Inauguration Facts: the 2017 Event

What do we know about this one so far? Well, not much. As one who is going I am a little frustrated by the lack of information especially since I am not as familiar with DC as some people. I’ve been there four times and two of them my brother zipped me around. He could have dropped me off and I would still be wandering the streets. The last time I was there before he died I got dropped off by Uber, my first one!, at the Lincoln Memorial. 16,000 steps later I found myself at the Archives. I figured out where the nearest Metro station was and how to get back to their house. I was about to test my theory when my sister-in-law saved me with another Uber ride. That Uber is awesome! But, I digress…

  1. We know it’s going to be in DC. There is a wreath laying ceremony on the 19th. The swearing-in, the parade, and the balls are the 20th. There is a concert but we don’t know who is playing. The Swearing In Ceremony takes place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building but can be viewed from along the National Mall. The Parade will then continue down Pennsylvania Ave NW ending at the White House.
  2. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies released about 250,000 tickets to the swearing-in starting Monday. These tickets are distributed by members of Congress. That’s how I got my tickets.

    JFK ticket cost $3.

  3. Sixteen-year-old singer Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem, and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Franklin Graham are among the faith leaders who will offer prayers or readings during the ceremony.
  4. The parade will be shorter than usual. Trump wants to work before the balls. There will be around 8,000 people in the parade. But, if you have ever witnessed a parade in DC, you know they go on forever. I watched the last Memorial Day Parade. We left after the Korean War. It was blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks of floats left.

    Got my pic with Teddy as we walked back to the car. Behind me you can see floats for the parade.

  5. There are three official balls. You become official by having confirmation that Trump and wife will show up at it. There are lots of other balls going on as well. The Indiana ball is sold out. Arkansas was hosting a ball but it got canceled. I want to go to the Gays for Trump Ball. I’m not LGTB but I think that would be the craziest party there. If I go to a ball, I think I want crazy fun awesome time not stuffy, foo foo, pinky fingers time. Check out the balls link. I had no idea that most of the balls are open to the public. You just have to pay the ticket.
  6. You can get inaugural merchandise. A site paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee (a joint fundraising committee of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and the Republican National Committee) is offering all kinds of stuff. I think my favorite is the Official Inaugural Gold Seal Set of 6 Koozies. We might all be drinking soon depending on how this will go. (In full disclosure, I voted for Ted Cruz in the primary. I think we need a Constitutional Conservative right now. I stuck to reading his speeches instead of listening/watching him. I would have a very visceral reaction to his voice. I couldn’t stand it. He sounded like a whiny take my ball and go home kind of guy. Any Oral Comm teacher worth their salt, I am one, could have helped him fix that. Listening to him on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday interviewing Jeff Sessions made me remember why I liked him so much. Where was that guy? He should have asked me to help him with his image. If we learned anything this election, it’s image is everything.) But, I digress…
  7. How in the world are we going to get there? The answer to that is the Metro. Riding the Metro is fun. It’s only fun because I don’t have to do it every day. The trick is to know which line is the line you want. They have maps for that.

That’s what’s out there so far. It doesn’t give me much hope that so many things are up in the air. Is it usually like that? All I know is that in a few days I will be surrounded by 250,000 of my friends watching a historical event. There will be protesters, pickpockets, scalpers, police, regular and irregular people alike.

I. Can’t. Wait.

 

Source: Washington Post

Inauguration Facts: The Weird and the What?? 1901-2012

I think it’s so interesting that we take all this for granted. We tweet about what’s going on and make these memes all the while making fun of the president and the institution called our government. We have such reverence for the original GW and Honest Abe that we forget they were just men. We also waste nothing in our pursuit to satirize the latest presidents. We make pilgrimages to Mount Vernon and honor our dead at Arlington Cemetery. We certainly don’t do that for any living president. I suppose you can’t be a prophet in your own time. Maybe we should try to get back to the magnitude of the office. It takes a lot to run this country. In studying the inauguration I have tried to get back to that. Reverence.

Did the modern era presidents find inaugurations as weird as the first 100 or so years? Let’s find out!

In 1901, William McKinley mentioned establishing relations with Cuba. He talked a lot about Cuba. He was also the first president to be filmed.

In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt became president after McKinley died of a gunshot wound. He was sworn into office in Buffalo, NY. He was sworn in without a Bible. He was the youngest president so far at age 42 when he took over after McKinley. Mark Hanna lamented “that damned cowboy is president now.” I don’t know who that guy was but that cowboy turned out fine!

In 1909, William Howard Taft’s inaugural ceremony was moved indoors due to a blizzard.

In the 1917 Inaugural Parade, women were allowed to participate.

In 1921, Warren G. Harding rode to the ceremony in a car. He only secured his party’s nomination on the tenth ballot.

In 1925, Calvin Coolidge was the first president at an inauguration to be broadcast nationally.

In 1929, Herbert Hoover remarked in his speech, which occurred eight months before the stock market crash, that America had reached a “higher degree of comfort and security than ever existed in the history of the world.” His ceremony was recorded by a talking newsreel. He also focused on crime and law enforcement. Ironically, Herbert and J. Edgar were not related.

From 1933 to 1945, Frankin Roosevelt was sworn into office four times. In 1937, by way of the 20th amendment, the date of the inauguration would be set on January 20th. In 1945, there was no parade. There were gas rationings and lumber shortages. WWII.

In 1961, John Kennedy was a slew of firsts. This ceremony had its first poet to reside, and the president was the first Catholic to become president. He was the last president to wear a stovepipe or top hat to the inauguration. He was the youngest president to get elected at 43. Flamethrowers were used to clear the snow for the parade which almost didn’t happen because the podium Kennedy was sworn in on caught on fire.

In 1973, Richard Nixon was sworn in as president. Nothing extraordinary happened. It wasn’t until that October that his vice president, Spiro Agnew resigned under suspicion of income tax evasion and bribery. Nixon nominated then-Congressman Gerald Ford to be his vice president. 10 months later Nixon resigned making Ford the president. That was the 25th amendment in action!!

In 1981, Ronald Reagan, the first movie actor to become president, was the oldest being 17 days shy of his 70th birthday. This inauguration was the warmest on record at a balmy 55 degrees. His inauguration in 1985, however, was the coldest on record at a frigid seven degrees. He was sworn into office inside the White House.

He finally won one for the Gipper.

In 1997, Bill Clinton’s inauguration was the first to be broadcast on the internet. Bill and Hillary danced the night away attending a record 14 balls.

In 2009, Barack Obama, the first African-American and first Hawaiian was sworn into office. This inauguration had the largest attendance in history and was the most expensive costing 150 million dollars. Most of the price tag was footed by private donors.

I feel very fortunate to be going to an event that has only happened 57 times before. I am not going with sarcasm or bitterness. I am leaving that behind. I am going to experience this event as a part of history in the making. I am so tired of the fake news and the arguing over popular vote vs. electoral college. Even though his slogan is cheesy and exploited, I want to believe in it.

Make America Great Again doesn’t happen because we elect a new president. It happens when we all come together and realize Rodney King was right all along… we are great again when we all just get along.

 

My next post will be facts and info about this inauguration. Yes!! The one I’m going to attend!

 

Sources:loc.gov, the daily beast, nytimes.com

 

#EdublogsClub #2 My Classroom

Classrooms are a very personal space. Luckily, I teach in a district that allows us the freedom to do what we want, within reason, to our space. Years ago I painted my walls to match my eyes. I then painted quotes on the walls. I had a student tell me once that being in my room was like reading a book. You couldn’t help but read the walls, he said. 

If I am going to spend the majority of my time in a room, it helps to be  able to make it my own. I also started making covers for my door. I get a theme for the year and make it happen. Last year was Dune, my favorite book. This year it’s Doctor Who, a favorite tv show. 

I like my space to be open. I arrange the desks in pods. With these pods students can do group work. 

I stay organized by using Google!! I make a folder for everything. I share that folder with my students, other teachers, parents, whoever needs access to the info. The more transparent I can be the better. My organization skills improved dramatically when I was yearbook adviser (9 years!). You have to think ahead to produce a book worth reading.

My advice to anyone about being organized is to make it digital. Create a system that works to tag it and put it in something social. By social I mean accessible from the internet. This way you can get it anywhere anytime anyway.

My second piece of advice is to use sticky notes. Write it down. Stick it up. Do it. Take it down. You won’t remember it. Sticky notes.

Inauguration Facts: The Weird and the What?? 1789-1900

To get ready for the inauguration trip, I plan to write some posts about different aspects of the whole event. The first one being oddities about the different inaugurations. Not all of them are worth mentioning and some of them are packed with the weird. So, let’s get started.

Did you know a president-elect only has to take an oath of 35 words to become president? None of the other stuff is necessary.

Starting with Washington, no less than five presidents used the word, “pecuniary” in their inaugural address. What is that word? What does it have to do with and why do we not use it with prevalence anymore? Know what it means???? It has to do with money. Why not just say money??

The original GW ad libbed the words, “so help me God.” Thanks G. He also kissed the Bible, and gave the shortest speech his second time around at 135 words. Basically, he said, “Yeah, let’s do this thing.”

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson said, “we are all republicans, we are all federalists.” Was he the first one to just want us all to get along? He was the first person to be inaugurated in DC.

In 1809, James Madison’s ball tickets went for $4. Today the Creative Coalition’s Inaugural Ball tickets are $10,000 a pair. Yikes! In his second address, he called the American Indians who sided with the British during the War of 1812, “savages.” Guess Merica wasn’t PC yet.

In 1821, James Monroe had the first inauguration outdoors. It was going to be inside the House chambers but a feud erupted between the House and Senate about whose chairs were going to be used. They fought over chairs.

In 1825, John Quincy Adams was the first to wear long pants at the ceremony. He also didn’t use a Bible to be sworn in as president. He used a Constitutional Law volume. I’m still stuck on the pants thing. Before Adams, men wore the knee breeches. Like little Lord Fauntleroy.

In 1829, Andrew Jackson was the first president to open the ceremony up to the public. Adams did not show up however. The mud slinging had reached all-time lows during the campaign. Jackson blamed Adams’ tactics for his wife’s death. Dang.

In 1837, Martin Van Buren took office 50 years after the nation’s founding. He assured the public he would preserve the sanctity of “existing institutions.” It would be another 25 years before slavery was abolished. But on a brighter note, he was the first president not born a British subject.

This one everyone should know. In 1841, William Henry Harrison gave the longest speech, 8,000 words, and served as president the shortest, 31 days. What you might not know is John Tyler assumed the presidency being the first vice president to do so.

In 1853, Franklin Pierce recited his speech from memory and canceled the ball. Was he cheap? A party pooper? Two months before he was to take office, the Pierce family was in a train wreck. It killed their 11-year-old son, Bennie. He was the third son to die before reaching adulthood. His wife, Jane, who was somber and pious already, never seemed to get over it. She wanted nothing to do with his candidacy or presidency. I wouldn’t have a ball either.

In 1857, James Buchanan became the first president to have his picture taken.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s ball got so rowdy the police were called. His vice president, Andrew Johnson, got so drunk he rambled his own speech and became too confused to swear in the senators. The parade of 1865 was the first to have African-Americans participate.

In 1873, Ulysses S. Grant, (did you know the S didn’t stand for anything) discussed wanting to unite the country through the latest technological advancement… the telegraph. It’s also on the “20 things millennials will grow up not knowing about.” Go ask one about it…

That takes care of the first century of presidents. In my next post, I will discuss the presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries. The weird and the what continues…

#EdublogsClub 1: My Blog Story

So I started this blog years ago. I’ve used it in the classroom with my students, to post conference presentations, and to put my musings. I wanted it to be a place to talk about my experiences as a teacher but it always seemed as if life got in the way. I joined #EdublogsClub to give me more purpose. If I can make it a habit, then I will find the time to write.

I’ve been an English teacher for 28 years. My kids tell me I should write a book about it. I just want to help other teachers learn from my mistakes and my triumphs.

Mistake #1: Quit procrastinating. I am so bad at it and it seems I get worse ever year. I will put it off until the very last minute. My excuse is I need to let it stew in my head, which I really believe I do, but I don’t need the stew to overcook. Once I put it down, I have practically no edits. That’s all excuses too. Don’t do what I do. Spend an extra 20 minutes getting whatever done. Then, on Sunday night you can watch The Walking Dead and not keep thinking that you will be a zombie yourself because you stayed up late finishing something that could have already been completed.

 

I’m Going to the Inauguration!!!

On behalf of Congressman Bruce Westerman, I am pleased to confirm that you have been allotted 2 tickets to attend the 58th Presidential Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony taking place in Washington, DC on January 20th, 2017.

 

I live in Arkansas. I am an average American living the dream of a mortgage and two kids in college and thankfully one who’s made it out. I am an English teacher and my husband is a salesman. We have put all of our resources into our children… and all the animals that wander into our yard. (We live in an obvious “drop off our unwanted animal” zone.)

Never in a million years did I think I would ever make it to a Presidential Inauguration. I’m going because my congressman, Bruce Westerman, put out the word on his facebook page. (The next time I see Mark Zuckerberg I will have to thank him for creating facebook.) On his facebook page after the election, there was a post about entering the lottery for tickets. I filled it out on a lark. I never win anything. Literally, at a coaches’ clinic years ago they had door prizes for everyone. I got the last one. The last one.:/

As soon as I got the email I bragged to all my faculty co-workers. One social studies teacher who loves Civics more than anything told me to get out of his room. Yes!! After that, I got to thinking. How many times does the average American attended an Inauguration? How could I turn this into a teaching moment for my 11th and 12th grade students? Well it’s 2016. I gotta blog about it!!

I am going to blog the who process of getting there, being there, and getting over it. I will take pictures and talk to people. I want the average American to feel like he/she went with us.

I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!! I have no idea how we are going to get there. I have no idea who we will meet along the way. But, it’s America and I can’t wait to be at least a little part of the process. I just finished teaching my 11th graders about the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. I kept telling them these documents are the reason you get to be bored. Now I get to live them. (Excuse me, I’m feeling a little verklempt…)

I hope you come along on our journey to the White House. With all that has happened in the past six months it’s easy to give up on our government, the process, and the people. I love America. I love our people. And, I will defend your right to disagree with me.

 

Presidential Inauguration!!

 

So, come with me and witness history!

 

 

I Am the Ben Affleck of Teaching

Ok. Maybe the more correct title of this blog should be “I am the Zack Snyder’s Batman of Teaching” but this one seems to flow off the tongue better. Before I get into the whys of it, I want to give a brief response to the movie, Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice. There may be spoilers but in my opinion if you haven’t seen it by now, you won’t. Also, this is my OPINION. It only applies to me.

I read everything I could get my hands on before I saw the film a week after it came out. Wow. I felt like this is the movie Marvel is trying to make. It was philosophical, violent, Shakespearean, and modern. Like Perry White says in the movie, “Kent, it’s not 1938.” And it’s not. Man of Steel was written so that Superman’s only way to end it was to end it. I didn’t like that Superman killed. BVS answered my opinions and doubts by answering with the climate of 2016. I loved watching Supes struggle with what it means to be good and having to justify that behavior in the public eye. I can say something damaging but untrue about a public figure and that could ruin them. I’ve loved Superman since I was seven spending lots of quarters on the guy, but the real performance was Ben Affleck. He was so caught up in his own grief he almost became another guy who kills another Martha. How many people actually recognize when they fail people? in Life? in Death?

Ben Affleck’s Batman is older and just for full disclosure I’m 49. He’s wizened, grizzly, pissed, tired and weary. That is just how I feel as I end my 27th year of teaching. I’ve had so many of my teachers stay on the job into the 40’s. I cannot imagine how. I feel I am the best teacher I have ever been. Ihave taught so many grades and different subjects that I almost think I could teach math. But, I also feel so tired- tired of the stupid paperwork nobody reads, tired of everyone but someone in the trenches telling me the way we did it last year isn’t as great as they thought and we are going to do something totally different next year because we know what’s the best thing for students in stead of asking the people who teach the material, tired of students not doing their work and really not getting why they are supposed to, tired of parents coddling their children to the point that they won’t try anything because they are so afraid they will fail and so what if they do, and mostly tired because administrators who were in the classroom seem to forget everything and treat us like we have no voice when it comes to the classroom, curriculum, or instruction.

ugh.

As I watched Batman on screen, he broke cardinal long-standing comicbook Batman rules. I got it. He was tired of just beating up bad guy after bad guy just to have them come back again. He was tired of living a double life of smiles and sure you can turn that assignment in two weeks late because… (oh sorry, I slipped into me.) He felt like he was just spinning his wheels. He finds out the already corrupted system is manipulated by Lex Luthor who almost got away with his dastardly plan. Just when he believes in what he is doing and believes what he is doing is not only right but necessary (getting rid of the alien menace, Superman), he gets the rug pulled out from under him and realizes he was played for a fool.

old batman

young batman

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I watched the movie, I was stunned by how much I felt like Batman. I promised myself years ago as I watched the old lady teachers I would never become that. Maybe it’s because it’s April. Or because this year more than any other I didn’t have any fun teaching or it doesn’t feel like we did as I think on the year. Sometimes I want to say what I really think in the faculty meeting.

Here is what struck me the most. At the beginning of the movie when Superman and Zod are fighting and destroying Metropolis, Bruce Wayne gets in his car and drives as close as he can. He does what he can to help. He rescues a girl from being crushed by concrete. He helps lift a steel girder off a man’s legs (said man become important later in the movie). Even if Bruce Wayne become Batman in that moment, there was nothing he could really do. The look on his face is the same look on mine. Almost. Every. Day. Defeat-he is powerless to really help. Anger-why can’t he help. Envy-why can’t he be powerful. Batman started the movie pissed– pissed because all the power he had as Batman couldn’t help at all.

                             that’s it.

His face was my face. His emotions were my own, just not about the destruction of Metropolis. I LOVE being a teacher. After teaching this long those students become adults and we have conversations on social media all the time about what they studied and how they use it in life. I have affected years of students in positive ways. I don’t want to be Batman. I want to be Superman again. I want to feel like what I do in my little classroom saves the world because up until this year I always thought it did. I can’t begin to explain what I think is wrong with the education system, a system that desparately needs an overhaul. But, I can thank Ben Affleck for his time appropriate portrayal. This movie made me think in so many ways. The most important way helped me see it’s easy to lose your way. I realized that as Batman realized it–save Martha. Nope, you just saved me.

I Started a Makerspace… and Had the Whole World Laughing

If you grew up in my house, you were making all sorts of stuff. My kids had been making since they could hold the marker. I think makerspaces are long overdue.It’s all the rage and I am jumping on the bandwagon, too.

I facilitate a program called EAST. The students get to decide what they want to learn/study/fix/create etc. The problem is most of them have no idea what to do. Last year I did STEM experiments with them and planned to expand it but trusting them with it did not go as I thought. So, I decided to start to do a makerspace thing on Fridays. The first project was just a simple experiment. I gave them two weeks to bring an empty bottle. They could get it from anywhere. Out of 50 students I had less than half in each class bring a bottle. We did it anyway. My thinking was “this is pretty cool and if they see the fun they will get into the next one.” We did the elephant toothpaste experiment. If you didn’t have a bottle, you just got to watch. It was awesome. and gross. and awesome.

The next project was taking an old book and creating a decoration out of it. They had about two weeks to bring an old book. I even got people to donate so everybody had a book. I went to our elementary workroom and used the Ellison cutter and made some Christmas shapes. I made a tree, a stocking, a light, an apple, and a gingerbread person.repurpose book

All you had to do was trace the shape, cut pages, trace it again, cut pages. Glue the spine together and lightly paint the edges with tempera paint. I even sprayed glitter on them for a great effect. The plan was to create a gift for someone for Christmas. High school students rarely get to do that stuff, right?

Here’s what I discovered while doing this activity. They cannot cut. They cannot trace. They really can’t paint the edges of pages. Did they lose the ability to use scissors? Did they ever have them?

Our students have missed out on something wonderful. Technology is a great advantage in our world but it has smothered the ability to just make stuff out. Todays teens are really busy. Mine own children were coming and going when they were in high school. Every school should have some sort of makerspace so students have the opportunity to imagine and use their thumbs for something other than texting and selfies.

I’m not laughing. I am trying the makerspace in our elementary afterschool. I am also doing a crochet club after school. Right now, I am on the lookout for Legos. My youngest donated them to the local Methodist camp. He was a counselor last summer and they too suffered from too much electronics. They devoured them. I am going to flea markets looking for small motors to make bristlebots.

 

So, the next time you see me I’ll be the one in dumpster… looking for toilet paper rolls and laughing!

 

Why Videos Are Driving Everything

So, I was listening to Fox News Sunday in the car and the segment that caught my ear was about how Good Morning America seems to be using viral videos to drive their news segments. (I wish I could find evidence of that segment. Believe me I’ve tried.) The argument was GMA is winning the ratings war with less than traditional news worthy content. (Here is a link about ratings.) I think his name was Jay from the Baltimore Sun kept asking why… why is GMA doing it? and why are George and Robin talking about the tiny hamster eating tiny burritos. ( I don’t know if they talked about that or not. I don’t watch George and Robin.)

Besides the obvious that people would rather watch the cutest kitten ever meow at us than another day of killing in the Middle East, I have the answer to why viral videos seem to be driving news.

A couple of years ago I bought the book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image and my mind was blown. I sometimes pick it up and read it again. Mind blown every time. In the simplest of ways this book shows how literacy has changed our brains. Reading a book accesses a different part of the brain than watching television. The last chapters discuss how the introduction of the television has begun to change us- that images are becoming the main way are communicating. Think about it. Go back to Walter Cronkite times… he said it we believed it. People dressed like Mad Men. Order and logic ruled every decision. Then we watched our first presidential debate- the Kennedy Nixon Debates. People who watched it said Kennedy won; people who listened to it said Nixon won. Next thing you know we broke the internet by watching “Gangnam Style” over 2 billion times. How about President Obama and his Hope poster? Hope

We have become a image heavy 140 character or less rthr txt u society. I graduated high school in 1984. I remember being afraid of the Soviet Union. I don’t remember any news report or newspaper article about it. I do remember image after image of the mushroom cloud and how the movie The Day After made me feel not think. My kids knew where the happy meals were kept not by the word McDonalds but by the big golden M. I had a student write an entire Freshman Comp II paper on her phone. (It wasn’t half bad.) She would have loved it if I had let her text it in. We bombard each other not with “look at this article” but “look at this video!”

Leonard Shlain, the author of The Alphabet and the Goddess explains it much better than I do. While  I think he wrote the book to explain the importance of literacy he inadvertently provided proof of why viral videos are driving everything today. We have gone from a logical order written word driven society to emotional video/image driven mobile app society.

 

Last word… Pinterest.

Are You Ready to Level Up?

I am not a gamer. I never have been except when Atari first came out and I ODed on the home version of Galaga. I just don’t have the time or want to spend it on a game. But, I have discovered that today’s students love games. A LOT. I decided at the end of last year to change how I grade and incorporate gaming principles into my classroom. I read everything I could get my hands on concerning gaming. The books that have helped the most are The Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Shelton, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, and Loyalty 3.0 by Rajat Paharia. (Loyalty 3.0 is more of using gaming philosophy in the business world but it so fits in education too!) These books have been invaluable in opening my eyes to changing how I do things in class.

Look. I hate grades. I think they are really dumb. I would much rather sit down with a student and parents and have a plan. Measuring the worth of a child’s learning at certain designated points in the year really does not make sense to me anymore. (This is from an English teacher who used to be so strict that if a student did not write the proper heading the entire paper would not be counted. At this point I would like to apologize to all of those students in the late 80’s/early 90’s. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing. Although if I had done anything different I probably would have been run out on a rail.) Grades unfortunately are the world in which we live, so grades it has to be. I wasn’t reaching some students. Some of my students have been beaten up by English class for years. Some of my students just don’t care. Something had to change.

So in this year’s English 9 syllabus I had a section that included Leveling Up. A student’s final semester grade would not be the average of the grades from the past semester but a total counting of those points. Instead of getting a 70% out of a 100 on a paper a student would have earned 70 out of 100 points. That may not seem like much of a difference but if you look at it over weeks there is. At first the students were griping in other classes about it. They didn’t really understand what I had said to them. But at the first mid nine weeks grade they saw the difference. On their progress report they got the traditional grade. I also told them their other grade. The one that takes total points earned against total points they could earn. In all cases but three the grade was higher with my method. In the three cases it was the same letter grade. Finally last week when the students were discussing their points and rankings, a student looked at me and said, “so you mean it doesn’t matter what I make it matters how many points I earn?” Yes. It’s all about the points.

First thing I did was have the students make an avatar and choose a name. I used Marvel Superhero site, Hero Machine, and Hero Factory. I let the students choose which site they wanted to use. After they made their superhero and gave themselves a name, I screen shotted the image to a jump drive. I put them in their respective classes and printed them off. I used the paint program to crop the images. Next I made a leaderboard for each class. Each week I post the top ten students in the class according to their points earned. As they level up they get a sticker. It wasn’t until the second time I changed the leaderboard that the students really showed interest in the process. Now, it’s like a battle. The points show them where they are in respect to the different levels. While the students are really battling against his/her self, they don’t see it that way. They see it as a battle royale.

Students have these preconceived notions of how smart they are in this class or that. With the leaderboard many have been surprised at their place. I have had so many students say the didn’t know they were that good at English until the board. Now do the students know who each other are? Yes, but it’s not their name but their superhero name. And, it’s not their grade but their total points. I also waited until everyone had leveled up enough to get a sticker. Students now refer to their achievements as how many points they have earned instead of failing another class.

Do I have students failing? Yes. It’s ninth grade English. The students failing are failing because they are not doing work as a whole. They also have a lot of absences. Is this new grading system working? I think so. My first goal is to get the attention of those students on the bubble and who have been beaten up by previous English classes. The second nine weeks has started and I am going to change it up. I am going to put them in groups and put them on the board as a group. This way everyone makes the board and everyone has to contribute to the group. I want no Leeroy Jenkins!!

Next post: I will discuss the leaderboard and the grading practice.