Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Utility of a California Standardized Test

In general, I don't like multiple choice tests simply because when an answer is bubbled in, a guess is indistinguishable from what a student actually knows. That's a brief explanation of why I think that there is a sense in which multiple choice tests such as the California Standardized Test (CST) are fundamentally unreliable. HOWEVER, last week, my mentor, Mr. Agajan showed me something that I found helpful with respect to the CSTs.

Mr. Agajan showed me how the students' scores were displayed. In the first column on the left of the sheet, all of the students names were listed. In the same column, immediately to the right of their name in parentheses was the percentage score that each respective student received. Again, immediately to the right of the percentage score was one of four labels: "Approaching," "Below," "Above," or "Benchmark." Each of those labels is relative to scoring at grade level. If a student is "approaching," that student is close to reaching a score that is at grade level. If a student is "below," that student is significantly below scoring at grade level. If a student is labeled "benchmark," that student scored at or a little above grade level. Finally, if student is "above," that student is significantly above a grade level score. Unfortunately, I can't be specific in terms of what % is equivalent to each "approaching," "below," "above," or "benchmarking." I'll ask about that when I see Mr. Agajan tomorrow. Anyway, having those labels are interesting just for the sake of being able to identify whether a student scored at grade level or not. For my case, I would care most about whether a student is labeled as "benchmark" or not.

That wasn't what I thought was the most interesting aspect of how the results were displayed. I believe that after the name column, there were 8 or 9 other columns. I was looking at the results for an English CST. For each column, there was a California standard. Underneath each standard would be the questions from the CST that correspond to that standard. For example, one standard might read as follows: "2.5 Identify the main idea of a paragraph." Underneath that standard, it would simply read something like "21, 22, 23." Then, in the next column, it would read "1.5 Identify the synonyms of a word" and underneath that standard would be the numbers "15, 16, 17." I think you get the idea.

Below each column, it would say how many of the questions each student scored correctly under each standard. I think that's cool because if several students score low in one particular column, then you know pretty quickly what needs to be retaught. And, you can't reteach everything. So, having results displayed in that way saves you time in deciding what to reteach.

Now, if only I could be convinced that multiple choice tests are a reliable mode of assessment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Intervening in a Student's Use of Home Time

In Mr. Agajan's class, I get along pretty much with all of the students. In this post, I will refer to two particular students that I get along with on a specific level. The reason why I get along with them is because all three of us are gamers :-X. I hardly play much anymore. Perhaps, I play like half an hour to an hour a week. But, I played a lot more when I was there age. Which, to be honest, might have been relevant to why I was kind of violent and got into a lot of fights when I was in elementary school.

Anyway, I disapprove of a couple of both of their hobbies. My disapproval pertains to the kind of videogames that they play and the kind of shows that they're watching. I think I've established a good rapport with them. They both feel pretty free about telling me all of their hobbies. For their videogames, they're playing Mortal Kombat on SNES. If you don't know what it is, it's probably one of the bloodiest games you can play on SNES. I mean like, ripping arms, legs, heads, removing bodily organs bloody. If you have the stomach for it, here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL27vKCsqJU

As for the shows that they're watching, they're watching shows like South Park and Family Guy. Both of those shows are recommended for viewers who are at least the age of 18. These students are each the age of 9. Most likely, they've already had exposure to a lot of sexual humor and gore. Here are a couple examples: Southpark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5WNRh6VsC4, Family Guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3h4L_FPgDs

So, why are their hobbies any of my or Mr. Agajan's business? It's our business because they are still impressionable. That is, they are still at the age at which they will copy whatever they see. So, if they see Cartman get kicked in the balls or whatever and they think it's funny, they may assume that kicking someone in the balls at school is funny. If they think that uppercutting someone in the face so that they fly 10 feet high is cool because they saw it in Mortal Kombat, they might assume that it would be cool if they could do that stuff in real life.

That's why I feel a need to get into their business. We haven't acted on it yet, but we will soon. I'm surprised that the parents are allowing them to play these games are watch these shows. For the games part of it, they play these games together. I know from experience that they aren't clever enough as far as being sneaky goes. So, that means that at least one of their parents is knowingly allowing them to play these games. As far as the shows go, at the very least, the shows that they are watching are not being monitored. I'm not sure whether both students watch these shows. But, I know that at least one of them does. 

Anyway, we'll see how our attempt to intervene will play out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deciding How to Proceed with the Next Lesson

At 8 am this morning, I took a 5 minute break from my before school job. I used those 5 minutes talking to my mentor, Mr. Agajan. I wanted to figure out what he wanted me to teach to his 3rd graders this coming Wednesday. With respect to Language Arts, they will be learning about words containing 'er' or 'or' sounds. Since it simply contains those sounds, those sounds are not necessarily at the end of each word.

Mr. Agajan attempts to give me some control in deciding how the lesson should proceed. He doesn't try to force a framework on me. Rather, he gives me choices to choose from. In the case of this lesson, the words that the 3rd graders will write down are written in cursive. Reading cursive is difficult for many of them. So, he gives me the option of having them rewrite the words to regular font in class or as homework. I find it interesting that he gives me the option because it makes me wonder whether he is merely testing me. Anyway, it is in this particular regard that I want to address how I will proceed.

I am leaning towards having them rewrite the cursive words to regular font as homework. There are a couple reasons why I am leaning towards that. #1 The time that Agajan's 3rd graders spend on rewriting the words to regular font at home is time that does not need to be spent doing that in class during the lesson. Necessarily, there will be more time available for the lesson. #2 If Agajan's 3rd graders have difficulty in rewriting the words written in cursive to a regular font, essentially, I have a fleet of student aides (i.e. the parents [at least, I hope and assume that that is the case]). If I don't utilize their parents, the worst case scenario is that no student is able to read words that are written in cursive font. That would leave me in a crippled condition. Because I would have to spend more effort and time in correcting the rewriting of the words rather than their understanding of the presence of the er and or sounds in those words that they are trying to convert.

So, in setting up the next lesson, I will have them rewrite the words from cursive to regular font for homework for the reasons just explained. Let's see if it really makes as big a difference as I expect.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gradually Abandoning my Shyness Through Teaching

There is a significant way in which studying to become a teacher is affecting my character. And, I've been trying really hard to let it affect my character in certain ways. Why? Because it is my belief that in every profession, if it is done well, there are characteristics that are good both in and outside of the job. Also, as much as I can manage it, I don't want to be one kind of person on the job and another kind of person off the job. So, I'm trying to take whatever characteristic(s) contribute to the ideal teacher and adapt it(them) more generally.

For example, one characteristic that I think contributes to the ideal teacher is to be assertive. In particular, if a student is behaving inappropriately (e.g. blurting out in class rather than raising their hand and waiting to be called on), then in one way or another, that behavior needs to be neutralized. Otherwise, they may assume that it is acceptable to do so or even worse, someone else will mimic that individual because they also take that behavior to be acceptable. In which case, you will have students trampling on what would have otherwise been an orderly way to organize a classroom discussion.

Now, this is an example of how I have been applying my assertiveness to a degree off the job. I was next in line in a Walgreens. I think I was just buying some bread. This kid was at the front counter. I would guess that he was in 8th grade. Between me and him there was roughly a 1.5 adult person gap. Customers were constantly walking back and forth through this gap. This kid had a skateboard on the floor and it was lying vertically through this gap. That was pissing me off because people were walking through and someone could trip over his board. I think one person almost did. So finally, he reached the limit of my nerves. I spoke loudly and directly at him, "Your board is in the way! Move it!" He slowly cocks his head around to me. He rolls his skateboard back so that the gap is mostly clear. To that I simply reply, "Thanks." With half a frown and somewhat lowered eyebrows, he mutters, "Welcome...."

I was pretty proud of myself for my reaction. I don't like it when anyone is taken advantage of or not considered (with respect to when someone acts in a way that can affect them). So, if I can influence someone's behavior such that they do neither of those things, you can imagine that it makes me feel pretty good about my efficacy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prepping the Class for the Camera

Wednesday of next week, I need to record a video of myself teaching a lesson to Mr. Agajan's 3rd grade class. I need to record this video because my credential program, CalState Teach is requiring me to do so for my current module. Mr. Agajan gave me a good idea for getting the class ready for it.

Apparently, last year, he had another student teacher who had to do the same thing. The problem that that student teacher had was that the class was too fascinated with the camera. The result of that was that they were not behaving as they would if there were no camera. Mr. Agajan's suggestion was that for a few days prior to the actual video recording, just let the camera run. He said that most likely it will be a distraction for them because they will be curious about it. He's fine with that if it will allow my actual recording to be closer to their natural behavior.

My own guess is that they have some idea of what it's like to be on TV and perhaps they are familiar with the idea that whoever is on TV gets a lot of attention. They are still kids and I assume that they love attention. So, I'm guessing that they will want to get that out of their system by being led to believe that they are in the spotlight for some period of time. However, eventually, that experience will become boring or outlived. Running the camera three days prior to the actual recording might not get all the desire for attention out of their system. But, I presume that it will definitely satisfy some of that desire. In which case, they will have less of a desire to behave unnaturally when it actually comes time to do the real recording.

So, there you go. A helpful tip courtesy of my mentor, Mr. Agajan.