SBG: Questions Per Skill

I gave my first sbg skill quiz over 4 concepts in both Algebra 1 and Geometry on Friday. I also gave my first vocab quiz. We went through all the vocab words from the first section together and filled in each square of the Frayer model: Definition, Characteristic, Example, Nonexample. Then in the second section they looked up the definition in the book themselves and I mentioned the other 3 as we went along. Friday was the quiz and here is the example for Algebra  1 and here for Geometry. I reviewed a few minutes during our warm up and gave them 2-4 minutes to study on their own. The results were pretty terrible. The few that did well surprised me. One student missed about 3 out of the 5 days of instruction but told another teacher that we underestimate his abilities because he studies a lot at home. Touché. Another girl assured me that she would flunk it and I believe she has/d a learning disability or just low math scores.  They were my top scorers. Yay!

I have to say I am pretty happy with the process even though I'm disappointed by the results. I like the Frayer model and I feel like the questions came straight from the information I gave them without being matching or multiple choice. The question I gave about 'modify the expression so it can be evaluated' was too hard and most didn't know what to do. That one was my fault. I felt like the others were within reach. My colleagues told me to stand my ground. It was only the first quiz and now they know what to expect. They will either rise to the challenge or fail. That sounds harsh to me but I will be curious to see what happens at the end of week two.

Now my first sbg skill quiz...

Algebra Skill 1 and 2 Skill 3 and 4

Geometry Skill 1 and 2 Skill 3 and 4

I didn't really have a clue what I was doing. Still don't. I know you are supposed to make your assessments first but I just don't get that yet. How do I know what to assess when I haven't taught it yet? I know, you're thinking "How do you know what to teach when you don't know what you're assessing yet?". Touché. I had 5 questions per 2 skills and only 4 skills on the quiz. So 10 questions. This really makes no sense. I see that clearly now. I don't know how to grade these. If there are 3 questions for 1 skill, how do I give them one score for that skill? What about when there are only 2 questions per skill? Does it change now? Is each question worth a 2 to achieve the maximum score of 4? I haven't looked at them yet because I have no idea how to assess them.

I know other people use Marzano's 3 levels of questions per skill but I need someone to explain that to me. And still how do you grade that? How do those 3 pieces work together to create one score? I'd like to ask one question per skill that is purely computation but then I don't know where they would get questions on a deeper level that synthesize, analyze, apply concepts, and you know, actually matter.

On a positive note, I'd like to brag on myself for actually running out of time to finish the lesson. More than once. That NEVER happened last year. I went from preparing 10-12 slide Powerpoints to 25 or more. No, it is not all direct direct instruction. Yes, I use pictures. What I've started doing is giving them a worksheet as notes. We do examples together on the board. Then they do 3-5 at their seat and compare with their partners.  Then we go back to the board. I have them come to the board and draw examples or work out problems. While they are working I scout the room to check for understanding (oooh nice little sample of edu-jargon for ya) This way I am alternating their focus and while I am 'lecturing' they can actually pay attention instead of scrambling to write. (Yes I need more inquiry and a variety of other strategies and skills. It's week two of my second year. Work with me here people.) Then at the end, I created an overview sheet for them to summarize the important ideas associated with that skill. Hopefully that will be like a quick and dirty study guide refresher with the accompanying worksheet to provide examples. Hopefully.

I would like to explain that I am doing vocabulary separate from sbg skills because
  1. My admin asked me to
  2. Test scores show our students don't understand standardized testing vocabulary
  3. I know they have the skills but don't know what the question is asking
This is hard to integrate into geometry. In geometry, understanding the vocabulary is synonymous with understanding the concepts. Hopefully from the examples I linked to, you can affirm my question creating skills in that the vocab quiz built more off of the technical, specific definition and the sbg skill quiz was more identifying, using, modeling, applying, the definition. Hopefully. After some Twitter conversation, I realized that vocab can still fit into sbg. If we are about learning, then we are still about learning vocabulary. If we are about learning, and students can retake, then students can retake vocabulary. If Algebra is broken up into specific concepts, it  can also be broken up into specific vocabulary. And as long as I'm teaching it, they should be learning it, and I can freely assess it. And re-assess it.



  1. Hihi!

    I too am trying to figure out the SBG thing, but in calculus, where some of the questions are more involved/take longer.

    If I were doing it for Alg II, I would give a couple questions on the same skill, and then give them a score (based on some sort of rubric) from 0-4 or 0-5 or 0-whatever on that skill. Like, looking at all the different problems on the same skill, I think this kid knows the material at a 2 level -- or something like that.

    I think it's okay to think more holistically and less like we used to think when grading, because we don't need to parse things as much.

    At least, that's how I'm thinking.


  2. Can I make a recommendation? Instead of numbering your skills, name them. If I were to ask your students, "What are you learning?" I'd rather hear them say, "Systems of Equations" than "Skill 9."

  3. Raymond,
    I understand your recommendation and the students have a list of the skill and it's number. If you asked my students what skill we are working on, I doubt they would know the correct number anyway.

    I did realize that I should label my quizzes with the skill name and even the entire skill spelled out.

  4. i did some research on frayer's model.
    although it's a good way to promote vocabulary, there's a couple of ways to improve it.

    1. USAGE
    in maths, knowing how to define something scientifically may not be as important as knowing what it can do.

    what can phytagoras theorem do?
    1. help u calculate one side of a triangle when two other sides are given.

    2. know whether a triangle has a hypotenuse when given its three sides, by checking whether a^2+b^2 = c^2

    related terms are the vocab that is related to the one u're learning.

    in learning bout phytagoras, u need to know bout right angle, hypotenuse and etc.

    this can promote the students to *pinpoint* the connection between one terminology with another, to improve their understanding and memory.

    "in geometry, understanding the vocabulary is synonymous with understanding the concepts."

    have u ever heard of natural vs artificial definition in cognitive psychology? most students know what something is ie they can point it in an image and what not, provide recognition, but they have problems explaining things *linguistically* in detail as demanded by maths.

    coz these kids are taught maths, not how to articulate.

    so i guess, if u want ur kids to score the vocab test, u gotta teach them how to define things in maths.

    this can usually be done by taking the defining characteristics and organizing them into a cohesive whole.

    why? because a concept is basically defined by its characteristics. learn to explain the characteristic, and u'll learn how to define the concept.

    u need an anchor example ie prototype that clearly illustrates a particular concept for this exercise to work.

    1. get the anchor example ie prototype

    2. analyze the characteristic

    3. which characteristic can be categorized as the essential characteristics? list it.

    4. from the essential characteristics, what are the defining characteristics?

    5. write down the definition by your understanding of step4.

    lemme summarize the flow

    => analyze characteristic
    => essential characteristic
    => defining characteristic
    => definition

    this way, their definition is built from their understanding of the concept instead of being recalled from memory.

    then u can give them other concept and example, and ask them to produce the definition. later on they can check the definition they generated and the one given in the book for proper feedback.

    i havent tested the instruction i juz explained. it was kinda spontaneous. so i hope it helps :P

  5. Elissa,
    As far as writing the assessment first: You have your skills. Decide the "4" or "5" level of question you think they should be able to perform once they have received your instruction. You now have your quiz (maybe the second or third edition). Now, make a couple of questions up that are easier for their first and second attempts. So, when you instruct, you teach them the skill in that progression (easy to hard) to get them to the "5" level.
    I think 2 questions per skill on a single quiz is enough to be able to tell what score to give them. It should be one score for that topic based on how they answered both questions combined. I would stick to 2 questions every time.
    The Marzano levels idea doesn't work if you do skills instead of topics. A topic is more encompassing and can have levels- so you can say "1" if they do this much; "2" if they do more; and "3" if all of it is correct.
    If you want higher levels on Bloom's- make that your "5" and work backwards from there.
    Hope that helps.

  6. P.S.
    Your questions and my answering them helped me solidify a lot of the same questions/issues I was trying to figure out...so thanks!

  7. Matt,
    Thanks for the comments. I am trying the Marzano method for now and we will see what happens. I know what I should do but I have trouble creating my assessments first and I'm never sure of what they should be able to do. I just need someone to tell me what they should know and then sbg would be a whole lot easier! lol

  8. I'm really glad you are blogging about this as my school year begins next week. Thanks for working out a lot of my concerns with SBG ahead of time. I can speak for many others when I say that you've been incredibly valuable to all educators starting the SBG journey. Thanks!

    As a math teacher trying SBG, I'd like a math assessment to involve computation, application, and analysis. I'd say that a student that can only successfully navigate the "computation" question with not a high score on application/analysis is at the basic knowledge level at best. Where there will be struggles I'm guessing is those gray area students that are almost there on application/analysis. It's obvious that a student that can do all 3 on a quiz successfully has mastered that skill at this point in time.

    Computation and application are relatively easy types of questions to generate. Analysis is difficult, where you're asking a student to generate a result and make some inference/decision based on their result. What's weird about this in Math is that the computation can be done incorrectly, but with an appropriate conclusion based on that result.

    I'm sure you will get much better at making or assessments and grading them over time. Remember, you are an SBGBeginner, and have created a wiki that says just that.

    Good luck, and I look forward to hearing more from you!