Week at a Glance

November 16 - 20

What I am Reading This Week:

Is Homework Helpful?: The 5 Questions Every Teacher Should Ask


Please review the article linked above. We will discuss homework at the Monday Grade Level PLC's.


A1 will be in Room 210 7th gr.

A3 will be in Room 308 6th gr.

A7 will be in Room 110 8th gr.


If you are an elective teacher- please weigh in by either attending a PLC above or by posting a comment to the google classroom blog that follows this post.


Be thinking about your non-negotiables for homework.


Here are mine:


  1. Students should have a total time of 10-12 minutes per grade level of homework each night for all assigned homework:

  • 6th grade = 60 - 72 minutes
  • 7th grade = 70 - 84 minutes
  • 8th grade = 80 - 96 minutes


Ex. Band practice sheet 20 minutes, Reading 20 minutes, Math 20 minutes--Projects? (For a 6th grader - that leaves 12 minutes for projects),

2. Homework should be purposeful and lead to increased student performance or understanding of the material. The teacher must be clear on the purpose of the homework. Is this particular homework assignment for formative or summative assessment? Homework can vary between the two types of assessment - and probably should- that's where the purposeful piece comes in. Be sure to answer this question for all assigned homework.



3. Homework should be designed so that it can be graded by GradeCam if you are using the grade to demonstrate mastery of TEKS in the Homework/Daily work category of your gradebook (a summative purpose). Gradecam has been purchased for the campus and your rosters will be loaded next week. Training will follow. For now, please ensure that Homework grades that go into the grade book reflect mastery of content or skills (not merely completion -see exceptions in #4 below).


4. Avoid giving 100's for completion grades in the homework/daily work category of the gradebook, as these grades are confusing to parents and do not explain why a student is getting 100's on homework and failing tests. If you are grading homework in a professionalism category it must be homework that is formative- for practice, such as a band practice sheet or a reading log. Then you are giving points for turning in the paper at the assigned time (a 100 completion grade fits this scenario)- you have no way of knowing, or checking if the student actually performed the task. Theoretically, you will know if they are practicing the instrument or reading nightly by performance in the classroom.


5. If homework is being used as a formative assessment (for practice of a skill or concept)- see if you can grade it using Plickers or some other method- then you are using the information to adjust instruction based on the data you get from your students. This grade typically does not go in the grade book - with the exception of the scenario in #2. Flipped homework assignments are an example of this.


6. Homework grades tied to specific student names should not be posted for all students to see (on desks, walls, websites). Be careful having students grade each other's homework when you plan to put the grade in the grade book - be knowledgeable of the laws in FERPA (the Family Education Right to Privacy Act), which makes this practice against policy.


I believe it is beneficial to our organization to revisit our campus wide policies, expectations, and beliefs about critical educational tools, such as homework and grading. One of the building blocks of culture and climate is having common understandings and language around our educational practices. Do we all have a common understanding of the CSMS Homework Policies and purposes of homework?


I look forward to the discussion at PLC's on this topic Monday.

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Update on Dual Language

On Wednesday, Sr. Hopkins and I discussed the plan for the Dual Language students coming from Oak Hill to 6th grade at Small MS next year with Olivia Hernandez, Director of Bilingual Education and Tina Dong, Director of World Languages. Here is what we found out:


1. AISD does not want or expect Small to offer a Dual Language Program- if the students from Oak Hill want a Dual Language MS experience they would attend either Fulmore MS or Paredes MS.


2. We can accommodate the needs of the students who want to attend their home school and further their bilingualism by offering a sequence of Native Speaker Spanish courses to begin in '16-'17.


3. The students at Oak Hill would be assessed with the Native Speaker assessment in Spring of 5th grade, but would be allowed into the course in 6th grade, even if they do not pass the assessment --as long as the student was enrolled in a DL program from Kinder through 5th. (This applies to students at any DL campus who are applying to come to Small.) They must take the test, but the test is used for formative reasons -- to plan for needed instruction.


4. Students at other elementary schools who have not been in a DL program, but who would like to take the Native Speaker assessment for placement in the course may do so. However, these students MUST pass the assessment for placement in the course.


5. Mr. Carlos Flores will be teaching the course beginning in '16-'17 and we hope to offer two sections of 30 students each for '16-'17 (if all 44 come from Oak Hill and then fill in with the other categories of students mentioned above, we should have two sections). PD will be provided by the District.


6. Marlo Malott reports that there is a LOT of interest now for this course at other DL campuses such as Perez, Blazier, & Sunset Valley and increased interest in applying to Small Green Tech to get over here for the continuation of the Academic Spanish Language Development through this World Language course sequence.


The course sequence goes like this and affects the Spanish World Language Dept.:


6th grade Native Speaker Spanish 1 for one HS credit. ('16-'17)

7th gr. Native Speaker Spanish 2 for one HS credit. ('17-'18)

8th gr. PreAP Spanish Language and Culture for one weighted HS credit. ('18-'19)


I appreciate the leadership on our campus and in AISD that allowed us to work out a plan that meets the needs of our community. I feel we have reached a win-win situation for our DL students at Oak Hill who want to attend Small MS - their home campus. I look forward to developing this new strand with our awesome Spanish Faculty.

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Speaking of Llamas...

An 8th grade student in Small Green Tech wants to bring Alpacas to campus! They are a smaller version of llama renowned for their wool, which is used in the textile industry & arts and design. What do you think?

What the Admin PLC is Working on:

What is fixed vs. growth mindset and how is it used successfully with students? The Admin PLC will be taking a field trip on Friday to Simon MS in Hays CISD to explore a "Bright Spots" study campus - E3 Alliance designated Simon MS as a school where ALL students are high performing - a bright spot in Central Texas. Watch Carol Dweck's Ted Talk linked above to learn more about fixed vs. growth mindset and how it impacts student learning and achievement (10 minutes).

Ways to Show Your Pride This Week

All Week: Buy a Cougar Dance Team Longsleeve T, Sweatshirt or Hoodie- great design and colors on display in the Office


Monday - Bring something to fill the pod- if you don't have a TRACK class- adopt one and give your items to them so they get credit.


Tuesday - Encourage a parent to attend Coffee with the Principal 8:00-9:00 in the Cougar Den.


Wednesday - New Tradition - Wednesdays are Celebrate Culture Days - wear unique items of clothing that reflect a world culture - tell the students about it, too! Show your pride!

Attend the Potluck and PTA meeting 5:45 - 6:15 and be present to win a $25.00 classroom credit for instructional items from PTA - must be a PTA member.

The Parent Camp Session 2 follows from 6:30-8:00 and this month's theme is College and Career Readiness - sessions are in English and Spanish - encourage parents to attend.


Thursday - Wear your CSMS Pride Apparel

3:40 Library Faculty Meeting with Mariel Early presenting strategies for ALL learners related to our CIP goals and school wide reading and writing initiative

Stay for the Lady Cougar vs. Murchison Matadors Basketball Game in the Gym at 5:30


Friday - Wear your College/Higher Ed Pride Apparel

Lady Cougars Basketball C-Team Tournament 4:00-5:30 in the Gym


Saturday - All Region Concert San Marcos HS 9:00-5:00 p.m.,

Cougar Soccer vs. Gorzycki Tigers 9:00-11:30 at Small Soccer Field,

Mission Engineer the World beginning at 9:00 a.m. at CSMS in Cafe and 100 wing sponsored by UT Society of Women in Engineering- Visit the Showcase from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the Cafe - we have 106 girls participating!