Posts Tagged ‘high school’

Electricity & Magnetism, Hoover Dam, and 37 days left!

We just finished the Electricity Unit. I ended up being much simpler than I would usually choose to teach it, but my students had some really intelligent and in depth conversations about the content, so I can chalk it up to success!! Now we’re in the Magnetism Unit and since it is proficiency testing, AP testing, and a-million-and-one other approved school absences, I chose to make it rubric-based. They have a bunch of assignments and labs to complete before their test next week.

I showed my 9th graders the PBS American Experience documentary on the Hoover Dam this week and they were amazingly interested! It may have something to do with our school being 40 miles from the dam, but they had great questions and really interesting reactions to the working conditions, racism, etc. involved in the building of the dam. Can’t wait to show my physics students! Too bad there’s no chance of a field trip this year :(

Only 37 days left of the contract year! Woot! So much to get done, but it is time for the seniors to move on, underclassmen to move up, and teachers have a break from all of the above :)

Proficiency Exams

Today is one of those mornings when I came in early even when there was nothing to do. My department chair walked in with three scantrons from students who took a practice proficiency exam yesterday: 16%, 16%, and 20%.

The major reason for this was that in one hour, they only answered about 26 out of 50 questions. Granted, in the actual test next week they have unlimited time for 60 questions, but that is still only 31% completed questions answered correctly.

All of these three students are in 11th grade; they have already taken the exam twice and have 5 chances left to pass it and graduate on time.

The thing that leaves me wondering what to do is the fact that these three students get much higher test grades in my class. What can I do to encourage them to perform better on a “scarier” test?

The tricky part is that Nevada does not release old tests, so I can’t give them specific recommendations.

How do you help students prep for tests when all you can give them is general study tips?

Triumphs in 9th Grade Science:

The beginning of my career as a general science teacher of 9th grade was rough. There were lots of tears and angry moments!

Now that 3rd quarter is almost over, I have been thinking about what has been successful. Here’s what I found:

  1. Being “mean” – I have had to go way beyond normal human levels of mean and anger. In order to get 9th graders to put their ear buds away and stop tagging on each others’ notebooks long enough to even take attendance took so much stern talking that I could feel my blood pressure go up. My husband even remarked that I was more mean around the house. Obviously, I can’t teach this type of class much longer without burning out, but at least I have them trained to behave more like students.
  2. Bathroom ticket – I think these little beauties were the major success of the year. I have had significantly less classroom management issues since initiating this policy. Each 9th grader gets four bathroom tickets for the quarter that can be exchanged for passes to the bathroom or excused missing assignments. Since they feel they have more control over when they can and cannot “go”, I have had much less of a headache! It has also cut way back on students asking to go every day since they used up their tickets in the first week!

I have one more trick up my sleeve for the rest of the school year; I have challenged each of my classes to finish the year with a class average of at leave 7% higher than it is right now. I am planning on clearing off the bulletin board and putting up the goal for each period. I’ll update it every week so they can keep each other accountable. I promised them a big surprise at the end of the year if they achieve their class’s goal. I have yet to figure out what that surprise is, but the kids seems to be really excited, so I hope it is a good motivator for them!

I’m curious to hear what tricks you have found successful with your tricky classes!

“Mrs McCoy would be so proud of us…”

A girl in my honors class and one of the guys in an introductory level section are an item. I am usually getting on their backs about texting each other in class, but today the girl had an awesome story for me:

“We were in the car the other day and I knew that if I didn’t have to use the brake I could conserve some gas. So I kept yelling, ‘Watch for cars, we’re gonna speed up!”

The boyfriend then turned to her and said:

“Mrs. McCoy would be so proud of us for using physics in real life.”

Haha, so good to know they actually pay attention in class!

1st Day of Second Semster

Wow. I can officially say I have made it half way through my first year. It has not been nearly as traumatic as I had anticipated, but it has had plenty of ups and downs.

HUGE DOWN – my students on the whole decided not to take their semester exams seriously and had embarrassingly low scores. The part that made me angry was that they tried to blame their laziness on me (that the test was too hard). When I held them accountable today, they took responsibility. No knowing if they will do any better this semester, but – as I reminded them – I refuse to lower my expectations to their level of performance. They can keep trying, but I’m one tough cookie!

GIGANTIC UP – after feeling like I was run over by a truck at the exam results, I was reading some comments by my freshmen students. One of the essay options on their exam was to discuss how this Principles of Science course is different than the science classes they took in middle school. The following two responses melted my heart and reminded me exactly why I am a teacher:

Principles of Science is different because we go over all the stuff our other teachers missed. It’s like digging up secrets every day.

This class is different because we learn stuff and the teacher has high expectations.

The comments came from the most unlikely students. The irony was that the class that has the most behavior issues and drives me the most crazy had the best exam results and talked me down from my frustrated teacher ledge.

Now it’s a new semester and some things are changing, but mostly I am encouraging my students to reach higher goals, push themselves harder, ask for help more often, and have more confidence in their abilities. Two new implementations into the 9th grade classes:

1. Pencil Sign Out List – I tried this during the exam and it worked really well. I even personalized the pencils to deter pencil thieves:

2. McCoupons – each of my 9th graders will get 4 McCoupons per quarter to use towards bathroom passes or missing assignments. They will be responsible for keeping track of them:

I am excited about this semester – there is none of the awkwardness of creating rapport with new students and we can get right down to business. With that said – I’m off to review my Big Bang and Pendulum/Intro to Waves lessons!