Thursday, February 25, 2010

My love affair with topic scales continues

We are 11 school days from the end of the trimester. For as much as I talk about intrinsic motivation, I fully admit that I love when my students realize the end is near and they finally get going.

As students are walking in I have this projected onto the whiteboard (I project right onto the whiteboard so I can draw on it):

They grab their portfolios, check their tracking sheet for the periodic table, and sort themselves out.1 There are a couple of options at each table along with green, yellow, and red cups to let me know who needs attention. I spend about two minutes at each table to clear up any confusion or problem and spend the rest of the period skittering around the class like a crab. Good times.

This is certainly possible without topic scales. But self-evaluation and self-tracking makes this so much easier.

1: I still have to send three or four kids per class to different spots because they want to sit with their friends instead of work on their weaknesses. I would blame it on being 8th graders, but really I would have done that from K to college. In fact, I still do that at every PD session we have in my district.


  1. Perhaps you've addressed this previously, but are students tracking their topic scores (e.g., they are struggling with isotopes but great with the basics) based on quizzes? Assignments? Something else?

    I'm just starting to think about what standards-based grading might look like in my high school biology classes, and I'm struggling to wrap my head around it. Assuming I successfully broke the content I teach down into succinct topics, I am unsure where I would go from there...

  2. FYI:

    Check out this article:

    Portland-area schools debate proficiency-based education

  3. @Sarah For self-tracking I usually go with quizzes. I put a letter at the end of each quiz question and after we correct the quiz they do a plus/check/minus on each standard. What's really important to understand though is that their actual grade is based on professional judgment. This includes conversations, labs, projects, and quizzes. hmmm...I smell a future blog post coming on. Thanks for reading. I enjoyed checking out your site.

    These two might help:

    Last, I actually don't like my Periodic Table tracking sheet. I think our standards are pretty dull and low level when it comes to the periodic table and I can't really find something unifying to hang my hat on. Part of that is that I'm more of a physics person and my chemistry isn't all that strong.

    I really liked this article. It's much better than the NY times one. It gives a pretty good overview and the comments fairly well encompass the range of opinions.

    I would certainly agree that no system is perfect. But when you compare standards-based to traditional it's not even close.