IDK. My BFF Rose.

Several years ago, I was part of a school that used 4-Sight testing in Math and Reading classes.  The 4-Sight was a standardized test that we used  several times a year to predict how our students would do on the state test measure student growth.  It was standard math multiple choice questions and open ended response questions.

The Math teachers had to grade the students’ open ended responses.  I was alarmed at the amount of my students who just wrote IDK in the response area.  Really???  You wrote IDK on a test???  You couldn’t at least write “I don’t know”?

I don't know....
I don’t know….

Since I had nice, long 90 minute classes, I was able to spend the beginning of each period (bellringer, ATB, Do Now, Warm up, whatever) doing an open ended response question.  I taught my students how to pick apart these questions and how to create a response.  I taught them how to write something for an open response, even if it’s wrong.  Even if it’s just restating the given information. Any response is better than “IDK” written across the page.

So this brings me to today.  I just read an article from Edudemic on different ways to say “I don’t know”. Huzzah!  Someone else out there feels my pain!  The author provides different ways for a student to say they are confused in a manner that doesn’t immediately shut down the dialogue.  Check it out here. Also included is a nice poster to steal use for inspiration.

P.S. – In case you were wondering, the best ever response from a student was as follows.  The question was: “Juan wants to measure the flagpole.  Given the information he has, how can Juan solve this problem?”  One of my students (grumble) wrote “Juan needs to learn to solve his own problems.”


Sigh.  Can’t win them all, I suppose.


pencil. pen·cil. pensəl.

I hate pen.  I love colorful inks, and grading with pretty gel pens.  But those are for me.  When kids do math homework in pen, my eye twitches and my neck cramps and I suffer from small micro-seizures.  Such is life.

So I made a definitive decision this year.  Pencil only in math class.  No exceptions.  First day of school, open house, welcome back letter… everything said pencil only.  Even still, I had this actual conversation on the first day of school with a class.

Them: “Is pen okay?”

Me: “Is it a pencil?”

Them: “No.”

Me: “Well then.  No.”

Them: “What about erasable pen?”

Me: “Is it a pencil?”

Them: “No.  It’s an erasable pen.”

Me: “Well then. No.”


I hate pen.


Part of me wants to laugh maniacally when a student does a worksheet in pen and it’s all wrong.  But I don’t.  I just give them a new worksheet.

What I’m puzzled over is WHY DO THEY STILL ASK ME IF A PEN IS OKAY?  Every conversation has the same response.  “Is it a pencil?  Then no.”

I know I’m prejudiced.  I acknowledge and accept that.  Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I am prejudiced against erasable pen.  Seriously.  Erasable pen just irritates me.  I don’t have a reason.  It just ticks me off.  More so than regular pen.  They write like garbage.  The ink smudges.  It’s suffering from a major identity crisis.  Darn it, pen, love yourself for who you are!  Stop trying to be like pencil.  If you can’t love yourself, pen, nobody else ever will!

Well… time to go grade 100 tests done in pen.