Friday, December 30, 2011

Packaging Plays: The Double Screen

One trend that is beginning to take over football is packaging two plays together. Chris Brown analyzed this in his article "Combining quick passes and a shovel pass or shovel screen."

This year, our most effective screen play was a combination of a Crack Swing to our RB, and a Jailbreak Screen to a WR on the other side. We ran the jailbreak to every receiver out of Doubles and Trips. It is a simple read for the QB, and it is a very high percentage pass to either side.

The rules for our offensive line stayed exactly the same no matter which way we ran the jailbreak.

Here are the rules followed by cut-ups from this season:

Oh Snap!

You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations. Download Silverlight

Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hudl + DSV = Winning!(?)

A seismic shockwave was sent through the sports video industry today when Hudl announced the acquisition of their main competitor DSV.

It is hard to imagine that when I started my coaching career eight years ago, we were watching film on VHS, and barely doing any video breakdown. With the advancements that Hudl has made, coaches can now watch game film anywhere at any time. I wrote about the amazing iPad app developed by Hudl, and I have heard whispers that phone apps for the iPhone and Droid are not far away.

What does this mean for the future of sports editing? There are definitely many positives to this acquisition, but there are a few unknowns that make me weary of this change.


1. Film exchange

Again, I can't believe that five years ago coaches were logging significant time and miles meeting at the McDonalds halfway between schools to exchange film. Hudl solved that problem for us, but only with other Hudl teams. I know many teams around here had just invested in DSV, and did not want to make the switch to Hudl. That meant we still had to swap DVDs on Saturday mornings, while trading with another Hudl team took less than a minute on Friday night.

In their press release, Hudl says that DSV has a "customer base of 3,000 high schools." That is a huge chunk of the market that will now be added in to the Hudl family. This will put a lot of pressure on non-Hudl schools to make the switch over to Hudl. Who wants to be the only school in the league only exchanging DVDs?

If Hudl puts together incentives for all league schools to jump on board, they will quickly lock up many of the schools still reluctant to switch over to Hudl.

2. Innovation

I was a DSV loyalist until I discovered Hudl three years ago. I didn't even want to look at another video editing system because I loved DSV so much. It has many great features, and it is no accident that they were the industry leader up until the last few years.

They were the first to develop a system of auto-cutting plays from the record button being pressed on your camera. They came up with a slick intercutting feature that matched up your press box and end zone views. Their tendency reports are phenomenal. Truth be told, many of the features in Hudl today were inspired by the work that DSV did.

Unfortunately, the DSV system was completely tied in to the one or two computers you had it installed on. If other coaches wanted to watch cut-ups, they had to watch it on their own computer. They added DSV Anywhere a few years ago to try to keep up with Hudl, but that web-based product was really no better than watching game film on YouTube. They were never able to catch up to the things that Hudl was doing with their completely web-based product.

What will happen to DSV's developers and brain-trust? Even though Hudl has a phenomenal team of developers, it is a huge bonus that Hudl will now have access to the brain-trust from DSV that has been developing their product for a decade.

3. Recruiting

DSV and Hudl not only service high school teams, but they also have many big-name Division-I and NFL clients on their roster. This means that the collegiate DSV teams will also likely switch over to Hudl.

One of the best features of Hudl is how you can create individual highlight videos for players, and e-mail it off to college recruiters. With more college coaches becoming familiar with using Hudl, it will make it even easier to get your players exposure through Hudl's recruiting packages.


1. Costumer support

With only a month left before the football season begins, Hudl just opened up a huge can of worms.

All current DSV clients who have paid their service contracts will automatically become absorbed into Hudl. This means that DSV clients will spend the next month importing game film and terminology to Hudl, and Hudl will have their hands full training 3,000 new school. Multiply that 3-5 coaches per staff! This was not the ideal time to make this transition.

Hudl has prided themselves on their customer support, which has always been fantastic. What will Friday nights look like now with all of the new clients calling in to trouble-shoot? I am sure Hudl has a gameplan for all of this, but it is going to be a huge undertaking.

2. Consumers

One of the most attractive things about Hudl is their pricing. While DSV had a one-time cost of approximately $5,000+, Hudl only costs $800 a year for their base package. Their price simply can't be beat.

With DSV out of the way, CoachComm and APEX stand as the only viable competitors in the high school market. I may be biased, but neither one of those programs even comes close to matching Hudl's features and pricing.

The question becomes: Where will Hudl go from here? They have already shown that they are the top innovator in the industry. Will they continue to push the boundaries of innovation, while maintaining the same affordable pricing?

A little friendly competition is always a good thing for the consumers.

What do you think this means for the world of sports video editing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

3P Grading System Interview

I was recently interviewed by Steve Peha about his 3P grading system that I implemented this year. You can read my blog post "Five Reasons Why You Should Stop Grading" to learn more about it. 

I thought my responses would be great for a blog post. Here is the interview:

1. Overall, how would you describe the results you achieved switching from traditional grading to The 3P Grading System?

Honestly, I did not know what real teaching and learning meant until I switched to the 3P system. After implementing the 3Ps, I saw students step up their games like never before, and achieve more than they did with the traditional grading system. 

I don't have to worry about "How much is this worth?" or "Is this for a grade?" We just focus on learning, and it has made a huge difference. I saw students taking chances, and putting themselves out there by sharing their writing, answering questions, researching things outside of class. The 3P system pushes students beyond their comfort zone, and engages them in a higher level of thinking.

2. How would you describe the task of switching from traditional grading to The 3P Grading system? Was it easy? Hard? Confusing? Exhilarating? What were your biggest challenges? Your biggest surprises?

At first, it was the scariest thing I have ever tried as a teacher. I was terrified to give up control of the classroom. I worried that students would just stop doing their work since they weren't being graded for it. I was worried that students wouldn't try as hard, or they would blow things off.

I found the exact opposite to be true. 

Even though I didn't grade things, students still did the work, and they pushed themselves like never before. Making the switch to focusing on feedback DURING the learning was the key. I used to just give feedback AFTER the assignment was turned in, which makes absolutely no sense to me now that I think back on it. I used to spend hours grading student's work, even though I knew they weren't doing anything with the information. That was just the way my teachers always graded, so it had to be the right way. I could never go back to doing that.

For example, while students are writing I am constantly circling the room and having mini-conferences with each student. I ask them to read me what they wrote, and I am constantly giving them verbal and written feedback. It makes so much sense to me now, but I never did that before. That shift in mentality has made a huge difference because students are learning while they are working.

It also takes a complete shift in mentality by the students and parents. They have the traditional form of grading so ingrained in their brains, that this system blows their mind when you first talk to them about it. It took until the first grade conference for them to get it, but now they understand how it works and they prefer it to the old system.

3. What personal beliefs or professional concerns did you have to overcome, both to try the new system and to stick with it long enough to see results?

I worried that my colleagues would view this as the "easy" way out of grading. Many are very intrigued by it, and they wanted me to be the guinea pig for it. They are scared of giving up control, and they can't wrap their minds around it either. 

I am a very concrete, detail-oriented person. This system is very abstract and flexible, and it still freaks me out at times.

I have also learned that to be a good teacher doesn't mean you have to fail a bunch of students to show that you are tough. I would be OK with giving all "As" if that is what they deserved. The goal really should be to give all As, which would have horrified me a couple of years ago. I thought that being a good teacher meant you had to "get" students by tricking them or having super-hard tests and assignments.

You also have to let go of the idea of marking students off for behavior, such as turning in assignments late or not at all. I now look at the entire body of work of a student, not just the last assignment they turned in. For example, I have a rock-star student who has done great work all semester long. She is one of the best writers in my class. When we did a grade conference, she did not complete her last assignment. Normally, she is an "A" student, and my first reaction was to ding her and knock her down to a B. I had to stop myself and look at everything she had done. One missing assignment was not enough to knock her down a letter grade.

4. What do you see as the key positive differences for teachers in using the 3P Grading System?

This system allows you to differentiate for each student and focus on what they need. I have high-flyer students who are already doing great work. This system allows them to push themselves beyond what they would normally be asked to do.

Some of my students started out as weak readers or writers, but have worked very hard to improve this year. This system rewards and recognizes their improvement, where the traditional grading system counts their work in August just the same as what they do in December. The goal should be to see growth and learning take place. The 3P system accounts for that.

The 3P system also creates an environment of collaboration in the classroom. Students are working with each other, and the teacher works closely with the students. Giving constant feedback has made a huge difference. Giving students input into their grades has also made a positive impact, because they now take ownership in their grades, not just sitting back and taking whatever grade I magically assign them.

5. What are the key positive differences for students?

See above. Students are rewarded for growth. They are involved in the grading process. They have more control over their grade, as opposed to me giving them a grade that they have little to no control over.

6. What are the key positive differences for parents?

Communication with parents freaked me out the most. I have always sent out weekly progress reports to parents and students with all of their assignments and grades. The grades were so volatile because one missing assignment could have a huge impact on the grade. If a student was absent or didn't turn in something, it could take their grade from an A to a D in no time. Parents would freak out and see that they dropped three letter grades, and I would have to explain what happened.

On one hand, I loved that parents are involved and want to see where their students stand. On the other hand, it isn't an accurate reflection on the grade because it isn't the end of the learning period.

The 3P system still makes me nervous because I can't have that constant communication with parents. I do grade checks every 4 1/2 weeks, so that will be only four times per semester. In the past, parents told me that they loved the constant communication from me about grades. I am looking at how I can improve the communication next year - either through a newsletter or blog posts about what we are doing in class.

Ideally, this system will open up the lines of communication between parents and their children. This is one area where I need to do more work.

7. Many teachers in the US have successfully implemented the system only to be told by their principals that they are not allowed to use it for one reason or another. How would you handle this situation if your principal came to you and said you could no longer use The 3P Grading System and that you had to return to the same traditional grading approach you were using before?

It would be very difficult for me to go back to any traditional form of grading at this point. I can't believe I did the things I did with grades for so many years. It made no sense now that I look back on it.

I am fortunate to have a very supportive principal and administrative team. I would recommend anyone who is considering this system to dialogue it with your administration. They should be in the loop as to what is happening. Provide them with the guidelines so they know what to expect.

If my principal had concerns about the 3P system, I would invite her to come in and observe class, and see how engaged the students are in the class. I would show her examples of my students' work, and see the improvements they are making. I would discuss the benefits of the system with her, and my rationale for making the change. Students are also huge advocates of this system, so I believe their voices need to be heard.

Ultimately, if I could no longer do the 3P system, I would probably move to a standards-based system of grading, but include many of the principles of the 3P System.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to add about The 3P Grading System, your experience of using it, or any other related issue?

The 3P System has been the best change I have ever implemented as an educator. It is terrifying at first, but it has reinvigorated me this year. I am horrified by how I was grading students one year ago before I learned about the 3P system.

My best advice for anyone considering the 3P system:

1. Read Steve Peha's article about the system.
2. Discuss the concept with your students. Discuss it with fellow teachers. Get feedback on how it might look in class. Troubleshoot issues.
3. Communicate your expectations to parents. Keep them in the loop.
4. Communicate the system to your administrative team. Give your rationale and expectations. Provide them with Steve's article.
5. Take a deep breath and take the plunge! You have to try it before you fully understand how works. Don't worry: Students will still do the work even though they aren't getting a "grade".

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Get 2-O This Summer

Two years ago, I thought I knew something about coaching quarterbacks.

I worked under the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach at Kansas State University from 1998-2003 where I had the opportunity to work with several outstanding quarterbacks. I became the OC and QB Coach at Olathe South in 2003, and we had some great QBs come through there.

Coach Slack
In 2009, I went with several of our QBs to the Coach Darin Slack QB Camp in Jenks, OK. I had watched Coach Slack's C4 videos, and I wanted our QBs to benefit from his methods.

Once the camp began, I quickly realized that I didn't know anything about coaching quarterbacks.

The camp was an outstanding experience for our QBs, as well as my growth as a coach. Coach Slack began the camp with a speech about the life lessons that playing football and the quarterback position teaches young men. I was ready to run through a brick wall for Coach Slack after his speech. It was worth the price of camp in and of itself.

This video gives you just a taste of what the camp is like:

The on-field technique work was outstanding. Coach Slack breaks down the quarterback position and throwing mechanics better than I have ever seen before. It is so simple, and it provides the athletes with a framework to self-diagnose their problems. I was even out there in the middle of the drills doing them along with the QBs, and getting instruction on how to teach it.

This isn't just a camp where they throw the football around a little bit and all of the coaches tell you how great you are. They flat out get after you from start to finish. They maintain a 5:1 coach to player ratio, so every QB is getting coached constantly.

After attending the camp, our Varsity QB's completion percentage went up 10% and he threw fewer interceptions compared to the year before. It made a huge difference for our QBs, and helped our offense thrive.

This summer, we are fortunate to host Coach Slack's camp at Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, KS June 20-22nd.

It is now called the National Football Academies, and will include instruction at ALL positions, not just for quarterbacks.

The QB Academy is $355 with promo code CALLAMQBA (normally $545).

All other positions are $305 with promo code CALLAMNFA (normally $479).

(Note: Those promo codes are good for any C-4 camp in the country, not just at Olathe Northwest HS)

Here is a link to a flyer about the camp with additional information:

I strongly believe in what Coach Slack is doing to help high school athletes develop as football players and as men. I would highly encourage you to take your athlete to one of his camps throughout the country.

If you have any questions, please e-mail me or post a comment below!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hudl Meet-Up: Kansas City

"Video Editing Sucks"

That was the sign that greeted approximately 100 coaches to the first Hudl Meet-Up that took place at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, KS on April 19th, 2011.

Hudl is the industry leader in sports video editing software. Two months ago, I wrote about their iPad app which is a game-changer for all coaches.

Just last week, Hudl released an update to the app which solves the problem of downloading film to the iPad for the times when you don't have an internet connection.

I am a football and technology geek, so when I heard that Hudl was going to host a meet-up for coaches 10 minutes from my house, it was the perfect combination of football and technology for me. As you can see from this picture, it was a full house:

The Hudl crew provided pizza and soda to start the evening. Kim Burnham from Hudl organized the event and introduced the speakers:

1. Coach Nolan Hochgrebe from Blue Springs High School spoke about how they structure their week with Hudl.

Oh Snap!

You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations. Download Silverlight

Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

Best tips:
  • Find great student managers to help set up the video equipment, film, input data, and upload to Hudl.
  • Their Saturday schedule for how they divide up their film work has some great ideas for work-flow.
  • They also have an Excel file that they input data into that will then create grading sheets and a Hudl import file.
  • Their data entry coach on Friday nights wears headphones so he can hear the formation and play calls as he is entering in data. This is a great idea if you have an extra set of headphones.
  • Coach also discussed some great ideas for marketing your team through your website and Twitter account. Their team website is and on Twitter at

2. Next up, I presented "The Quick Game: Ninja Style" You can read about it here.

3. Coach Jared Kenealy from Liberty North High School presented "Effective Video Study Practices":

Best tips:

4. Kim Burnham closed out the evening by talking about upcoming updates from Hudl and answering questions from the audience. She told us that there is a new video uploader in beta testing right now, as well as continual updates to the iPad app. In fact, there is now an entire team devoted just to the iPad app.

 For a couple of years, Hudl was one of the best-kept secrets around. I was reluctant to tell coaches from other schools about it because I felt like it gave us a huge competitive advantage. The secret is now out. It was great to be in a room full of coaches sharing ideas about how to get better by using video and technology. I want to thank Hudl for putting this together. Hopefully it becomes an annual event here in Kansas City.

Questions? Post them in the comments below!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oklahoma State "Diamond" Plays

Last weekend, our staff visited Oklahoma State's coaches clinic and spring practice. Here are my observations from watching practice.

They worked on their "Diamond" formation that became popular last season. This is a great analysis of OU's package from the "Offensive Break Down" Blog.

Here are two new wrinkles that I saw Oklahoma State working on during practice: Power with the back kicking out instead of the backside guard pulling, and outside zone that looked more like inside zone.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oklahoma State Practice Observations

I attended the Oklahoma State University Football Coaches Clinic last weekend. The clinic talks were good, but the best part of the day for me was watching OSU go through a spring practice at the end of the clinic. There were two reasons why I was looking forward to it:
  1. I enjoy watching other teams practice. Our staff went to watch a couple of area teams practice after the season and you can pick up so many ways to organize and structure practice.
  2. Okie State ran the Air Raid the last couple of years under Coach Holgerson, who is now the "Head Coach in Waiting" at West Virginia. I was very interested to see how much, if any, of the Air Raid principles were still intact this year.
Here are my observations from watching practice:

1. Here are the offensive and defensive practice schedules for the day.

2. Practice started with the offense going through a walk-through of their team script plays vs. offensive players as the scout defense. No helmets or shoulder pads. The coaches were coaching and correcting a ton during this time. One assistant told me that this takes some time away from their meeting time, but they do this so they don't have to stop and correct during team time at the end of practice.

3. The segments were controlled by a scoreboard timer in the corner of the endzone. The home team "score" showed what period they were in. The timer counted down. An air horn sounded to start the next period. The coaches were moving from drill to drill based on this timer, but they weren't married to it. At one point, Coach Gundy was personally running a 1-on-1 lineman drill and it ran a minute or two over the time for that segment. The manager waited to start the timer until he was finished running the drill.

3. After the walk-through, the entire team came together to do dynamic and static stretches. The QBs warmed up on the other field by just playing catch and basic warm-up throwing drills.

4. They did not do Settle and Noose drill. In fact, I did not see Mesh at all.

5. The QBs and RBs worked a good drill after individual where they just worked on the swing/check-down route. The RB lined up in the Pistol or offset, and ran his swing to the numbers where he settled. The QB went through his progression and threw the check-down to the RB. This was a huge emphasis all day.

6. Pat and Go was 10 minutes long. They threw for 5 minutes to the right, and 5 minutes to the left. They threw a quick slant, quick screen (foot fire) and fades. I didn't see a huge emphasis on the WR squeezing the numbers or working on the over-the-shoulder fade. The fades were at full-speed.

7. Routes on Air was very standard to all Air Raid teams. Five quarterbacks throwing to all receivers. One difference: They didn't use pop-up bags. Instead, the coaches/managers stood where the secondary would be and gave different looks/alignments.

8. The primary routes they worked on during this practice were: Snag, Shallow (Y & H), All-Curl, Quick Screen, and Jailbreak Screen.

9. At the end of 1-on-1 time with the receivers and DBs, the offense lined up in trips on the 5-yard line vs. two defenders (outside linebacker and corner). They threw their quick screen to #2, and #1 and #3 had to block the defenders. It was live to the ball and they got after it.

10. Everything was no huddle. I spent a great deal of time watching the communication system they had. The coach on the sideline signaled in the play. The QB was the only one really looking at the signals. He yelled out the play to the OL, and gave a quick signal to the receivers, and they ran the play. The signal from the QB to the receivers was very quick and simple. The QB said to the line "23.. 23.." and that was it. They were very sharp with their communication.

11. During team they were working situations. Since it was spring ball, the first offense was going vs. a scout defense while the #1 defense was on the sideline. After several plays, they switched and the #1 defense came on. They may have been doing that since high school coaches were there watching, but it didn't appear that they were game planning at all for opponents, just working on doing what they do.

12. "Game Time" at the end of practice was a 4-minute offense/defense situation where the #1 offense was against the #1 defense. They put 3:40 on the clock and the offense needed to get a first down to win. They got it to 2nd and short, and the defense called a timeout. On 3rd and 2 the offense converted, but Coach Gundy called holding on the offense, which put them in 3rd and 15 or so. They ran a jailbreak screen, but didn't get it. It was a highly competitive and spirited session.

13. From what I could tell, all of the numbered routes from the Air Raid were the same.

14. They ran their "Diamond" 3-back formation a little. Outside zone, inside zone and power.

One interesting play: They motioned the back who was lined up to the left of the QB over so he was directly behind the RB on the right. Then they ran Power with the entire line blocking down. The back to the right of the QB kicked out the end. The back who motioned over led through (instead of pulling a guard), and the QB handed off to the back lined up in the pistol. It was like an I-Formation lined up to the QB's right, but giving the ball to the back lined up behind him. It was a nice wrinkle, and a way of overloading that side of the defense.

If you have any specific questions, please post them in the comments below!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coaching Clinic Do's and Don'ts

I believe that coaches must be excellent teachers in order to be successful. It is extremely challenging to bring a large number of student-athletes together and motivate, instruct and get them to buy into a common vision in order to win games. Sure you can have great athletes and still win games, but in order to win championships you must be a great coach and teacher.

We know that coaches can teach players what they need to do. What I have found discouraging are the instructional strategies coaches employ when they are giving clinic presentations to a room full of coaches. It amazes me how many outstanding and successful coaches use teaching techniques that would never be effective with students in the classroom.

I realize there are many constraints that coaches are working under when they are giving a clinic talk. They don't want to give away "secrets" to competitors in the audience. They only have an hour to talk. I have given clinic talks before, and I know that speaking in front of your peers can be one of the most frightening things ever.

As teachers, we intrinsically know effective strategies when we teach students. However, that does not always translate over to when we are teaching our peers. I began thinking about what I would like to see in clinic presentations to make them more effective. I also brainstormed some things that coaches should try to avoid doing in clinic talks, but we have seen far too often (or been guilty of ourselves).

  • Talk TO the audience the entire time. Ask questions of the audience. Engage them in discussion.
  • Show a PowerPoint slide full of words... and proceed to read every word to us. Use the slide as a starting point, not your script.
  • Devote more than two minutes and one slide to your season stats.
  • Show cut-ups that are in no real order or sequence (and stop to explain each play before the play starts).
  • Have several slides explaining each athlete's responsibilities, but no diagram of the play.
  • Use unique terms that mean something to you, without explaining the terms to us. For example: "In 54 Nebraska Y Cobra X Rambo... the Y is going to run his Cobra route and then the QB will look to the Rambo."
  • Devote more than two minutes and one slide to your coaching philosophy.
  • Show your season highlights.
  • Also, avoid these "clinic cliches":
    • "Men, we are in the best profession in the world."
    • "This works at our level where we can recruit... it may not work at your level."
    • "Can you guys hear me in the back? Can I go without the microphone?"
    • "I made some copies of this PowerPoint for you so you don't have to write it all down."
    • "I'm not very smart, so we use the KISS method."
    • "I had our technology GA put this together. I don't know anything about technology."
    • "Ya'll are welcome at our place any time. We have no secrets. Just call and let us know."
    • "We learn more from you than you learn from us."
    • "Recruiting is like shaving.. if you don't do it everyday you look like a bum."
    • "I have the best coaching staff in the country. They are all smarter than me.
  • Go in depth. Choose one small idea to talk about and explain it in full detail.
  • Discuss in detail one run play, one complimentary play and a play action pass off of it.
  • Explain how you teach, install and drill the play. Show the entire progression.
  • Demonstrate drills. Live. Bring volunteers up front and teach them technique in front of everyone.
  • Show video from practice of drills and team time. Then show the play executed in a game.
  • Use non-exemplars too. We can learn more from when the players didn't execute correctly than film
  • Choose unique topics beyond the X's and O's. Examples:
    • Take us through your entire practice. 
    • Demonstrate how you break down film. 
    • Explain how you game plan. 
    • Show your offseason schedule. 
    • Discuss each coach's responsibilities
    • Talk about fundraising ideas.
Finally, here is an excellent blog called "Speaking about Presenting" that has great articles about creating effective presentations. The ideas are applicable both in the classroom and in presentations. I highly recommend it.

As always, please add your comments below. What are other coaching clinics do's and don'ts that you would add to the list?

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Putting the "Art" into "Communication Arts"

    Last week, we had an inservice presentation from Carol Jago, the president of NCTE. Ms. Jago spoke with us about the Common Core Standards that will soon be implemented. One of the fears of standardized testing and the budget crunch is that the arts will be pushed to the side in favor of more reading, writing and math. Ms. Jago demonstrated a way we can bring art into Communication Arts classes, and tie it in with deeper reading.

    Ms. Jago asked us study a painting. For two minutes. Without speaking. This is the painting she used:

    After studying the painting, we were asked to discuss it in our groups. This led to a fantastic discussion in our small groups about what we saw, and our own interpretations of the artwork. It was a great exercise that forced us to make interpretations, guesses, and look at the small details of the painting.

    I decided to try this out with my sophomores to see what would happen. I chose a piece of art from Salvador Dali:

    I went through the same procedures with my students. They came up to the screen and studied the painting for two minutes, and returned to their groups to discuss what they saw. What happened next blew me away.

    Almost with exception, every student was actively discussing, interpreting and debating the painting. Several students were pointing things out to their group, and some even came up to the screen to show their group what they saw. Students who rarely take chances in book discussions were making interpretations. I let the discussion go on for literally 10 minutes, and it did not die down.

    After letting students work it out on their own, I asked individual students to share their interpretations of the painting. Virtually every student saw something different. It was fascinating to watch them go beyond the painting to think about what the author meant or intended.

    This led to a discussion about what they had to do in order to interpret the painting. It required them to:
    • Look at the painting several times
    • Study the small details
    • Think about symbolism
    • Question why the author made the choices he made
    • Interpret what they saw
    • Reinterpret what they saw
    Ultimately, we discussed that these are all the qualities of a good reader. Good readers are constantly:
    • Going back to re-read something two, three or more times.
    • Studying the small details
    • Questioning why the author made specific choices
    • Making interpretations of what they read
    • Changing or modify their interpretations
    This was a great activity to work on getting students to take chances and think deeper about something. I am going to continue doing this activity to help build this skill, and hopefully it carries over to their reading.

    Do you have suggestions for other pieces of art for this activity? What are other qualities of a good reader that this activity works to build?

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      Speed up your quick game

      For years I struggled with how to make our quick passing game... quicker. I constantly harped on my QBs to get rid of the ball faster. We talked about making pre-snap reads on the quick game, but I really didn't know how to coach them up on it other than to say, "Get rid of it faster!"

      Two years ago, we took several QBs to Darrin Slack's Quarterback Academy Camp at Jenks High School in Tulsa, OK. In my opinion, Coach Slack is the premiere QB coach in the country, and his camps and products are all top-notch. From this camp I took away one small tip about the quick game that finally gave me a coaching point to make our quick game quicker:

      The inside of his right foot sets the hallway
      "Set the hallway"

      Look down at the shoe on the dominant side of your body (righties look at your right shoe, lefties look at your left shoe). Most athletic shoes have a logo on the inside of it. Imagine that logo is a laser sight. To get rid of the ball faster and to be more accurate, you must "aim" that logo (and thus the laser) at your target. This is what Coach Slack refers to as "Setting the Hallway."

      I have heard QB coaches talk about imagining you have cameras all over your body that you want to aim at the target, or simply telling QBs to "step at the target." I found that this simple coaching point of setting your hallway with the inside of your shoe is the best tip in order for the QB to get the ball out quickly and accurately.

      The ball is going to go where that logo is pointed. 

      This tip applies to the 5-step dropback game, as well as the quick 3-step game. The ball is going to go where that logo is pointed.

      For the quick game, we want to immediately set the hallway by pointing that logo at the target. We should already have a presnap read based on cushion and alignment of the defense.

      Throwing to the right

      When throwing to the right, we immediately open our right foot and point the logo at the target. As we are throwing, we should push off of our right foot so that our momentum is going straight at the receiver. There shouldn't be any wasted motion stepping back, hitching up, or shuffling our feet. This is something we work on daily, even without throwing the ball.

      Here are examples of throwing quick to the right. Notice the QB's footwork. There is little wasted movement, and his momentum is going straight at the target.

      Oh Snap!

      You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations. Download Silverlight

      Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

      Throwing to the left

      When throwing to the left, our footwork changes slightly. We are still setting our hallway and "aiming" at the target with the logo on our shoe. However, we must first take a crossover step with our throwing side leg. This crossover step will allow us to set the hallway, and carry our momentum at the target. Before I used this coaching point, our QBs struggled to accurately throw to the left. Again, it takes muscle memory of doing this every day in practice, even without throwing the football. Drill the crossover footwork so that it becomes second nature to them.

      Here are some examples of throwing the quick game to the left:

      Oh Snap!

      You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations. Download Silverlight

      Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

      Once your QBs begin to think about setting the hallway by pointing that logo on their shoe at the target, they will become more accurate and begin to deliver the ball on time.

      What other coaching points have you used to coach up the quick game?

      Thursday, February 24, 2011

      Great blog posts: Feb 24th, 2010

      Here are some great blog posts that I am reading:

      Teaching related:

      Grades for learning, or learning to get grades? - I have taken a huge interest in grades this year.

      Student blogging activity: Teaching quality commenting - Need to do a better job of this with my students

      Football Related:

      Coach B Dud's post about the Vertical Pass Set - Something I have been studying

      Coach Hoover's Double-Slant Post - Some great tips and video on this simple concept

      iPad + Hudl = Awesome - A must have app for any coach

      Wide Receiver Drills - Even though it is from UT, some great stuff here.

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      iPad & Hudl = Game-Changer

      The way coaches and athletes watch film has gone through many evolutions over time. From 8 mm film, VHS tape, mini-DV cassettes to DVDs, film has become more convenient and easier to manipulate. This week, Hudl released a new app for the iPad that will allow you to watch game film in literally the palm of your hand.

      This app is a game-changer.

      If you are unfamiliar with Hudl, then you should quickly acquaint yourself with it. Hudl is an entirely web-based sports video editing and analysis software. Instead of storing your video on mini-DV tapes, DVDs, or your computer's hard drive, Hudl allows you to upload your video to their servers (think YouTube), where you can view it from any computer with an internet connection.

      Since Hudl began three years ago with only a handful of teams, it has quickly emerged as an innovator in sports video analysis and editing. They have been consistently ahead of the game compared to their competitors, releasing new developments that the other guys haven't even started thinking about yet.

      This app will revolutionize the way coaches and athletes prepare for competition by making it faster, easier and more efficient to watch game film. I can see so many applications and uses for this app, it makes the iPad a necessary investment for any high school sports team who uses Hudl.

      Here is a video demonstration of the app:

      After testing out the app for several days, here are my first impressions:


      1. The video quality

      As you can see from the video above, the video quality is excellent. I have also had zero problems with buffering or waiting for the video to load. I have been testing it out on a Wi-Fi connection, but I may need to invest in 3G on my iPad so I can watch video where Wi-Fi is not available.

      I would dare to say that the video on the iPad is better than through the website.

      Imagine being able to take your iPad out to the practice field and showing your scout offense the actual play on video, rather than drawn up on a card.

      2. Simplicity

      If you know how to play a YouTube video, you will be able to run the Hudl app. Similar to their website, there are very few buttons or options to choose from. This is obviously by design to help with the ease of use for coaches and athletes. You can download this app, log-in, and begin watching game film in literally less than a minute.

      There are very few options to choose from, and that is OK. 

      A thing of the past
      3. Smoothness of the video

      Watching film in the app is very smooth, almost easier than through the website. With only your finger sliding back and forth, you can rewind or fast forward the film. This has obviously been designed with coaches in mind. It makes the old cowboy remote obsolete.

      4. Mobility

      I can't count how many hours over the years I have spent setting up clunky projectors, laptops, and running extension cords. I carried around a huge bag with all of these cords and parts in it. With the iPad, you can carry something the size of a folder to your meetings, practices, and clinics. It makes the ability to watch film so much easier and more convenient. A huge time-saver.

      Suggested Additions:

      While this app is already very powerful, there are some features that I believe would be beneficial to coaches. However, I am not sure of the logistics of incorporating them in the app.

      1. Telestrations

      One of the most powerful features of the web-based version of Hudl is the ability to telestrate on top of the video and share your drawings with your team. On the iPad, you do not have any of your saved telestrations or the ability to telestrate. It is purely video.

      One of the greatest benefits of the iPad is that you can manipulate what is on the screen with a touch of a finger. Imagine pulling up a video and being able to draw lines to explain a blocking scheme or route concept to your players.

      2. Presentations

      I also really like the presentation feature on Hudl, where you can create online presentations very similar to PowerPoint. I have used this feature a great deal to create scouting reports and video playbooks. These presentations are not accessible on the iPad.

      Even if we can't create the presentations in the iPad Hudl app, it would be nice to be able to view them anywhere you take your iPad.

      Bottom Line

      This app is truly a game-changer for coaches and video analysis software. There are so many benefits to making your video mobile, without having to haul around a projector and laptop when you want to watch film. In seconds, you can show your players practice film from last night or a defensive scheme that you talked about during practice. I am excited to see how Hudl expands into other mobile markets (iPhone, Android) so more and more coaches can access their game film from literally anywhere.

      Sunday, February 13, 2011

      Five tips for blogging with your students

      I asked my senior and sophomore English students to begin blogging this semester. I have dabbled with it on small projects in the past, but never on a full scale as I am doing now. After some time working with it, here are five tips I would offer teachers about starting out with student bloggers.

      1. If you're gonna walk the walk, you'd better be willing to blog the blog

      I have always asked my students to do writing assignments, but I never actually did them myself. I decided that if I am going to ask my students to blog, then I should do it myself. I have found that this is helpful in two ways:

      1. Providing a "model" for the students to see before they begin writing.
      2. It shows the students that we are all in this together, and that I am not going to assign something that I am not willing to complete myself. 

      I currently maintain three blogs: this one for my professional writing, an English IV blog for my seniors and an English II blog for my sophomores. I use Edmodo to communicate with my students, so I set up my blog to automatically show up on Edmodo as a news feed. Students only have to log-in to Edmodo to see each time I post, so they don't have to know to check out my blog.

      2. Use Google Reader to organize your classes.

      I set up folders in Google Reader for all of my classes. This makes it very easy for me to see when students update their blogs, hour-by-hour.

      I can also quickly run through the folder at the start of the hour to tell my students which blogs I have updates for.

      If you have an iPad, you can add a section for each folder in Flipboard for your Google Reader account. This makes it very easy to read your students' blogs on your iPad. I highly recommend it.

      3. Create a weekly award.

      I created the Raven Blogger Award for the top blog posts each week.

      Each week, I select 1-2 winners of the award from each hour. I create a post with my overall thoughts about what I saw in the blog posts. Then I name the weekly winners, with a short explanation about why they won the award.

      This also is a way for my students to see a great example of each writing assignment. I am seeing them stepping up their games to win the award. Several students have asked if I have selected the winners yet, so I know it is important to them.

      During parent teacher conferences, I had several parents tell me how excited their students were to win this award. One father told me that his daughter came running down the stairs screaming because she was so excited. It is a small thing, but it shows you how powerful it can be to feature your students' work and give them praise for excellence.

      4. Get them writing about SOMETHING. 

      I have not done much writing since high school when I wrote for the high school newspaper. I wrote papers in college, but they were purely academic. Blogging, however, has rejuvenated my passion for writing. I have always enjoyed writing, but I had not written about something I was really interested in for a long time.

      I am trying to alternate between academic writing (persuasive essays, novel discussion) and writing just for the enjoyment of writing. I borrowed some ideas from Kelly Gallagher's book Teaching Adolescent Writing where he has some prompts that are meaningful for the students.

      One prompt from the book that we did was about a snapshot that is meaningful to them. I asked them to post a picture of the photo, and explain what it meaningful about it. From this prompt, I saw some amazing writing because it was MEANINGFUL to them. I believe blogging is a powerful medium that can encourage our students to write in order to explore new ideas, try new writing techniques, take chances, simply have fun with writing.

      5. Provide meaningful feedback

      I am still working out the logistics of how to give the best feedback. Every method I have tried has positives and negatives.

      I have left comments on their posts. This is good for posts where I don't have to necessarily critique their writing. The downside to this is that I don't know when or if they respond to my comment unless I go back through each blog and look for it.

      I have sent messages through Edmodo with suggestions and feedback. This method is good, but the comments are not "attached" to the writing as they are when they are at the end of a blog post. If a student asks me about the comments, I have to go back and look at what I wrote on Edmodo, which can become cumbersome. is an excellent way to provide feedback to students about their writing. You can use highlighters and "write" directly on their paper. I am considering having them submit to so I can give them feedback before they post to the blog. I think this will be effective, although it will involve them "posting" their paper to and then posting to their blog.

      I am really enjoying reading what my students are writing in their blogs. I believe this is a real-world experience where they have a much larger audience for their writing. What are some other tips you have for blogging with students?

      Sunday, January 30, 2011

      Five reasons why you should stop grading

      As you know from my previous blog posts here and here, I am no longer grading my student's work. I have implemented the 3P Grading system this semester in my sophomore and senior English classes. I was scared to death to do it because I felt like I was giving up total control of the class.

      After a month of trying out the 3P Grading System, it has honestly been the best thing I have implemented in my career.

      Here are five reasons why you should stop grading your student's work:

      1. The students take control of their own education.

      In my old system where I graded everything, I felt like I often cared more than my students about their grades. I would literally lose sleep over the fact that my students didn't do an assignment or work very hard at something.

      When you don't give grades, it is on the students to prove to you that they deserve the grade they want. If they want an "A" then they will have to show me that they went above and beyond to earn an A. In the last month, I have found that my students are now pushing themselves in everything they do. It is obvious the students who want to get an A, and I am seeing many students who are now pushing themselves more than they ever did before. It has been awesome to watch.

      2. Improvement and learning becomes the focus

      With this system of grading, you are looking at how a student improves from August until May.

      I had an interesting conversation in December (before I went to this system) with a colleague about a student that we both have in class. The first few months of school, this student didn't do anything. He didn't turn in assignments, participate in class discussions or really do anything other than show up. Sometime around October, I saw a light bulb turn on with this student. He changed into a totally different person. He was engaged. He was working hard. He was trying. As a result, he was learning. 

      I told my colleague, "Wow! Can you believe how much he has changed this semester? He is doing awesome work in class. I have been so impressed." My colleague said, "Right, he is doing better, but he dug himself in such a hole at the beginning of the year that he can't dig his grade out now. The best he can get is a D."

      I can't stop thinking about this conversation. Isn't our job as teachers to help students learn and get a little bit better every day throughout the year? Should we penalize students for the work they do in August and September when we really haven't had a chance to work with them yet? I'm not saying this student deserved an "A", but I have a hard time giving a student who truly is making progress and getting better a low grade because of the work he did early on. This system rewards students who make improvements throughout the year.

      3. Student's grades are more accurate

      How many times have you had a student who gets an "A" in your class because they do all of the work asked of them, but is really more of a "B" or "C" student? How many times have you had a student who gets a "D" because they didn't do a major assignment, but probably really deserves a "B"? I have had many students who fit into this criteria. The math in the grade book showed me a grade that I really don't agree with. Students were able to get good grades just by doing the bare minimum. 

      When you are just putting numbers into a grade book and averaging at the end, you really aren't giving an inaccurate representation of who that student is. Learning can't be computed by numbers.

      With this system of grading, I believe the students will get a grade that accurately represents the grade they deserve. If they want an "A", then they will have to go above and beyond to make it happen. They can't just skate by with the bare minimum. I am finally looking at the entire body of work for my students, and not just the number that my grade book software spits out at the end.

      4. No more late work!

      I am a firm believer in meeting deadlines. I believe as educators, it is our responsibility to teach students about the importance of taking responsibility and getting work done on time. That is a life-lesson that is arguably more important than reading Shakespeare.

      Over the years I have tried everything to get my students to turn in work on time:

      One year I gave zeros for late work. I told my students, "Don't even try to turn something in if it is late. I won't take it!" Yeah, that lasted about two weeks until: 1. Half of my students were failing and 2. I couldn't keep track of who had extra time to turn in assignments because they were absent the day they were assigned.

      One year I tried giving "late work" passes. They had two passes for late work, and if they didn't use them then they could cash them in for extra credit. That didn't last long either.

      I never came up with a solution that worked. I was so frustrated because nothing that I tried changed their behavior. Late work was a huge problem that I could never solve.

      Now that I don't take or grade individual assignments, I don't worry about late work. I know that life happens, and sometimes their printer really didn't work or they really did have to work until midnight. When students don't have things turned in or are late with work, I make a note of it, but that is it. I don't get hung up on trying to dock students or punish them for it. If they want an "A", then they should rarely have late work. If almost everything they do is late, then they are going to have a hard time arguing for a grade that is higher than a "C" or "D".

      5. Not having to answer, "Is this going to be for a grade?"

      How many times have you been asked that question? Or even better, "How much is this worth?" I know I have heard it hundreds of times over the years. Students have been conditioned for their entire lives to worry more about how much an assignment is worth and then accumulating those points, than the actual learning that is taking place. Doing an assignment just for the intrinsic value of learning? What a crazy concept!

      When you don't give grades, you focus on the learning and not the points associated with an assignment.

      I was so scared that my students would flat out refuse to do work now that I am not giving grades. I will admit that I have heard some grumblings from students who are saying, "If he isn't going to grade it, then I am not going to do it." However, those students are very few and far between.

      FAR MORE students are working harder and actually doing their work now without having a point value attached to it. It now feels like real learning is taking place for the sake of learning.

      These are just a few of the benefits I have found in my first month implementing this grading system. I have been reinvigorated as an educator, and I am looking forward to seeing how this impacts my students the rest of the year.

      Thursday, January 20, 2011

      Run Game: Counter-Trey

      If Mesh is the most versatile passing concept in our offense, then Counter-Trey would probably be the equivalent in the running game. It is another variation of "Double-Down Kickout", but it is very effective from a spread set.

      It is a very simple concept for the linemen to execute, and you can dress it up and give it multiple looks in the backfield. I am all for any play where the linemen have the same job to do up front, but the backfield action can change. Counter-Trey is a perfect example of that.

      Offensive Line Rules:

      To the playside we are working to build a wall. We like to double-team at the point of attack. Our rule for the playside TE, Tackle, Guard, and Center is ANGLE. They are on an angled path in the opposite direction of the play. Anyone who crosses their face, they take. If we can get a double-team, we want them to have four hands on the down linemen, and four eyes on the linebacker on their path. One of them will come off and take him.

      The backside guard will pull and trap the last man on the line of scrimmage. If he is trapping right, he should hit with his right shoulder. If the end squeezes, the guard will "log" block him and set the wall by reaching him (a log blog).

      The only exception to the backside guard and center's rule is if the guard has someone in his gap opposite the play.

      Against. a 4-man front, you usually see a shade to one side and a 3-tech to the other. Ideally we would like to run it towards the 3-tech side. If we are running it to the shade's side, then the guard would have a man in his gap (the 3-tech) and he therefore can't pull to trap. We would then pull the center and have him trap, and the backside guard would angle block the man in his gap.

      The backside tackle will pull and lead up on the playside backer. He should work to make sure his shoulders are square on the linebacker. It is very similar to ISO, just with the tackle leading instead of a fullback.

      Backfield action:

      There are over a dozen variations you can use with this scheme. You can use fakes and misdirection to get it to virtually any ball carrier within five yards of the center. We have had the RB, QB, FB, and Slot Receivers all carry the ball on this play. I like to figure out who our most explosive player is, and come up with a way to get him the ball on Counter-Trey. Here are some examples:

      Here are some cut-ups from this year (powered by Hudl):

      Oh Snap!

      You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations. Download Silverlight

      Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

      Here are some more cut-ups from my previous school. We ran Counter-Trey from multiple looks and formations:

      What coaching points do you have about the Counter-Trey? Do you have other variations that you like to use? Please feel free to comment below!

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      3P Grading: Parent Questions

      I have received several excellent questions and comments from parents about the 3P Grading System that I am using this semester. I am piloting this system this semester, so there are going to be bugs I need to work out. Instead of e-mailing each parent individually, I will address them all on this blog.

      Click here if you would like to read Steve Peha's original article about the system. It is a long read, but definitely thought-provoking. This the letter I sent home to all parents.

      Here are the questions I received, with my responses:

      1. Why are you starting this mid-school year instead of implementing next school year?

      I read an article last semester about the inherent problems with grading. The more I read about grading, the more problems I saw in how I was grading and evaluating students. I wrote about this in a post on my professional blog. 

      In my opinion, grading is the least effective form of feedback we can provide. It only provides feedback AFTER the learning, when students have already moved on to something else. Instead, I am going to give feedback throughout the learning process.

      Simply put, I had to do something. After reading about the problems with grading, I couldn't go on doing the same things I had been doing. Several of my colleagues encouraged me to try out the 3P Grading System this semester. All grades start over at semester, so it was a great time to try it out. If it works, I will implement it from the start next year.

      2. Do you include "organization" in the "participation" evaluation?

      I had not thought about this, but I would say that it is a part of all three categories. Their blog is acting as their portfolio. If they are not keeping their blog up-to-date and organized (participation), it will be difficult to conference with me to show their performance and demonstrate progress.

      3. How may we find our student's blog so as to observe his/her performance in class?

      I would encourage you to ask your student for their blog address. In fact, I encouraged my students to share their blog with you. One of the major advantages of maintaining a blog is to reach a bigger audience than just me or their classmates.

      They set up blogs in class, and submitted their blog address to me. I can also e-mail you their blog address if you send me an e-mail.  

      4. Will your evaluation be weighted compared to the child's self-evaluation in class?

      Both of our evaluations are worth 50% of their final semester grade.

      For each of our grades:
      Participation is worth 50%
      Progress is worth 30%
      Performance is worth 20%

      I will give them a grade for each component, and they will give themselves a grade. I will use a formula to calculate the final semester grade.

      However, I don't expect that our grades will be too far off from each other. In other words, I don't expect that a student will give themselves all A's, while I give them all D's. For the most part, we will probably be off by only one or MAYBE two letter grades.

      If so, that is why we will conference. They will need to prove to me why they deserve their grade. Perhaps they can demonstrate that they showed progress in one area, and I did not recognize it. I can be convinced to raise my grade from the initial one I assigned if they make a compelling case for it.

      5. How will improvement from the beginning of the year be gauged since a different evaluation system was in use?

      One philosophy that I try to live my life by is to, "Get a little better every day."

      I believe that I can improve as a teacher every day. I also believe students can get a little better every day. What we get better at is unique to each person.

      That is the great thing about this system. Student "A" might be really bad at writing thesis statements at the beginning of the year, but by the end they are pretty good. Student "B" might hate Shakespeare and not understand him at all, but by the end of the semester begin to appreciate and understand his writing.

      We are all works in progress, and I believe we can continue to show progress and get a little better every day. 

      6. By participation do you mean if someone answers a question or gives an idea? Seems it can be subjective if you have a particular student who doesn't LET others participate because they always want to respond.

      Yes, that is one part of participation. Here are my expectations of participation:

      • Come to class every day.
      • Be prepared. Have work completed on time.
      • Share regularly. Give good feedback. Ask good questions.
      • Be respectful.
      • Take ownership of your results; be accountable; don’t blame.
      • Ask for help when you need it; use the advice I give you.

      As you can see, there are other ways to show participation without speaking up in class.

      At work, we are all expected to "participate" and contribute to our jobs. I make a concerted effort to call on each student at least once each day. Some students are much more outgoing and willing to participate. I also understand that some students are shy. I think that is something we can work to improve on (progress) throughout the semester.  

      Every year I have students who are scared to speak out in class at the beginning of the year and then really come out of their shells by May. It is really amazing to watch.  This system will reward those students for the progress they make in participation. 

      7. I don't see anything about tests. Will there be any?

      I have worked hard to eliminate traditional tests from my class. When you think about it, how often do you take a multiple choice test in "the real-world"? The only time I can think of is when you get your driver's license renewed. I'm sure there are other examples, but they are few and far between.

      If we aren't expected to take tests in our lives after school, why should we spend time taking them in school?

      Therefore, I assess students through projects, real-life writing assignments, class discussions, etc... One exception to that is the Kansas Reading Assessment that our sophomores will take. That is a very important test we are mandated by law to give, so we will spend a great deal of time working on that. I also do ACT prep with my seniors in the fall, and sophomores in the spring.

      With that in mind, one way that my sophomores can demonstrate "progress" is through their scores on the reading assessment. We took pre-tests in August and December, and the final test will be in February. Almost across the board, I have witnessed progress in their scores. That is awesome!

      I hope this helped answer your questions. Students or parents, please feel free to add questions in the comments section at the bottom of this post. I am here to help you be successful!

      Thursday, January 6, 2011

      Grading: A New (and Terrifying) Frontier

      Image via
      Several months ago, I read a couple of articles about grading practices. I didn't put much thought into it because I had the whole grading thing figured out. I graded my students the way that I always was, so it had to be the best way.

      Then I started to come across more articles about new ideas of grading and assessing. And more. And more. Until one day I came across the 3P Grading System on the English Companion Ning.  After I read that article by Steve Peha, I knew I could never go back to the old way of grading.

      I knew that my "system" of grading had three major flaws:

      1. I had students in the past who figured out the "game" and would only come to class one day a week and would turn in all of their assignments. I post all of my assignments online for students to access when they are sick, so this was my own fault. I came to this realization: You could pass my class, and rarely come to class. I was not grading students on if they were truly engaged in learning, only if they could hand in work. 

      2. Students could dig themselves in a huge hole at the start of the semester, and never be able to get out. My system expected students to know how to write great papers or fully understand Beowulf or Macbeth at the start of the unit or year, rather than looking at their education as a stair-step approach. I did not have a way of rewarding students who improved throughout the semester, getting a little better each day.

      3. Finally, my method of grading papers, tests, homework and projects did little to increase student learning. I would spend a great deal of time creating and filling out rubrics, marking up papers, taking off points for silly mistakes, and tearing their work to shreds because "that is what a tough teacher does". After completely dismantling their work, I would hand it back to them with a grade on it. And that was it. I knew students hardly looked at the feedback I gave them, and I didn't have time to have them redo their work. We were moving on to the next unit or assignment. I was only providing feedback at the end of the learning process, after the work had taken place.

      The "3P Grading System" address all three of those concerns. In this system, you don't grade ANYTHING.

      Let that sink in for a minute...

      Instead, you give lots of feedback. Lots and lots of feedback as students are working, not once they are finished. They keep this material in a portfolio (I am asking them to maintain a blog).

      Image via
      The three P's are:

      1. Participation (Are the students engaged? Do they ask questions? Do they participate in class? Do they turn in work on time?)

      2. Progress (How much improvement do students make from August until December, or whenever you decide to grade them. Are they getting better at skills they are weak at?)

      3. Performance (How well do they do the things they do?)

      At grading periods, the students give themselves a grade. I give them a grade. We average them together and we are done. No grading. No crunching numbers. It is as simple as that.

      I would highly encourage you to read more about the 3P grading system here.

      I was going to wait until the fall to implement this new system, but I knew I needed to change. As I said, I couldn't go back to the old way of doing things.

      On Wednesday, I discussed the new grading procedures with my classes and sent home this letter to parents. I am curious to see how they will respond, because it is a total shift from how grades have been given since the beginning of time.

      I am going to be blogging about this experience for the next several months. I believe it will allow students to take control of their education, and allow me to be a much more effective teacher.  I am scared to death of how it will go, but at the same time it has reinvigorated me as an educator.