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Simple and Spectacular

October 11, 2011

Strategy Session:
Like most teachers, over time I have developed tools that help me keep track of work students do, but don’t totally overwhelm me with papers.  About a year ago (after I had my son and also double the number of students I had previously had) I realized that I had to drastically cut down on the number of hours I spent grading.  Since then I have developed some tools, and am still in the process of refining some systems.  However, one tried and true method that has worked for me is my Unit Syllabus.  This is a packet I give to my students at the start of every term, and it has major assignments, places to record feedback suggestions, test scores, and a calendar.  And it has stamp sheets!  These sheets give a brief overview of what we are doing for the day, and then I stamp work during class.  The stamps I give vary on what happens that day, but I usually stamp work 2-3 times.  When students complete a “do-now” I stamp the sheet, and I usually stamp when we begin an activity, or when students are writing in their notebook.  The point of the stamp is that it acknowledges that the student is working on task.  Then, later, I actually check their work for substance – but only the most important parts!  This has helped me get rid of the piles of “grading” that was really just checking off student work.  Now I save my “grading” time for student work that really matters – and where the feedback is needed for them to improve.

To see my current unit packet check out this link:

Yummy Stuff:
This week we are on a quest to finish up our crop of tomatoes before they rot away.  We will be making BLT’s later, but tonight we had a pasta pomoadoro that was fantastic!

Pasta Pomadoro

4-5 medium tomatoes (we used our beefsteaks from the garden) chopped
7-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
12 oz of angel hair pasta

1) Boil the water for the pasta.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, chop the tomatoes, garlic and basil.
2) Start the pasta cooking according to the package directions.  When there is about 3 minutes left on the pasta, heat the olive oil on medium high heat in a saute pan.
3) Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add in the tomatoes into the pan.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes.  While the tomatoes are cooking drain the pasta.
4) Pour the pasta and mix with the tomatoes.  Mix the basil in and serve!

  1. Thanks for posting a link to your class blog! I have been thinking about how I can front load the class at the beginning of a unit with expectations. Your forms gave me a clear idea of how you do it. One challenge for me though is being able to see that far ahead. I can backwards plan for 4 weeks, while the thought of planning a whole term almost gives me an instant headache. From your schedule, it is obvious you embrace the workshop model. This year I am truly teaching more in the workshop model as well (still a work in progress) and I can see how that might make the planning easier.

    • One thing that I have gotten better about this year is holding back on writing objectives for EVERY week of the term, and just planning about four weeks out in detail (as you said). That then leaves we with wiggle room for those last few weeks to adjust objectives to what I’m realizing students need (which always seems to be when I’ve already “planned” ahead! Argh!) I also TOTALLY agree that the workshop model helps a lot with this – it builds in the flexibility to meet kids where they are.

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