I’m Putting My Year to the Pasta Test

Some will argue about the validity of the myth that when you throw pasta against a wall it will stick if it is done, but it still makes a pretty good metaphor for evaluating the success of my school year as an educator.

How much of what I did this year will “stick” and be around for version 2.0 next year?

Primarily because of my PLN on Twitter, I am constantly evaluating new approaches and new ideas. I have the benefit of an administration that allows me “room to run”, so I pretty much operate in beta test mode most of the year. I am free to try new ideas and evaluate without waiting for the beginning of a new year to try something new.

SO, some things will stick and others will not. Let’s put a few ideas to the “pasta test”, throw them against the wall and see if they stick.


Mastery-Based Teaching will stick. The idea that students should master one standard before moving on to a more difficult or a different standard is becoming easier to implement, and it just makes so much sense. My district’s learning management system Canvas by Instructure, with its Mastery Path functionality, makes mastery teaching a work of art. I will continue to integrate this into my teaching strategy as a major component next year.

img42182bInquiry-Based Learning will stick. The best book that I read about this had to do with design thinking and it was Launch by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. This approach allows  students of any grade level to learn the art of self-discovery by allowing them to mine for knowledge and understanding. As a teacher, I am part coach and part facilitator. The biggest challenge that I faced with this is learning how and when to provide direct instruction so that it augmented the independent learning that the students were experiencing.

img42182bGamification will stick. Kids get this, so I will keep it. This year, I developed a classroom game culture that encouraged both individual and team competition. Check out my class game website at ciaboardroom.weebly.com. I need to find ways to promote it more along the way, but the way the game ended this year told me I was on the right track. Gamified strategies are not for every student, so I am trying to decide how to handle the non-gamers and still build the culture that I want in the classroom.  Check out Michael Matera’s book “Explore Like a Pirate” or his Web site at explorelikeapirate.com for a great gamification connection.

img42182bDifferentiated/Individualized/Personalized Learning will stick. They are not the same thing and you need to understand how they differ to appreciate this, and you can look to Barbara Bray for a better understanding. The point is, even if we have to teach the same standards, not every student comes into my classroom with the same level of understanding. Some already know a great deal of what my curriculum says they have to learn in my course. Why on earth would I put them through the hell of spinning their wheels for nine months just because most of my student need to learn what they already know? I will continue to look for ways to personalize the learning experiences of my students in a way that fits them.

Pasta NoNo Grades and No Penalties for Late Work will probably not be on the list for next year. Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to go “no grades” and work with a system that does not make the final measure of learning, an average of all assessments. I will continue to tame small bits of this one and experiment, but grades are too entrenched on my campus and in my district to fight this battle full-on. Late work? Don’t get me started. Philosophically, I am convinced that late work — no matter how chronic — is a behavioral issue and not an academic issue. It is wrong and makes a grading system weaker to lower an “average” by applying zeros for misbehavior. However, that being said, I teach in an early college high school where we are expecting our students to make a huge developmental leap into the community college environment as 9th grade students. In college, late work is just no work, and grades reflect the result. My students cannot afford the luxury of not being penalized in my class, because in the next class period, Dr. Toughheart will hit them hard in his college class.  As much as I believe in the concept, I just can’t make it work for me on this campus. My students have to learn quickly that in their “real world” it costs a lot to be late with an assignment.




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