Skype Updates (Thoughts That Keep Me Up Part 2)

Last week, I Skyped with an educator who works as the Director of Instruction and Technology for the Solon Community Schools, Matt Townsley. After reading his blog, I was intrigued to find out more about SBG and somehow he must have either found out that I linked him on my post (Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night), or maybe the Gods of math just brought us together, because he asked me to Skype with him to further the conversation. The Skype chat we had is essentially why I created this blog…to get the conversation going about education, math, and positive adjustments/additions we can make in our classrooms to better student learning. I was so excited to get a message from Matt saying he wanted to Skype because I knew he had been successful with the SBG changes he made in his district and so there would be so much to learn and so much to discuss. Next on my list of people to meet and chat with…Dan Meyer…he’s like the Justin Timberlake of math blogging to me!

So, here are some big takeaways I got from our conversation:

1. Red, Yellow, Green: One quick addition I liked that he did is to have students write red, yellow, or green at the top of their quiz. The next day, a teacher can make pairs easily either by similar understandings or heterogeneously and set up a productive tutoring environment. This would just save time because “red, yellow, and green” are so easily identifiable.

2. Likert scale: Here is a sample Matt sent me. I like this added on to quizzes and tests. Likert Scale

3. No points for homework: I’m convinced…I will definitely be doing this next year after talking with him. I already provide my students the answer key during class which because I believe in his similar philosophy in which we should not make students wait until the next day to see if they are working problems correctly. Furthermore, as I said in my previous post, I don’t want to take off or inflate grades based on practice. So, I will keep track of the assignments/practice we have done and in order to retake, students must be able to prove they have completed all assignments/practice up to that assessment. The homework category, however, will be set to 0%. I think this will help remedy the motivation or accountability factor of 0% homework.

4. Teacher insurance policy: This was just an explanation of what students need to do in order to retake. Right now in my class, any student who got below an 80 on a quiz can retake before the test that covers that material. Under my SBG system, I will still allow students to retake because I know students learn at different rates and paces. I know some need second, or third chances to master material. However, right now students are simply coming in to tutoring, cram studying (or requesting to be retaught on all the concepts) and then right away while it’s “fresh in their minds” they are wanting to retake. Honestly, because I feel like I should capitalize on a student actually coming in to to tutoring, I let them retake right then and there. But, this does absolutely no good! Instead, I like how Matt had it set up…first, I will be sure students have completed all the assignments/practice before they can retake (I say this every year, but I have been too lenient on it throughout the year. That’s only making me work harder because they are coming in blind to the material…I will be better about it this year). So once that the assignments/practice are complete, students must correct the piece of the assessment they want to retake and go over it with the teacher (I do this too)…so here’s the new part: one more practice will be assigned…this could be something sample questions done at home, or telling the student to go home and record themselves teaching the material to their mom or sibling. THEN, they can retake. This ensures several things…students are not cramming, students are doing the learning, students are not retaking in the same day and then forgetting it the next.

5. Buffet-style final exam: Day 42 on this blog describes this concept. I really like this idea!

6. Grading rubric for SBG: I like the kid friendly language here.


Lots to think about! But luckily, I feel like these can be easily applied to the classroom I have already set up.

Thank you again, Matt, for taking the time to chat with me and giving me so many ideas to think about!

Sources: Solon Community School District

2 thoughts on “Skype Updates (Thoughts That Keep Me Up Part 2)

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi Ashley, I just wanted to say that I found your blog to be very helpful. As a high school math teacher I have been struggling with the concept of homework and how to make students “accountable” but not have it “help” or “hurt” their grade. I love this idea! Our school is looking to go with SBG but I am a little concerned by it. I might just be older and set in my ways! My concerned were mainly how do you get students to practice what they need to know and learn. However, I like the homework/practice quiz retake policy and think it would be great transition starter. Thank you for posting! I greatly appreciate it!


    1. ashleytaplin says:

      I’m so glad it was helpful to you…thanks for reading!! I’d love to chat sometime about SBG anytime you’re free…I’m still learning things! If you want to talk over the phone/Skype during the holidays or after once school starts back, I’d be happy to! I agree…I think it is a hard thing to have students buy into practice when it’s not for a grade and it’s definitely been a transition for me, but I am loving how grades reflect what they know, not if they did their practice! Retakes have been going really well this year too…I wrote a brief follow-up to SBG here: Looking forward to hearing how your SBG goes!


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