First, an update from last time...
I did make adjustments to my conversion chart. Primarily to the lower scores. I realized that if a student showed me one proficient artifact, they should be sitting at what my district constitutes a Novice level.
Here is the updated one...
In other news... my intention of blogging more this year is not off to a great start. In fact, the only reason I am probably posting now is because we have two days off for teacher's convention. I told myself I would post some content, including another interactive video. (Mostly because I'm going to need that for class in a few weeks).
But I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I've been tackling some pretty significant personal challenges with my weekly goals. Here's to 2024 and big dreams of weekly blogs and all the content. :)
I've got my iced coffee. A fuzzy blanket. And two sleepy kitties. Time to get some work done.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to pin down what this year is going to look like. The biggest lesson I've learned in this personalized learning journey has been that each year gets a new batch of tweaks and shifts. And so I've been tackling some of those changes. (My school is also moving to block scheduling, so adjustments are needed).
I described my previous method here, in terms of the progression of learning, but now I am excited to tackle a new approach I am calling my 5 Artifact Method. Essentially, students have five possible artifacts. Depending on how many they submit and the skill demonstrated, they earn a different percentage.
Below is an illustration I made to help the kids (and you) understand). For each standard, they will (ideally) do a full cycle.
Because I still teach in a traditional grading system (Quarterly Grades, Percentages), I have spent the last few years trying to marry standards based grading with that format. In this last year, I moved to using a conversion chart.
However, I quickly learned that my conversion chart was flawed. Students could get an A by doing "just enough." It also left many of them borderline when grades had to be reported. So I sat down to rethink what this conversion will look like with the 5 Artifact Method.
Here is my draft...
The hardest part about creating one of these conversion charts is that I won't know it isn't working until... it isn't. Now, usually, I have no problem making shifts and changes based on feedback from the kids, but when it comes to grades, I feel a lot of pressure to be consistent throughout the year.
So I'm posting it here. Perhaps someone else can see the problems I am not. (And I'd appreciate if you pass them on).
I can't tell if I am standing on cliff's edge or mid-climb.
As my last few posts make perfectly clear, I have been struggling with motivation and apathy this year. Creating content, even just planning for my own lessons, has been a chore that frankly kept getting pushed down the list. The bell ringers I created, for instance, were meant to be finished by the start of the year, but were only completed last month.
However, in the last 30 hours, I have found within myself a sudden shift.
After a long time feeling much the opposite, I am feeling inspired again! And the universe seems to be feeding it. Yesterday, I had a moment of sheer kismet - where timing and circumstance perfectly aligned - that I'd like to share.
As I was doing my morning journaling - nothing fancy, just my usual daily stuff - I was struck with the idea to create interactive YouTube videos and create coordinating note sheets to support my students and new AP Language teachers. I stopped mid-thought in my journal to jot down the concept. It felt like a little jolt of electricity to have an idea again!
Then, fate stepped in when I sat down to get some work done later that day. Earlier this month, I started completing a grad course. (The last one to max out my salary!). As I moved through the material - a very well designed PD option by Darcy Bakkegaard - I was revisiting some tools. In particular, Canva.
I've used Canva before (...its how I made my sick phone background), but as I opened the application, I was reminded of the idea I had that morning. Canva was the perfect place to start in creating engaging YouTube content.
Needless to say... I became obsess. (My coworkers call this "Going Steph" on something). I spent hours yesterday creating a new video, based on old PowerPoints I'd been using. It didn't feel like work; it felt creative and exhilarating.
Then... fate struck again!
Thread, the new social media platform, launched. I honestly couldn't believe my luck (especially since I had heard nothing about it). I abandoned Twitter about a year ago - not that I was all that good at it - for obvious, billionaire reasons. Thread opened up the professional learning community for me again that once upon a time, allowed me to share my materials, help other teachers, and just connect. The excitement circulating the app last night was wholly exciting.
As all these stars aligned: the idea, Canva, Thread, I was reminded that I do have goals left to achieve.
That may sound dumb... I'll explain.
Having landed my desired position at work (instructional coaching alongside teaching), I'd run up against a wall professionally. I was exactly where I wanted to be as an educator, so I had been wallowing in "What's next?" and "Where do I go from here?" Yesterday, reminded me of all the places I still have yet to go professionally and all the opportunities that still lie before me.
Call me naïve, but it was invigorating. And I'm grateful for it.
So today, I am off to the races, writing up plans and setting goals to get closer to what I ultimately want. It feels like coming back from the dead, to be honest.
Now, I am a firm believer in respecting your boundaries as a teacher and keeping summer sacred, so please don't take this as a flex or some humble brag about how hard I am working. For the first 9 years of my career, I found joy in creation, professional learning, and planning new material during the summer. It wasn't work - it was fun. Losing that after COVID was a deeply sad loss for me. And if I'm honest, I was afraid that joy would never return.
But here it is, in my lap. And I'm really, really excited.
I just hope its a boost on my professional climb, not an cliff I'm about to fall from.
I am finally sitting, with my feet up, and experiencing something I feel I haven't had in 9 months - time.
Like most teachers, this year was one of survival. I didn't find myself with much time to build resources outside of those I needed for class or as a coach. Between my three sections of AP Lang, coaching, planning advisory for the school, taking on yearbook when another teacher resigned, and all the other things that fell into my lap this year, I felt in a constant state of hyperproductivity. I started every day with my list of Must-Dos and May-Dos and dug in until the end of the day. By the end of these days, I was ultimately exhausted. There wasn't much capacity for anything more.
That said, I am happy to share that I did complete one big task: my yearlong bell ringer pack. That's over 190 bell ringers, aligned to all 22 of the AP Lang learning targets / essential skills. A little bit here and there, I created 22 individual packs, as well as the full set.
Now, as usual, the bell ringer pack is available in my TpT store, but also per usual, I wanted to share some here for any readers or supporters. Below are four of the 22 packs.
And immediately as posted these items, my mine is spinning as I consider what is next. Previously, I mentioned that I would like to create assessments for each of the learning targets. As I am auditing my own class assessments, this might be a good way to offer more choice to my students.
But we'll see! For now, please consider purchasing my bell ringers. I am excited to use them to break up our block periods next year.
Recently, I have started documenting some of my journey with personalized learning. It might amount to nothing, but my dream is that one day I can fill a void in the current professional literature on personalized learning - that is, a lack of books on how to personalize an English classroom.
Again, it might amount to nothing but a collection of Google docs with my ramblings about why and how, but its important to me that I am always on a mission. That I have a focus which I care about. In the process of filling these pages, I keep coming back to the idea of pacing, or in this case, self-pacing a classroom.
It’s also taking up a lot of brain space because next year, my school is transitioning to a block schedule - which means my current approach definitely needs re-design. (The thought of students pacing themselves for 75 minutes haunts my dreams). But - even with the need to reconsider - I have already felt a shift in my own beliefs about flexible pacing over the years.
First of all and much to my surprise… my kids like deadlines. One semester I kept them entirely self-paced, with the kids allowed to move through all units at their own preferred pace. When I surveyed them after, they overwhelmingly said that more deadlines would have been helpful for them. In response, I took a step back from entirely allowing them to pace their own learning. Now, I allow them to pace themselves within a unit, but I have suggested deadlines AND a hard “blackout” deadline for each unit. It allows them to practice some self-pacing, but also keeps them from getting so behind that they end up in a terrible situation at the end of a semester.
Students also tend to rush through material. I have an open re-attempt and revision policy, which means that kids take assessments with less anxiety about their grade. (Very important in an advanced class…). One downside to this is that they tend to rush through preparing for these assessments. They choose between videos, reading and small groups to learn the content, but in so many cases, they are barely engaging with these options. They are just checking a box for me. This results in them frequently having to re-attempt and revise assessments. While I have no problem with that (and actually see a ton of value in having to revise and try again), I’d rather they learned the material before the assessment instead of through trial and error on assessments. (And if I’m being selfish… it would save me time on feedback and grading).
Perhaps most unsettling for me is that self-pacing isolates kids. While my kids are regularly working together on class activities or working through material in-step with a small group, overall, a self-paced format isolates them from one another. On any given day, a small pocket of kids are a week or more ahead and another pocket is a week behind. The distance between these two groups of students is immense. While I would love for the kids who are ahead to help those who are behind, I have never found a routine or procedure that doesn’t make this entirely embarrassing for both.
Beyond that, multiple days I feel like an online class monitor - just sitting in the back and checking their progress on Schoology. In fact, last week another teacher came to my room to grab a student and she apologized. The kids were so quiet that she thought they were taking a test. In fact, they were all working on their material, but they had no reason to interact with one another. Too often, the only way they are engaging with each other is for unproductive chatter. In a post-COVID era, it’s my responsibility to bring students back to the table, so to speak. While they are well trained in independent work, we all know their ability to engage with others will take them further in life than any amount of time management skills.
So with the change of schedule next year, I am carefully reconsidering the value in self-pacing. That said, I feel I must acknowledge that there are advantages…
What it really comes down to, therefore, is what is more important - that kids engage with one another or that they practice managing their own time. The challenge for me is to adjust to a version of personalized learning that can allow for both, because in all honesty, both are non-negotiable.
One idea that I am dreaming up right now is to incorporate collaboration into their choice learning. For instance, the students who prefer to watch videos could watch their videos, but then they could be asked to collaborate on a practice task like a structured summarizing activity. This would create something similar to tracks or pathways for students, based on how they like to learn. The drawback is that everyone needs to be on the same step of their learning… so the self-pacing is pretty much gone. How can I find a way to make this happen where students can either take more time after these practices to review or for me to re-teach, or they can move on to the assessment. Figuring out what this looks like is my next big step.
What are your thoughts on self-pacing? Is it worth the challenges?
As my last post may have implied, I have been buried under a dark cloud that has kept me from tackling new projects and meeting new goals. Just doing the “must dos” of teaching and coaching kept me from doing anything beyond those necessary tasks, but I am feeling the rejuvenation of a good break. I am ready to set some new goals for 2023, and as always… I’m aiming high.
I am genuinely so happy to feel like myself again, and though I know tomorrow brings me back into the thick of stress and exhaustion, I am optimistic. These goals are part of my own personal health and wellness goals. In tandem, I truly think I can see a better semester ahead.
For my readers, I hope you are feeling a similar breath of fresh air. 2023 is the year we can reclaim our passion and remind ourselves why we do this incredibly important work. As I’ll be telling myself every day, we do something that truly matters every single day.
I haven't posted since June.
I have not accomplished any impressive curriculum projects. I have not even updated my Teachers Pay Teachers store in months.
The reality - which I'm sure all other teachers feel - is that I don't have a single ounce of energy to expend on anything extra. I have nothing more to give outside of my coaching responsibilities and teaching my three classes.
I want to create amazing materials for my readers, but there has not been a single weekend when I felt I had the energy for it. I work out 4-5 times a week, and still, I have no energy to do anything beyond the bare minimum.
For me, its a rare form of self-punishment to keep myself from being creative or from building new things.
But that's where we are at. We are surviving.
Checking in for just a second today to share something I am working on.
Last month, I started putting together bell ringer packs to fit each of the 22 learning targets in the AP Language and Composition CED.
Each pack includes 9 different bell ringers to suit the learning target, and ultimately, there will be enough bell ringers to fill an entire 190 day course.
My plan is to include these in my free resources, but for now, the first 8 packs are available on my Teachers Pay Teacher store.
Despite my phone dying, almost missing my flight home, and multiple panic attacks, the AP Reading was… fine.
In all honesty, I came into this one bitter, as I felt a little duped into attending the in-person reading instead of reading from home. (Probably more my own fault than anything).
It didn’t help that the in-person reading was essentially the same as reading from home. This year we read from computers again - which we’ve obviously done for two years now - but it made the entire exercise of flying thousands of people to Tampa see pretty foolish if we were just going to sit at computers the entire time.
My bad attitude plus the previously mentioned surprises made for a rough week.
But I made it.
Because of the extension of the Reading when we weren't able to finish, we had a unique experience this year. In the last two days of in person scoring, we trained on all three of the questions - something that has not been done in my five years of reading.
For me, it was a blessing. I was so sick of reading about ethos, pathos, and logos (more on that later) that switching to Question 3 and then to Question 1 was a welcome change of pace. However, a number of my peers were aptly concerned about the accuracy of scoring when we were being jumped around.
Personally, I think it’s a toss up. Like I said, I needed the change so I found myself reinvigorated every time that we switched. I feel my scoring would probably have been just as hindered by the fatigue had I continued with Question 2.
But that’s enough rambling commentary (... my kind word for whining). This post is not about my complaints, but about the suggestions and tips moving into another year of AP Lang instruction.
The following are the observations I took note of for myself. Some of them are mistakes I saw multiple times that I want to correct next year. Others are harder mindset shifts that I'll be mulling over for the next couple months. Additionally, I want to be very clear that I am in no way an expert, and you should look to the Chief Reader's report (Coming Soon!) for that. These are just a few notes and thoughts I kept for myself as I plan a new year.
Notes from the AP Language 2022 Reading
I have 9 total days left of this school year. And I. Am. Ready.
Somehow, I always forget how tired I am at this point in the school year. I slept the majority of this weekend (a luxury, I know!), and I am still completely drained going into the new week.
Usually, this time of year, I am pouring my energy into planning for the fall and redesigning my class (again). However, this year, I don't have the juice. (My lack of posts in the last few months can further prove it).
It's been a rough year... Stupid TikTok trends, reteaching students how to "school," cruelty-rampant social media, and universal apathy have made it harder than anyone expected, myself included.
But I am an optimist. One of my favorite things about teaching is that we get to start over every year: new kids, new course, new content. I love it.
In the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about that optimism. Where does it come from? Next Thursday will end my tenth year of teaching, and I am still excited to try new things and grow as a teacher. But I know that isn't the case for everyone. Teacher "Quit"-Tok is making it very clear that many, many educators are throwing in the towel.
How can we take the remaining enthusiasm and replicate that across buildings? How do we undo months of fatigue and apathy to remind educators why we do what we do?
How can we take the setbacks of COVID and embrace how we learned to adapt and grow?
As much as I wish these questions were just a transition to a post about all the great solutions, I have - it's not. They are just the questions that spin and spin and spin through my mind. Now that I am an instructional coach, I feel even more of a responsibility to keep great teachers in the classroom.
For me? I just need the ability to try new things and learn as an educator. But how do you reward great teachers? (And for the matter, how do you measure a great teacher?)
Again. Just more questions that I have no answers for.
I am ready to spend the summer pouring all of my energy into answering these questions, but I am at a complete loss of where to start. (And, in all honesty, it isn't really under the umbrella of my job title). I've just always had the mentality that if something isn't being done, I'll do it myself.
How? How? How?
I think finding the answers is more urgent than we all realize.