Posted by: jockmackenzie | February 25, 2010

Classroom Management – Knowledge of Results (Code Names)

Peach Mango   Sum Ol’ Joe   Co-da Bear   Maui/04

??Pickles?? Zippy   Code Name    LeMoNeY-fReSh

Dr. Doom   Cool Gurl   Hobs   McDonaldsMan

One of the best ideas I ever came across in an entire career of teaching was the idea of asking students to give themselves code names.The primary reason was so that I could post their marks for all to see without embarrassing those whose marks were too low – or, sadly, too high.

When I first suggested the idea, the kids were all over it like a coat of paint. A new name? How cool was that! The ones beginning this blog entry were some of appropriate choices. There were, of course, some from the dark side: Mike Hunt, Sofacayne Lovely, Ben Dover, and Karl. The first two are totally taboo, the third I considered inappropriate, and the last one was mean-spirited.  Karl was an overweight, shy, virtually friendless new student. Some inconsiderate classmate thought it would be funny to use Karl’s name as yet another means to make fun of him. The guilty party was chastised severely – but who knows if someone so unkind learned from the experience.

Once students gave me their code names, I entered them into our electronic grading system. I had to remove the provincial coding number and substitute the code name. This particular system limited entries to 13 characters so that became a third rule – no inappropriate code names, no names of any student currently attending the school, no names over 13 characters in length.

Students were warned not to share their codes names. Ha! Invariably some did and were fine with it. Some regretted letting the code out of the bag and asked to create a new one. Now what kind of life lesson would they learn if I allowed them to have a new name? I believe they learned the lesson that you do get a second chance, that school isn’t all strict, unalterable rules, and that Mr. Mackenzie, beneath that stern exterior, has a heart. I always allowed students to choose a new name.

Part of the deal with the code names was that I promised to post the results of any assignment, project, test or quiz within one week of the final deadline. (As mentioned in previous blog entries, I often made assignments due “the week of  xxxxxxxxxxxxx” so, technically, this gave me two weeks to get the marking done and posted. i.e. for the gung ho kids who handed in assignments on the Monday of the week in question.)

Before posting, I hit the “arrange alphabetically key” so the normal order of the class list was rearranged to the alphabetic order of the code names. When I posted the marks, I posted three copies. For each of my four grade 8 language arts classes, I chose a different color of paper. e.g. Iroquois on white, Micmac on blue, Tlingit on yellow, Gwichin on green. I spotted the sheets around the room and got out of the way. Every time marks were posted, there was a stampede. Students milled around to see how they had done and to compare their results with others.

Another benefit was that errors or deficiencies were noted immediately. Cries of, “Foul!” and, “Hey, how come it says zero? I handed that in. Hey, Andy, you saw me hand that in, right?” bounded from the mountaintop and rattled in the dell. When I had erred, the problem was corrected. When Andy had not, as it turned out, seen the assignment handed in, we would often find it hiding in a binder or locker. If a student had been absent, some deal was made.

The system was fun, it gave me an incentive to get my marking done, it allowed students to keep on top of their progress, it highlighted errors in advance of report card deadline time. I recommend it!

FYI – Strunk and White say you can employ the comma as done in the second to last sentence of this entry.


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