Assessing and Reassessing in Sixth Grade Math, Part 1

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August 17, 2012 by ray_emily

First off – day #1 of year #6 is officially over and done!

A colleague just texted me this: “I seriously feel like I’ve been beat up.”

I laughed, but (of course) I completely relate. It was an excellent first day, and I feel good about how it unfolded. (Silent ball was, as usual, an instant hit, that fostered some excellent conversations.) The thing is, man, to be so vigilantly alert and awake and aware of the needs of all those little ones – it takes it out of me. I am not surprised by this first-day reminder that teaching demands vast amounts of energy – but to be living and breathing it once again definitely necessitated a too-long after-school nap.

Anyhow, I spent some time today rolling out my method of assessing and reassessing. Given that it’s on my mind, and that I’ve recently updated all the relevant materials, I figured I’d give you the rundown, too.  I’m going to do so in two phases: (1) Today, I’ll share all of the documents and forms, to give you a sense of how this plays out in my classroom. (2) Later on (soonish), I will explore some of the messier stuff. For instance, why the heck haven’t I gotten all-the-way on board with SBG, when I’m obviously most of the way there? (Despite having an involved assessment system, my gradebook is totally old-school. Like, there is a column for tests and a column for homework: boring, ick.) I’ll also tell you about my struggles with this system, and its shortcomings – although some of them will likely be apparent to you. There are so many ways that I want to improve, in this arena.

The (optional) reassessment process begins immediately after kids have learned stuff, taken a unit test, and receive their graded tests (usually the next day).

Here is how we roll…

#1. Kids complete cover page.

As soon graded tests are returned, kids get to work determining how they did with each skill. In my class, 85% or above is considered mastery (and the skill is highlighted in green); between 70% and 84% is close (highlight in yellow); and anything below 70% – sorry, kiddo: you’re not yet there. (Highlight in pink.)

View this document on Scribd

Some kids are happy with their performance, and other kids – not so much. So, let’s say that Susie Student falls into the latter category, and wants to give it another go…

#2. Susie downloads (from my class website) and completes (with a parent) the ‘at-home reflection.’

My original intent was to have students launch the reassessment process by doing some sort of one-on-one conference with me. I tossed that idea because (really) there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and (sigh) I am not super-human. (If only.)

Although my initial reason for vetoing the student-teacher conference was lame, my solution to the problem has been—to my delight—TOTALLY BETTER and WAY MORE AWESOME than what I’d originally envisioned.

Check it out, in this document:

View this document on Scribd

C’mon, it is pretty good, right? Essentially, Susie goes home, pulls her test from her backpack, and says, “Hey, mom/dad/guardian: Let’s discuss what I’m proud of, here, and also the areas where I need to improve. Let’s look at my mistakes. You ask questions, I talk. While I talk, you take notes—okay?”

This step in the reassessment process fosters meaningful conversation about the student’s performance, but also actively engages parents in the learning and reflecting. In short: total win-win. This might even be a win-win-win situation, because I also get exactly what I want (kids freely reflecting on their learning, verbally), but I don’t need to invest any additional time. The little surprise bonus is that I end up with clear, written documentation of the whole shabang.

[Any ideas or suggestions for how these reflection questions could be improved upon? I feel like I could dig much deeper – maybe by tying in mathematical ‘habits’? Need to think on that one…]

#3. Susie completes corrections.

I use this template, which I like pretty well. (Stole and adapted this sheet ages ago. Can’t remember who it came from.)

View this document on Scribd

At the start of the year, my kids need a lot of guidance on explaining what they did incorrectly, and what they should have done. (Alas, “IDK” is not an acceptable answer.)

#4. Susie completes the “retake request form” (via google forms, also on my website).

I really, really love this form—which has made the whole reassessing thing manageable and feasible, for me. My initial plan was to have students send an email request, a la Sam Shah, The thing is—and I’ve already mentioned it, in this very post—they are such little bitty babies! (Eleven years old!) I am pretty sure that they would flounder without the clearly defined structure and guidance. (Does anyone disagree? I’m interested in how other folks are doing reassessment in middle school. Most of the stuff I’ve read is high school focused, although I could/should dig deeper into the blogosphere, I think.)

As you can see, the retake request outlines all the steps that kids must go through in order to reassess. It also enables kids to communicate to me that they understand and were able to successfully complete all necessary steps.

Requests to reassess appear in a handy dandy spreadsheet, so I know exactly who is reassessing which skill, how many times they’ve reassessed in the past, and when they’d like to do the reassessing.

During my planning period, I use this spreadsheet to pull together and print customized tests, which include new questions on whatever skills each student has requested.

#5. Susie reassesses after school.

When Susie is all finished, we use the test cover page (see #1) to track how many points her score has increased for each skill. We add that amount to the overall grade.

That’s all for now! More about my weird SBG hang-ups, next time. Stay tuned.

PS – Wow, some geeky, giddy excitement about using Scribd for the first time to embed. So easy! Who knew? (Oh, wait: You totally knew.)

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10 thoughts on “Assessing and Reassessing in Sixth Grade Math, Part 1

  1. This is awesome! I saw someone else had students request via email/online for test retakes. I might have to think about that a bit.

    • ray_emily says:

      Thanks! The google form is def one of my favorite pieces, here – especially because I am (ordinarily) terrible about documenting and tracking things like this.

  2. Alisan Royster says:

    I’ve done the self-analysis of mistakes with my 6th graders, too. You’re right, they have trouble identifying exactly what they did wrong — and often just want to say “careless error” for all of their mistakes, so I require my students to specify exactly what they did that was careless.

    I also like to have students answer a few of questions at the beginning of a test: (1) how long did you study/prepare for this test, (2) On a 1-3 scale, do you think that was not enough/just right/more than necessary, (3) on a 1-5 scale, how well do you feel you know the material? It’s always interesting for me to see how well they THINK they’re prepared versus how well they actually perform.

    Love your google form idea, but I have a question about the re-assessment. You say that you “use this spreadsheet to pull together and print customized tests, which include new questions on whatever skills each student has requested.” Do you have a test item bank that you use to do this? Creating the original test questions takes me forever (I’m so slow!), and if I had to customize the re-tests for each student, I’m not sure I could get it done in time for the schedule re-assessment!

    • ray_emily says:

      Hey! Thanks for sharing. I have really struggled (and only partially succeeded, honestly) in helping my kids pinpoint what went wrong. So true (!) – how they want to indicate that every error was a careless mistake.

      I like the questions that you pose at the beginning of each test, and am curious what sorts of things you’ve learned from kids’ responses. (I don’t make much fuss about studying for tests, so I’m not sure if amount of time spent preparing is something I would be terribly interested in tracking. I feel like I’d be more intrigued to know how much time/effort they put into doing homework.

      Re: ‘customized tests.’ A few summers back, I spent forever making multiple versions (3) of each assessment. It took forever, and is not at all a task that I would want (or dare) to work on when in teaching-mode. Plowing through it in the summer was a big time investment, but it has been worth it, in my opinion. I wonder if using a pre-established test bank would work, though?

      • Alisan Royster says:

        I don’t really “track” time spent preparing — and the truth is that some students don’t need to study at all to be fully prepared, while others really need to put in a lot of time to be successful. So the reason I ask the questions is for the students to be able reflect (after the fact) on their level of preparedness, and how their work (or lack of effort) affected their performance on the test.

        I was hoping you had a great source for test items! So do you just have the 3 versions of each test, and have them broken down into sections so that the re-testers just do that particular section?

  3. Using google forms to submit a request to retake a test where you can state what you did to prepare…I love this idea and had never thought to use google forms for something like this. I hate when kids show up after school with no warning to retake a test and then get frustrated when i remind them that i won’t allow them to retake a test if they haven’t done corrections first.

    • ray_emily says:

      This use of the g-forms seems like it will be *perfect* for you, then. Yay! I was experiencing the same frustration. This system has completely put a stop to such nonsense.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing! I also teach MS (math and science) and have really struggled with how to do better w/re-assessments. I love the parent-student form, and got downright excited when I saw your corrections sheet :) This has really helped me start to crystallize how I want to structure re-assessments this year.

    Do you impose time limits for when they have to complete the various steps? One of the things I’ve really struggled with is students (and me!) forgetting that they want/need to re-assess, and then having to come back to things after too long when I finally notice that they never followed through. (Clearly I need to work on my own organization, too…)

    • ray_emily says:

      Hi, Sarah!

      So glad you found some useful stuff, here. I am still new to this blogging scene – so I get pretty giddy about the idea of people making use of the things I’ve created!

      In terms of forgetting that kids need to reassess – I’ve found that when kids are required to sign up for a time slot, and also required to share with their parents that they’ve signed up for a time slot, that forgetting happens way less often.

      Re: time limits – I didn’t impose a time limit, previously, but then I had this annoying problem of kids wanting to redo like 8 million skills at the end of the quarter. Consequently, I make students reassess before the next unit test rolls around. Just keeps everything a little bit simpler.

      Keep me posted on how things go this year! I’m totally not organized, either – so having forms available online has been a big help for me.

  5. […] kids were producing, it had not occurred to me what perfect training this activity provides for my error analysis sheet, which is a compulsory step for students who want to reassess in my class. It’s almost like I planned it! Except, no, I’m not so […]

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