Day 15: Dress code and quiz roulette.

I tried something new in one of my physics classes today that I’m very happy with, but first, a bit on dress code. Today, my school had its first (at least in the going on 5 years I’ve been there) “dress code sweep.” All teachers on the west side of the building were to inspect the students in their class and send them to the front office if they were in violation of the dress code. The only reason why I’m bringing this up is because the girls in my class were livid about the dress code policy. I gave them the opportunity to vent, and it was a revelation. Dress codes are gender-biased. How does wearing ripped jeans or sandals without a back interfere with my learning? Why is it my fault that a bunch of horny boys can’t keep it together at the sight of a girl’s legs, collarbone, shoulders, or back? 

One of the more disturbing parts of their complaints was that they often leave the house in something they–and their parents–feel is totally appropriate only to be told they’re dressed inappropriately at school, and that makes them feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Now, more cynical teachers and administrators will probably question the validity of these statements, but I sure as hell don’t. If a young girl tells me she feels uncomfortable, I’m going to believe her. Just imagine what it might feel like to be a young girl and to be told by an older man you barely know that your shirt is cut too low or your pants are too tight. I have my own thoughts on the dress code (not a fan), but it was impressive to hear these young girls express theirs so well. I simply don’t know who the dress code is benefitting.

On to the cool new thing. The individual skill in this class is at all levels, and that can make group work at times very beneficial and at times a way for students to hide behind their more skilled partners. I knew I wanted to individually assess them, but I also knew that not everyone in the class was ready. I asked myself what those that weren’t ready needed. Immediate feedback. In comes this idea, which I’m calling Quiz Roulette.

I took the Modeling Instruction “Multiple Representations of Motion” Worksheet, which has 8 problems, and cut each problem into its own slip. I put the answer to each problem and a red pen on different stations around the room. I passed out one problem to each student, but in a way so that no two group members had the same problem. My instructions to them were, “Work on the problem in front of you. Once you are finished, get up and find the answer to your problem. They’re located around the room. Use the red pen at the station to make corrections to your original answer. Then, turn in your corrected answer to me, and I’ll hand you the next problem, which you will then repeat the process for.”

The process took some explaining and re-explaining (next time, I’ll either print instructions right on the problems themselves or write them on the board), but once it got going, it was great. Group members could still give each other the occasional helpful hint, but each student was mostly concentrated on their own problem. They went to their stations and made corrections, and as they handed more and more corrected problems to me, I heard multiple “I’m getting it, sir”s or “I’m getting better”s. Sure enough, each problem they handed in had fewer corrections. A quiz that helps all levels and grades itself. What else could you want?

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