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SBG, Version 1 (2015-16)

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I never wrote this up. I’m staring down the new school year, and realizing that I don’t have this on (digital) paper. It went sooo well last year, really with next to zero revisions planned for the coming year. I’m super happy (and according to exit surveys, students were pretty satisfied) with how it all worked out. So, here’s what I did:

After getting in contact with Ramsey Musallam last summer (a fantastically generous guy, who spent a chunk of time with me on the phone), I made up a system that works sorta similarly to his.

The unit tests comprised 75% of the term grade. Another 20% was for lab write ups, and the other 5% for miscellaneous classroom stuff.

I reorganized the chemistry content into eight Units for the year. Each Unit had three Standards. For example, Unit Five is States of Matter and Intermolecular Forces, and the Standards are Kinetic Molecular Theory, Gases, and Aqueous Solutions. Implied in those standards are things like states of matter, gas behavior and laws, physical properties based on IMFs, and so on.

Class time was, more or less, normally spent: labs, whiteboard work (also new to me this past year), some notes/slides, and so on. And throwing in a bunch of random stuff that I like, including Beautiful Reactions, xkcd, Compound Chemistry, internet memes and advertisements (sometimes hard to distinguish!), and news articles.

Each unit test was three pages long, one page per Standard. Within each page, five questions with various levels (loosely based on Bloom, my district’s “power standards”, and expectations for the school) covered some aspect of the Standard. Each (often multi-part) question was worth a total of one point. And here’s the weird thing that totally works: each page is worth 10 points, the first five are free as long as the student attempts the problems. So, even if all problems are wrong, they get 5/10 on each page, which is still a failing grade, but they’re not completely unmotivated to do a re-take.

And re-take they did! I had a form to fill out on the school’s LMS. Students had to tell me what they had done to study, with whom they had studied (this human-component was essential), and when they could perform the re-take. Students only revisited a single Standard at one sitting, to focus their studying. Retakes were harder, and not always similar questions, but the format was the same. Some students never performed a retake, and some returned after every exam. But at the end of the school year, nearly everyone who filled out a course evaluation was satisfied with their grades.

I’m absolutely using this system again for the coming school year, and am trying to figure it out for AP chem. I can’t find anyone who uses SBG and AP chem, but we’ll see how it works.

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