Archive for January, 2011

Calculate your own exam grade

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

No, I am not telling students to tell me what they earn, or even to grade their own exams.  This semester, I am trying to engage my high school students on the gnitty-gritty level. 

Students have access (online) to their two marking period grades and (I hope, or this is a horrible idea) their semester averages.  Many students are also interested in knowing what they earned on their exams.  Usually I would simply tell them their grades.  However, I have been trying to emphasize the importance of student responsibility, initiative, and of course those oft-forgotten classics:  math skills.

Each marking period grade is 40% (for a total of 80% of the semester grade).  The exam would be the remaining 20%.  It is not too difficult for students to take the “knowns” and solve for the one “unknown” (the exam grade).  This is all I ask of them  ;0)  Those who truly wish to know what they earned on the exam will follow the mathematical route. 

Is this a cruel streak coming out in the latter half of my first decade teaching?  No, I don’t believe so.  It is me trying to extract every last bit of effort out of my students.  Every action in my class should be a learning experience.  (Incidentally, if a student comes to me during lunch, I will tell them their grade…whether because I do not wish to be bothered while eating or because of some sense of “hey, they’re doing on (kinda) their own time” I am not yet sure).

So am I cruel or am I creative?

Hypothetical ScanTron Grading Strategy

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

This is an idea worthy of the name “apocryphal” (as if I’ve ever used THAT word in the correct context).  However, it was an amusing thought and simply had to get it to stop rolling around in my brain…so here it is, rolling out onto the digital screen. 

We all know that multiple choice tests have limited usefulness.  However, they are the type most often employed by state assessments and (let’s be honest) a good deal of teachers.  I was considering…what would happen if, instead of making a key for a test which was MEANT to be curved (this happens often enough)…you simply FORGET calculating a curve and instead choose the test of the student in each class who consistently scored highest on your previous assessments to be the key?

You could run THEIR test through the ScanTron machine as the key, and then everyone else’s would already be curved to those high expectations.  If someone scored above that person, you would know that they had not been the high scorer (the “curve-setter” in many scenarios).  But, you would still have a good chance of the “curve” (point offset, really) being accurate enough.

It would be amusing to try out, in any case, and see how it compares to a theoretical curve from the same tests.

A Classroom Memory — grading complaint

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

I remember a few years back that I had two students approach me–graded papers in hand.  The one had scored a higher grade than the other.  However, they claimed to have had the same answers. 

Being the judicious teacher that I am, I agreed to look their papers over.  “Ah yes, you’re right!” I exclaimed merrily while still scrutinizing their work.  “Let me fix that.”  I then deftly swooshed my pen across the paper with the higher grade, made the correction, and reduced the overall score (much to the dismay and surprise of my nonplussed (pun honestly not intended) pupils).

You can be sure that I did not hear a similar complaint from that class again.

Getting to work early to photocopy

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The only advantage in a real-world test of getting to work before anyone else to photocopy exams is being the first to learn that one copier is out of ink, another doesn’t accept your number, and finally that another one keeps flashing error messages of hate at you  ;0)

Then, after all that, you see the person who is USUALLY the first one in the building…and she tells you of a little-known copier that is slow but steady and almost always delivers.

The day is saved  :0P


Friday, January 14th, 2011

I keep getting shocked, and I HATE IT!  My car shocks me, my chair shocks me, my computer shocks me….THE WHOLE ELECTROSTATIC WORLD IS AGAINST ME!!!

I normally enjoy the winter…but icy roads (limiting my motorcycle commuting) and these shocking situations are really getting my goat  :0(

An advantage of the 45 or 50-minute class period.

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This is by no means a full analysis, but I just considered that there is a very real advantage to having short class periods (despite all of the myriad disadvantages).  For large assignments (ones which cover a 90-minute class period easily), you have a much lower rate of students FORGETTING to do their make up work!  Instead, for 2-part labs (spread over two short class periods), you can integrate students who were absent in a previous class into existing lab groups and catch them up (instead of having them write a report and/or stay after school (or skip lunches!) to make up a lab).  For long assignments, the same idea applies, except in this case you simply have a student who was absent the day before made HYPER AWARE of the work they missed (as if your reminders and standard procedure and online grade reporting were not enough).  ;0)

Physics Teachers Have Failed the Weather Service

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

More Information



This is what I read today for a U.S. Severe Weather advisory.  Someone tell me what is wrong with this statement.  I would reveal it, but would rather see if anyone can actually recognize it.  To a Physicist, it is a glaring problem…but perhaps to the general public nothing seems off about this statement.

Search Results “I love my wife”

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I truly love my wife.  I spontaneously did a search for the phrase “i love my wife,” just now.  Do you know what came up?

1) Do I love my wife?  Are you really in love test.
2) I love my wife (the musical)
3) I think I love my wife (video)
4) I care for my wife but love another woman
5) Get advice and support on how to love your wife more

All on the same page…in that order…

What is wrong with this picture?  Can there not be any testimonials about how much a man loves his wife, really and truly??  Are we so mixed up that we have doubts about our love for the one with whom we have chosen to live out our days (hopefully joyfully!)?

Well then, let me make this public declaration:  David Gregory LaFazia LOVES HIS WIFE.  No ifs.  No buts.  No doubts.

Now there is something for the search engines.

A very successful lesson

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

I just wanted to briefly share a very successful lesson which I put together for some of my high school Physics students.

Monday:  I had students spend this short class (Monday’s are short) in pairs or triads on their laptop computers.  Their task was ungraded, but they were told that it would help to reinforce old understandings and introduce new ones which would be used for our Wednesday lab.  They went through a series of 3 short (but very entertaining) powerpoint lessons–discussing them together.  The powerpoints (made by yours truly) were interesting enough that I simply needed to be present (walking around) to guarantee that they were being productive and getting the most out of the presentations.

Wednesday:  We continued our lesson by applying the key concepts in an old lab which used to be taught in Chemistry classes (but which apparently has been phased out–PERfect for our Physics topics, though).  I made sure that I reinforced the ideas with each group as they were performing the lab.

Friday:  The lesson continued by pulling together a certain sophisticated animation (again, made by yours truly) which discussed a key idea from Wednesday’s lab.  Then, we went through a story (again in powerpoint…and again LaFazia-made) which was student-narrated and completed the picture for the lesson.

This next Monday will be our wrap-up “mini lesson” within the overall lesson.  It will remind students of the key points for the week’s lesson and introduce the final pieces of the puzzle.

I love it when lessons go so smoothly and (I hope) the flow is easily followed by students.  This is going to be one of those lessons which I analyze in detail and the structure of which I try to adapt to other lessons.

Got Mail

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Just a thought–why has the URL “” never been used?  Does hotmail have a copyright on that general idea?

Hopefully my idea makes someone rich  ;0)  [If so, toss me a grand here and there, please!  haha]