Archive | September 2013

CFAs: CREATIVE Formative Assessments

#sunchat is Sunday mornings at 8CST. This week, we will be discussing Creative Formative Assessments. This is one example of how I use quick quizzes for assessing student learning.

Many years ago during a graduate course, our instructor suggested allowing students to grade their own quizzes giving partial credit for corrections. I liked the idea and have used it often since.

Recently, I decided to add a little twist by requiring students to explain the mistake and correction by writing out the reasoning behind the correction. In other words, they reflect on their mistakes. With reflected upon mistakes corrected, I allow students to earn full credit for these short quizzes.

I am looking forward to see how this pays off in the long run.

My students seem to appreciate the opportunity to grow and learn.


I learned to annotate text in church

Nowadays, for the most part, we must teach students how to annotate text.

I puzzled over where I “learned.” And then it hit me. Church.

Years ago as a new believer, I would take notes. I wrote in my notebook and Bible, underlining and making notes in the margin–annotating.

I never used the fancy word for my Sunday note-taking. Never really thought about it. I just did it. I couldn’t help myself. I was hungry for the knowledge being imparted.

Why aren’t more of our students knowledge-hungry enough to annotate without being taught explicitly?

Just a thought.

Bring it on, f a i l u r e

Failure brings opportunities to learn.

While recently completing a unit with my students, this teacher learned quite a few things.

My students and I will have fun while learning.

My students and I will assess and reassess our learning.

Learning is a process and my students and I are all part of the process.

The process is ongoing…

So, bring it on f a i l u r e.

My students and I can’t wait.

Can you hear me now?

Many years ago, I wrote a column I self-syndicated to newspapers in three states. This is one from the summer of 2003. Enjoy!

For the past several weeks I have been on a mission to find not one, but two misplaced cell phones. I say misplaced because I am convinced that somewhere beneath the clutter I call home the two phones are together happily commiserating with one another.

“Can you hear me now?” mockingly asks cell one to cell two.

“Nope, your battery is dead,” laughs cell two.

In the meantime, my daughter’s social life is limited to e-mail, instant messaging and talking with her friends via the not-as-cool-as-a-cell home phone, while her dad is still in a state of shocked amazement that his lovely bride really could be so inept.

But there is hope.

A few weeks ago during a visit to Silver Dollar City, our eldest child was having a blast while riding a roller coaster when his cell phone unintentionally attempted cellicide while plunging into the depths of the ride’s machinery.

Afterward, my son tried to make me feel better by sheepishly saying, “You know, Mom, I didn’t like really like that phone anyway.”

I immediately had the cell service suspended and then we notified theme park authorities that in the event they found a mangled mess vaguely resembling a Motorola phone lying beneath a certain roller coaster that it might belong to the Madden family of Willow Springs.

Unbelievably, less that a week later, a package containing a slightly bruised, but apparently no-worse-for-wear cell phone arrived via U.S. mail, complete with a lovely note thanking us for patronizing Silver Dollar City.

And, yes, we can hear you now.

The other day, I actually found a lost cell phone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of my misplaced phones.

Knowing how it felt to do without, I was determined to find the owner of this cell phone, and not knowing what else to do, I randomly selected a listing from the cell’s directory and dialed “Wendy’s cell.”

“Hello,” said a woman answering the phone.

“Hello, Wendy?” I inquired.

“Yes, this is Wendy,” she confirmed.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but this is Barbara Madden of Willow Springs, Missouri, and I was hoping you could help me,” I continued.

“Who?” asked a wary Wendy.

Again, I tried to explain, “Barbara Madden and I’ve found a cell phone with your number listed in its directory and I was wondering if you could check your caller ID and tell me whose phone I’m calling from so I can return it.”

“What? My number is in whose phone? Huh?” continued a confused wary Wendy.

Realizing the futility of the situation, I said good-bye to Wendy and dialed a second number from the found cell phone’s directory.

I proceeded with a similar introduction used previously with wary Wendy, but this time adding that I was married to the baseball coach at Willow Springs.

“Uh, hold on,” said a girl who answered the phone.

“Here, talk to my dad,” she said.

“Hello, I’m sorry to bother you, but this is Barbara Madden of Willow Springs. I found a cell phone and I’m trying to get it back to its owner. Can you help me?” I asked the gentleman.

“Willow Springs?” he asked. “It’s my daughter’s phone, but I can’t imagine how it ended up in Willow Springs.”

After a bit more discussion, we eventually determined that his granddaughter must have let her boyfriend, who plays baseball with my son, use her mother’s cell phone and the phone ended up in Willow Springs when my husband gave the boyfriend a ride to a ballgame in Springfield and the boyfriend left the phone in our van.

At least I think that’s right.

It’s a little late, but I now realize it would’ve been a whole lot simpler to have just called my son’s battered but available cell phone and had him check caller ID, but not before asking him, “Hey, can you hear me now?”

Thanks, Vera Bradley

I am somewhat forgetful, which is the reason my eyeglasses are from the dollar store. If I lose a one dollar pair of glasses, I really don’t have to sweat it.

My school keys and I.D. badge are another matter. Lose those and it cost big bucks. So, this year when one of my daughters gifted me with a Vera Bradley key lanyard and I.D. badge, I was thrilled. Not only am I now stylin’ and profilin’ with the rest of the cool kids, but two of the most important things I need on a daily basis are together– handy and conveniently located.

I really cannot believe how empowering having my I.D. and keys stylishly and safely displayed has been for me this year. Despite what may be perceived as hyperbole, I must say, best of all, I literally feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

So, Vera Bradley, I just want to say thanks for helping me have less stress and feeling much more organized and looking good all at the same time.

If you want some V.B. just go to this Web site:

Learning to be right-handed in a left-handed world


Mr. Left-handed contemplating how to mess with his right-handed Mama.

I know. I know. It is not a left-handed world.

It is most definitely a right-handed world.

Just ask my left-handed son, who has on more than one occasion shared his disdain for the average pair of scissors.

Last year my school district became an Apple district and provided 13″ MacBook Airs for teachers as well as the 11″ version for high school students.  When I arrived home with my prize, my left-handed son, who was visiting from college, proceeded to set up my mouse, etc. to accommodate his left-handedness.

Not having any experience with such matters, his right-handed Mama had no idea of the significance of being made a left-handed Mac-user. During the school year, the only time I knew something was “amiss” was when another right-hander would use my mousepad to help me with something and ask what was wrong with my mouse.

This summer all MacBook Airs were required to be re-imaged by our IT department.

Yup, you guessed it. My MacBook Air has been returned to its factory default settings and is once again right-handed.

But, there’s a slight problem.

The reset to right-handedness means the ultimate Mac mouse irony is being played out as this right-hander turned left-handed Mac-user is now having to learn how to be a right-handed Mac-user.

No big deal, right?

Well, let’s look at this a little more philosophically.

How can we best relate to those students who learn differently from us?

What do I as an educator make of the student who is being forced to comply with the proverbial factory default setting of my classroom when it just isn’t a good fit for him or her?

Why does my brain literally hurt (a little) when I now use my MacBook Air mouse? (I realize I could make changes, but I like this challenge.)

I recommend everyone spend a day or two with a reset other-handed mouse pad just to get a feel of what it is like to live in the other-handed world.

You might be surprised at how difficult it really is, and, I am hopeful, will better empathize with those who learn differently from you.