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Monkey Monkey Monkey

Sometimes when I talk about the way that I grade (or actually, sort of don’t grade) to other adults, they scoff at the lack of points. They say things like, “If I were taking a quiz that I knew didn’t affect my grade, I wouldn’t take it seriously. I would just write Monkey Monkey Monkey as the answers to the questions.”

Other times, they tell me not to let the students know that their quiz isn’t going to affect their semester grade (before SBG, I gave quizzes that weren’t graded; now I make sure it is obvious to the kids that the score resulting from a quiz almost always has a 100% chance of being updated/replaced before we get to the end of a marking period and I have to come up with a number). It seems like they think the kids won’t be serious if they know that the stakes are quite low.

So, that said, when I explain the low stakes situation to my students as I’m handing out the first couple of quizzes, I tell them both of the above tidbits. They usually laugh at the idea of not taking a quiz seriously. Not being interested in learning and feedback? Hilarious! They usually include some form of Monkey Monkey Monkey on their quiz (or Chimp Chimp Chimp, or a drawing of a monkey, or the really funny stuff in the photo). And they always take the quiz seriously. I have yet to see this fail. So come on, other adults. Trust the kids. They want to learn! Monkey monkey monkey.

A student monkeying around with a quiz. No worries, though. She copied all of the questions onto the back of the paper and did her serious work there.

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About Kelly O'Shea

I teach high school kids physics at an independent day school in NYC. Less homework, more thinking. Follow @kellyoshea


7 thoughts on “Monkey Monkey Monkey

  1. Spot on. I am using sbg this year for the first time and it is obvious to me that student knowledge (or lack thereof) has been masked by the over-reliance of MC, fill-in-the-blank, matching, T/F, and word banks. When asked to stand on their own and SHOW me, DEMONSTRATE to me, PROVE to me that you know it, the students buckle. I am finally free to say, “the emperor is not wearing any clothes.” Do they get additional chances to show proficiency? You bet. Do they like it? Yes and no. What they really dislike is that we just don’t put the grade to bed and move on. They are now responsible for their own education (yikes). I am still struggling with how to determine that some of my learning support students are actually learning as they must have word banks even for questions that require 3 words!

    Posted by Steve Whiteley (@whiteley) | September 18, 2011, 9:07 AM
  2. If I were at football practice and someone told me the touchdown wouldnt really count, I would just drop the ball and do a monkey dance.

    Posted by Rhett | September 18, 2011, 11:01 AM
    • Really? I have run a lot of touchdowns in during football PRACTICE and none of them counted. That didn’t stop me from thinking that they mattered, or at least that it would be worth learning how to score a touchdown before the day that I actually had to do it.

      Posted by Joshua Laforge | April 3, 2013, 5:46 PM
  3. Thank you, Kelly. I’ve been phasing in SBG for several years, but this year we are trying your much more radical system, and — Wow! The difference! Students appreciate that “It’s about actually learning, not just getting a grade” (an actual quote). Using your system together with the ActiveGrade online gradebook has led to higher-quality conversations with students leading to measurable growth in the areas that I’ve targeted. For the last two days, my honors physics class has had one assignment, both in class and at home: “Improve your facility solving problems with constant velocity and constant acceleration. I’ve provided a selection of helpful problems of varying difficulty, and I’ll be walking around helping.” And they’ve taken the ball and run with it. They are more than ready to “model the motion of a freely falling object” and “determine if a local traffic light has a yellow light with sufficiently long duration” — their next two assessment tasks. Great stuff!

    Posted by Nicholas Park | September 20, 2011, 3:52 PM
  4. Hi Kelly, I am really glad I found your blog! I teach middle school science so things are a little different there, but in the end they are still kids and it is still the love of science that we try to teach. We just started doing SBG (1,2,3 proficiency) this year at my school. though we still use regular achievement grades as well (abcd). The way you describe SBG really makes me want to be more true to the concept of it. The only problem, is that my department has decided that the standard grade for our students will be derived from common assessments that were made last year (and haven’t been revised). They are all multiple choice tests which makes things easy to grade, but doesn’t show me much as far as comprehension. I will definitely try to change the way the grading is done though, maybe use these common assessments as the standard grade only, no points towards achievement and allow them to correct these tests (they previously hadn’t been allowed to, since we were not to change the standard grade after that initial test). I can’t wait to read more on your blog, it seems like you have some great ideas!

    Posted by Elizabeth Reinhold | June 11, 2013, 5:03 PM
    • Thanks, Elizabeth! I wonder if you can split up the common assessments into a couple of days and have them write short answer explanations for their choices. That way you could use the multiple choice answers strictly to compare with other teachers, but you’d also be getting more data for yourself in the short answers that would help you determine proficiency on the skills. Or really, when it comes down to it, SBG is mostly about feedback and not really about grading. So maybe you can give your own short assessments (quizzes) that are “graded” using SBG, then use that kind of feedback to help students practice and reassess in preparation for the more summative common assessments. It seems like there could be some middle ground, even if it won’t be as ideal as you’d want it to be on your own. Let me know how it goes! :)

      Posted by Kelly O'Shea | June 22, 2013, 8:30 AM


  1. Pingback: Day 18: Weekly Quiz « O'Shea Physics 180 - September 22, 2012

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