are not so popular.  I just tell them that we are all learning.  Most of the students have really enjoyed the new activities.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Chapter 3: Clarifying, Sharing, and Understanding Learning intentions and Success Criteria

This was an interesting chapter to read for me.  I find it hard to believe teachers are not doing this.  Maybe it’s because I teach art, and my lessons are set up differently, but I almost always do this in my lessons.

I start out a lesson with a slide show about the project we are going to do.  We look at professional, successful student, and unsuccessful student examples.  We discuss the objectives and the procedures for the assignment.  Throughout the assignment they do reflections and discussions on work related to the project.  I will ask them questions about how a specific piece could be improved, what they think is most successful, what advice would they give to the artist, what are the strongest Principles or Elements, etc.  The students reflect about their projects with me and with other students.  The chapter did briefly talk about this having already been done in some of the specialty classes.

When I thought back to when I was in school, most of my teachers never did this.  There were many times that I sat in class and wondered what I was supposed to be learning and why.  When I was going to school for my first bachelor’s degree you could find some of this information on the syllabi, but it was often not discussed.  When I went back for my art ed degree in 2007 this was becoming a much more popular practice.  They encouraged us to create handouts at the beginning of projects that explained the objectives, procedures, and grading criteria for each project.  I did this for a while when I first became an art teacher.  What I quickly learned was that my students were not using the information on these handouts and it was a huge waste of paper.  I now have the students take notes while we go over a new assignment and write the main objectives and procedures in their sketchbooks.  Their daily reflections also go in their sketchbook.  They are not quite so bombarded by the information.  At the end of the assignment I have them fill out a reflection and rubric about their project.  It is always interesting to read about what they learned through the process of creating their piece.  Areas that I feel are very strong in their piece are often viewed as an area of difficulty for the student.  I can see by their reflection how they identified problem areas and worked through the issues.

Another new tool I have started utilizing are visual rubrics.  I have a few for my 3D classes.  It shows examples of work for each level of my rubric.  We have discussed why each piece received their score.  It has shown me when I need to be clearer about what I am looking for.  They often don’t understand the differences between a 3 and a 4 until we discuss it.  I leave this poster up while they are working on their projects so they can check their progress.

Chapter 4: Eliciting Evidence of Learners’ Achievement

This chapter really made me look at the way I phrase the questions I ask my students.  When I was taking the class on developing my art curriculum, we discussed essential questions for units rather than unit objectives.  This spurred a whole new conversation on how to talk about art.  One of the class participants talked about using Visual Thinking Strategies.  I had never heard of VTS.  I went to their website and found it very interesting.  The teacher basically sticks to three questions: “What's going on in this picture?” “What do you see that makes you say that?” and “What more can we find?”  The videos showed teachers using VTS in action.  I think it worked great for lower levels, but thought that high school students would find it very frustrating if I kept asking the same questions.  I began doing more research on effective questioning.  Once I started changing the way I asked my questions, I began to receive much more detailed and supported responses.  The students’ sketchbooks have served as an invaluable tool is gauging student comprehension and growth.  The have also looked back at their reflections and jumpstarts to measure their own growth.

The other part of this chapter discussed finding out what your students know and have learned about what you are teaching.  I think one of the biggest mistakes we make as teachers is assuming students already know something.  When we find out that they don’t, we get upset, rush through it, and feel like we can’t/shouldn’t have to slow down to make sure the prerequisite skills are mastered.  How can we ask our students to learn what we are teaching when they don’t have the foundational skills needed?  Do I find it insane when some of my 8th graders don’t know how to mix green?  YES!  To me, I think they should know this by the time they reach me.  The reality is that they don’t have an art teacher in the elementary school.  There are no art standards for grades k-7.  I have to review the basics before we can start painting.  When I was writing the standards for grade 8 and beginning art, I used sample standards from k-4 curriculum.  Unfortunately, that is the level my students are at.  They are complete beginners when they get to me.  I, the teacher, am the one who needs to adjust, not the students. <I’ll hop down off my soapbox now.>

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Formative Assessment

One of the major concepts that I teach in my class is how to look and respond to art using the Art Elements and Principles of Design.  I introduce the Elements and Principles in eighth grade.  As a formative assessment to see how they respond to art, I put up a work of art and ask them to tell me about the strongest Element or the strongest Principle.  They need to write a minimum of five sentences.

When reading the responses, I look for the use of art vocabulary and the strength of their reasoning behind their opinion.  I constantly tell them to back up their opinion.  I track the students' progress on a spread sheet.  When they respond using very few art vocabulary words, name more than 1-2 Elements, and/or don't back up their opinion, they get a minus sign.  When they begin to grasp the concepts and back up their opinion using some art vocabulary words, they get a dash.  Once they have mastered choosing one Principle or Element and full backing up their opinion utilizing art vocabulary they get a check mark.

When reteaching and expanding on these concepts, I do a lot of it through discussion.  We do whole group discussion and one on one.  I use my spread sheet when speaking with my students one on one.  Throughout the quarter, the majority of the students are at least to a dash mark.  I plan on using this information when students take art at the high school level.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Repair Kit for Grading...My Takeaway

I’m going to talk about the fixes that stick out the most to me and how they fit into my educational philosophy.

Fix #2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.

I have gone round and round with my colleagues about late work and the multiple policies that teachers use.  I am a firm believer in not penalizing for late work.  I am going to give them full credit for the work they do.  You get a lot of arguments about this.  Some teachers say that we have to teach them the responsibility of handing work in on time.  I agree, but my primary goal is to teach them the content.  Finishing the assignment to show their growth is my primary goal.  If I deduct points for lateness, how is that motivating the student to complete the assignment?  They don’t see the point in handing it in, only to get half credit.  They settle for the zero.  How is that helping?

This brings me to…
Fix #12: Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement, or use “I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.

I try not to allow my students to get zeros in my class.  Yes, this initially created a lot of work for me.  I will pull them in before or after school, during SRB, I call their coaches and parents, whatever I have to do to get the assignment done.  Eventually the students realized that they might as well do the work because I make them do it either way.  I don’t give “busy” or fluff work.  The assignments I give them are essential to measure their growth and skill level.  I need that data.  I cannot let them choose not to get it done.  I also agree that adding a zero to the grade book creates an inaccuracy in their final grades.  It is not a true reflection of their progress.  Many teachers think that chasing students down to recover missing assignments is too much of a hassle.  I think that it comes with the territory.

Fix 11: Don’t rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment. 
Fix 13: Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence. 
Fix 14: Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.

I’m going to address these all together.  I don’t think grades should be determined using “practice” work.  This defeats the purpose of letting them practice.  It shouldn’t matter WHEN they master the concept, as long as they eventually do.  I think sometimes teachers get stuck focusing on all the questions students get wrong, rather than looking at the ones they got right.  I never really thought about this until I taught first grade.  I noticed that I could give a spelling test on short a in week three and the student would miss 5 out of 7 words.  They just didn’t get the pattern.  By week five, their reading and writing showed that they understood the short a pattern.  Why would I give that student an F because they didn’t get it in week three?  I started tracking the major concepts in my classes and when students became proficient in them.  The next year I took this data to the principal and owner of the school.  I made my argument for standards-based grading.  We transitioned first grade to standards-based that year and grades 2-4 the following year.  It was the best thing for all involved.  Students were a lot more confident after we did this.  They were not afraid to make a mistake.  They knew it was ok.  We stressed that through mistakes is how we learn.  You shouldn’t be punished for learning.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Repair Kit for Grading Ch.1-2

Well,  the book A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades is a lot more "controversial" than the last two books we read.  I feel like I am a pretty progressive teacher, but some of the ideas in this book were very hard for me to swallow.  I'm just going to go through each fix.

Fix #1 - Don't include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.

I just about fell off my chair when I read that!  How, as an art teacher, in a performance based class can I NOT include effort and participation?!?  I was very resistant to this at first.  I understand what the author is saying about grades only measuring achievement, but part of their achieving the task IS effort.  I was very concerned about this.

I took a look at my rubrics.  Each one includes a section on effort.  After some reflection, I am considering not grading that portion, but still including that feedback.  Some effort is considered in the craftsmanship section, but I don't think I want to change that at this point.

Fix #2 - Don't reduce marks on work submitted late; provide support for the learner.

This is already a policy in my classroom.  I still set due dates and collect the work.  I tell the students that if it is incomplete or they just want to improve their grade, they can resubmit it at anytime and I will regrade it with no penalty.  I have found this to be successful in my classroom.  Most students who are not done with a project complete it within a week of the due date.  I was worried about the end of the quarter, getting an influx of projects and papers to grade, but that really didn't happen.  I think the students deserve credit for the work they have done, so I won't penalize for lateness.  I hear others say that "in the real world there are deadlines."  Yeah, I know, but sometimes you can't meet those deadlines.  My first quarter at RHS I didn't get my report cards in on time.  I was a new teacher, projects were stacked to the ceiling, and I was still learning how to use the gradebook.  Did I get fired?  No.  I called my principal, told him the situation, and we came up with a solution.  Most deadlines are flexible (to an extent) even in the real world.

Fix #3 - Don't give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.

I do not offer bonus points in my class.  This is mainly because I don't see the point.  If it is an important question, it should be on the test.  If isn't relevant (ie. what's my first name) it shouldn't be on the test.

Fix #4 - Don't punish academic dihonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequesnces and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.

 As long as there is some other sort of consequence I'm fine with this.  It will require me to change my classroom policy.  Right now, at the beginning of the year, I have my students sign an academic integrity contract.  We go over it thoroughly in class.  They know exactly what I mean by plagiarism, cheating, and lying, and how they apply to my class.  We go over the consequences for each one.  I tell them that if they choose to break this rule, they choose to deal with the consequence.  The reason I started this is because I had issues with plagiarism my first year.  There was no policy for the school.  So, when I reported it to the office, they told me to take care of it.  I think there needs to be a school-wide policy on this.

Fix #5 - Don't consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately.

Do people do this?  I have never ancountered a teacher or school that graded on attendance.  Hmm.

Fix #6 - Don't include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence.

I have always given individual scores, even for group work.  You should only be evaluated on YOUR work, not the work of others.  You only have control over yourself.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rubrics and Feedback

It has taken me a long time to figure out how I want to assess and grade my students.  I had to evaluate what I thought was most important.  I started out with rubrics based on the ones given to me when I was student teaching.

They looked like this:

Assessment Rubric


Assignment: Collage in the Style of Keith Grace

Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment.
Needs Improvement
Rate Yourself
Teacher Rating
Criteria 1- Preparation:
· Completed at least five preliminary drawings in sketchbook.
· Participated in class discussions.

Criteria 2- Effort:
· Took time to develop idea and project (didn’t rush)
· Was willingness to work through difficult areas
· Properly cleaned-up/stored materials
· Energy and focus went toward your project

Criteria 3- Craftsmanship:
· Neat, clean, and complete
· Skillfully used art tools and media
· Effectively used of space
· Produced a work of art in the style of Keith Grace

Criteria 4- Assessment:
· Incorporated at least five different media into your piece
· Actively participated in critique
· Completed the self-evaluation and response thoughtfully and honestly


What's wrong with this you ask?  It provides no reason why I am rating them the way I am.  It doesn't tell them what was expected.  What is "excellent" vs. "good"?  (Plus, someone who is rated "excellent" could still end up with an 80%.  Would you give "excellent" work a C?  (I don't realize that until later.)

So I switch to this style:

Pun and Ink Rubric

Advanced 9-10
Proficient 7-8
Novice 4-6
Needs Improvement 1-3

Arrangement of objects makes excellent use of the space. Whole drawing moves the eye from one object to another.
Arrangement of objects makes good use of space. Some movement from object to object, but could have been further developed.
Need more attention to composition, arrangement does not easily lead eye from object to object.
Arrangement is uninteresting. The eye does not flow to any other parts of the drawing, jumps or parts are distracting.

The theme of the student’s pun is clear, well-illustrated and original.
The theme of the student’s pun is illustrated and mostly original.
The theme of the student’s pun is somewhat illustrated and/or not very original.
The theme of the student’s pun is not illustrated.  The drawing does not relate to the pun.

Value and Texture
Student chose a light source and effectively showed it.  Work displays many methods for showing texture/ value (hatching, cross hatching, stippling)
Student chose a light source and somewhat effectively showed a variety of values. Work displays some methods for showing texture/ value.
Student's choice of light source was not clear.  Shows little change in texture or value.
Student's choice of light source was not found.  Shows no change in texture or value.

Materials were used properly and neatly. No stray marks or smudges are evident.
Materials were almost always used properly and neatly. Few stray marks or smudges are evident.
Materials were often used inappropriately. Many stray marks or smudges are evident.
Materials were not used properly or neatly. Many stray marks or smudges are evident.

The artwork was patiently done with time spent on details. It was done neatly and well planned out.
The artwork was done well, but lacked the finishing touches. Almost all of the project was put together neatly.
The student showed average craftsmanship. More attention should have been paid to details, neatness and planning.
The student showed below average craftsmanship, lack of pride in finished work.

Effort and Clean Up
Used ALL time wisely, had a good attitude the entire time, tried as hard as they could. Student cleaned up all supplies appropriately and on time each period.
Used MOST time wisely, had a good attitude most of the time, stayed on task. Student cleaned up most of the supplies appropriately and usually right away each period.
Was reminded often to stay on task and put forth little effort. Did not put the time and effort into the project that was needed. Student did not often clean up supplies appropriately and/or on time each period.
Attitude and effort needs improvement. Put little effort into the assignment. Student did not clean up supplies appropriately and/or on time each period.


I liked this one.  I rated them, it basically tells them why.  The problem was I felt like I was punishing them for being a "novice".  You fail just because you are learning the skill still?  Isn't "novice" where most of my beginning students would be?  I figure, the first column should get an "A", the second a "B", and so on.

Onto the next version:

Coil Pot Rubric

Advanced 9-10 A
Proficient 7-8 B
Novice 5-6 C
Needs Improvement 1-4 D/F

Pot is interesting from all angles, great use of line and space, effective 3-D design.  Interesting and dynamic shape.
Satisfying use of line and space, could develop more intrigue with better 3-D design.
More development with line and space, needs more coiling practice. Shape is too simple, lacks complexity.
Line and space unrelated to pot construction and design, unbalanced, unresolved, or incomplete design.

Design Choice
Vessel is 8 inches tall and successfully incorporates 3 different types of coiling techniques.
Vessel is 8 inches tall and incorporates 3 different types of coiling techniques but vessel in slightly awkward where coils transition.
Vessel is not 8 inches tall or does not incorporate 3 different coiling techniques.  Transition areas are awkward and don’t fit together.
Vessel is not 8 inches tall and there are not 3 different coiling techniques used.

Pot is intriguing and unique.  Design is well planned and crafted.
Fairly original design, interesting layout and manipulation of the clay.
Design shows understanding of coil pot construction.  Not much originality.
Obvious construction issues, lacking detail, unoriginal, incomplete design.

Glaze Use
Used 3 flowing coats, no missed or thin areas, applied glaze carefully to avoid unwanted bleeding.
Used 3 coats, but may have been sloppy with application.  Some missed areas or thin areas.  Some bleeding of colors.
Slow down and apply glaze with care and patience.  Sloppy application led to missed areas.
Inconsistent application of glaze.  Very rushed, lots of missed, thin areas.  Glaze bleeds into other areas.

Work Process
Pot completed on time, strong personal interest and independent drive, went above expectations.
Pot completed on time, met expectations, some independence and drive exhibited.
Pot completed on time, could have used time in class more wisely or spent some time outside of class, meets most expectations.
Pot turned in late or missed a firing. Inconsistent effort, needs constant prompting and motivation. Pot did not meet size requirement.

Pot is well constructed, sturdy, no loose clay or cracked coils.  Pot is level and symmetrical.
Pot is adequately constructed, coils are neatly stacked, minimal cracking.  Some issues with symmetry or pot is leaning slightly.
Satisfying construction, could have taken more time on neatness, some cracking or joining issues. Lacks symmetry.
Sloppy construction, coils not attached well, lots of cracking, pot is not sturdy.

Effort and Clean Up
Went above expectations, stayed on task and worked independently.
Met expectations, stayed on task and worked fairly independently.
Needs prompting to stay on task, works some-what independently.
Off task most of the time, constant prompting, work below expectations.


But how do I figure out what percentage to put in the grade book?  I created this chart to help me:

The new rubric and grading scale have served me well for the past year.  I did tweak the rubric one more time for this semester.  I included a back for student response.  Why?  I want to know more about what they thought of the process.  Why they chose to do their project the way they did.  I also want to know how they thought they did.  It's good for them to think about these aspects of their art.  I also make sure to hand out the rubric at the beginning of the project so they know what I expect from them.

Mixed Media Painting Rubric

Advanced 9-10 A
Proficient 7-8 B
Novice 5-6 C
Needs Improvement 1-4 D/F
The composition includes all three parts. Colors work well together. Texture/ line quality/ images contribute to the unity of the project.
The composition does not include all three parts.  The student used some colors that worked well together, and they worked hard to use texture to help them express their ideas, but there are gaps in the work that keep the viewer’s eye stuck in one spot. More media was needed.
The composition does not include all three parts. Colors did not suite composition as well as they should of. No texture was created, or line quality was considered. Media choices did not help the overall project.
Colors did not suite composition. Student did not give time and effort to create texture. Composition had no planning at all. Composition had no consideration to overall piece.

Student’s message was clear and well thought out.  The quote pops out from the page.
The student’s message was fairly clear and thought out.  The quote was clearly stated on the page.
The student wrote their message but the quote is somewhat lost on the page.
The quote blends into the background or the words are placed to where the message is lost or hard to read.

The artwork demonstrates original personal expression and outstanding problem solving skills.
Artwork includes many different media.
The artwork demonstrates some personal expression and logical problem solving skills. Artwork includes some different media.
The artwork demonstrates an average amount of personal expression.
Artwork includes some media but needs more variation for it to truly be a mixed media work.
The artwork demonstrates little personal expression and problem solving skills. More media is needed.

Artwork all comes together in harmony. Colors, textures, line, all work together.
Composition has asymmetry, diagonal, and thirds that properly work on page.
Artwork does have very strong areas that stand out in their excellence.
However, there are other areas that do not work in the art. Instead they are a distraction to the overall piece. These areas were talked about in critique.
The work has random areas that do not connect to the rest of the painting.
Student has areas that need more attention and detail in order to contribute to the overall unity of the piece.
Students work has no direction. It is sloppily created with little consideration to composition.
There is no theme, idea, or anything of substance present in student's work.

The artwork shows outstanding craftsmanship, with clear attention to detail.
The artwork shows good craftsmanship, with some attention to detail.
The artwork shows average craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The artwork shows below average to poor craftsmanship and little attention to detail.

Effort and Clean Up
The student put forth extraordinary effort to complete the project well as possible; used class time extremely well.
The student put forth the effort required to complete the project well; used class time well.
The student put forth the effort required to finish the project; used class time adequately.
The student put forth no effort or the project was not completed; class time was not used well.


On the back they must answer questions about the project.

1. What were the best and most difficult aspects of this project?  Explain in DETAIL! 
2. Why did you choose the quote you did?  Explain in DETAIL.  How does it relate to you? 
3. According to the rubric on the back of this sheet, what grade do you deserve?  Why do you deserve this grade?
I deserve _________ out of 60 points.  Here’s why:

I have also decided to keep their rubrics and photos of their projects in a file for them.  Since we began looking at our standards and how we assess them, I thought it would be important to keep track of their progress.  I also want to see how they grow semester to semester and year to year.  If we end up moving to standards-based grading, I'll pretty much be good to go!

Is this the final product?  No.  I still feel like I need to be more specific about why they got the ranking that they did.  I am in the process of creating a conference document to include in their folder.  Will we formally conference about every project, not likely.  But, it's a process after all.