Angry SBG: Angry Birds, Rubrics, and Redos

I just want to give a general thank you to all the people that are chipping in to help me understand Standards Based Grading. The Rubrics that I am sharing here today are largely influenced by Andrew Kozlowsky (@MrKoz31). I am sure he would say that he was influenced by a number of people including Rick Wormeli (@RickWormeli2) and Monte Syrie (@MonteSyrie) among others.


The “win stakes” in the game Angry Birds is to eliminate all of the Pigs from the board by knocking over the structures that they are perched upon.

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Before
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After

If the player fails to eliminate all the Pigs the game allows the player to replay the level. There is an immediate feedback loop where the player can reassess their strategy and try again.

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The little circled arrow button on the right means “retry this level”.

If all the Pigs are eliminated the player has completed the minimum necessary to pass the level. A teacher might look at this and say that the player is Proficient at eliminating pigs. What I find most inspiring about Angry Birds though is that the game cleverly adds a simple Stars System to let the player know while they may be Proficient they have not mastered the level.

What I find most inspiring about Angry Birds though is that the game cleverly adds a simple Stars System to let the player know while they may be Proficient they have not mastered the level.

A player that completes the minimum objective of eliminating the Pigs is deemed proficient and will receive 1 star. They can go to the next level but they can also keep replaying until they get 3 stars. Even after receiving 3 stars a player can still replay to get higher scores!

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If a player uses less birds to complete the level or wreaks maximum damage they have demonstrated greater mastery over the strategies needed to complete that level and will be awarded with a 2 or even 3 star ranking.

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So what does Angry Birds have to do with Standards Based Grading (SBG)?

The difficulty I am having with the transition to SBG is the state and local requirements in regards to grading. The expectation in most classrooms is a traditional weighted system. In fact my district has mandated weighting categories – High 50%, Mid 30%, Low 20%. Add to this math formula that these weighted categories only tally up to 80% of the overall score and a mandated final exam/project must account for 20%. These numbers mean very little in terms of telling the student how they are performing in the class in the current moment. So how do we do a better job of allowing the grades to tell a story? This is where Angry Birds comes in.

I am learning that most SBG grading models rely on a 4 point scale. There is some variation with 3 or 5 point scales but 4 seems to be pretty standard with 3 being a “meets mastery expectation” level and a 4 indicating exceeds expectations. In the SBG philosophy the 4 point scale can be just as obfuscating to the meaning of a grade as the traditional weights except that the teacher, students, and parents are not simply looking at a number and guessing! The numbers are based on a clear set of expectations as laid out in a set of rubrics. In the best practice the rubrics are based on skills that are demonstrated to the teacher and feedback is provided to the student. In my gamified brain this is where I see the Angry Bird connection. A level 1 is like the failed screen – the student/player needs to go back and retry the assignment/level. A level 2 is like the 1 star screen – the student/player has a minimum skill and the performance was ok but there is still major development needed. Level 3 is like a 2 star performance – it was a solid effort and the game/teacher sees that there is proficiency but the player can still improve with extra feedback and iteration. Level 4 is like the 3 star level – the student/player has Mastered the level/skill.

In the SBG system the rubrics need to clearly explain the expectation and skill that is being mastered. Luckily South Carolina is moving to new Social Studies Standards in 2020 with next year being a “bridge year”. In the bridge year teachers are expected to start implementing the new standards but students will be assessed only on areas that overlap with the old standards. I was skeptical about the standards when they were initially unveiled but they are growing on me and one big reason is on the emphasis of skills development. Here are the first 4 of 6 “Deconstructed Skills” that are the first Standard.

The final 2 are “Continuities and Change” and “Evidence”

I am still working on constructing my 4 point rubrics based on these new standards but I want to share the 7 that I am currently working on for these deconstructed skills. I have decided to break up the “Evidence” skill into 2 seperate pieces. Here is one example and the link below will allow you to access my SBG Rubric Google Drive Folder.

Standards Based Grading Rubrics Google Drive Folder Link

(Thanks to Mr. Koz for some of the language)

I am making some breakthroughs on the grading front which I will share in another post but I had one other quick Angry Birds connection – REDOS.

In the game a player can redo a level as often as they want to. This seems to be an effort to improve the score but in actuality the player is showing their improved mastery of the skills necessary to finish that level. Since most levels have some unique challenge (a new type of bird, an different obstacle, some new physics mechanic, etc) what the player is actually doing is a series of mastery demonstrations of unique skills. That skill may be assessed again in future levels in a new context but the redo is key to the game. A player does not fail the demonstration and never get to try again. SBG concepts mirror this philosophy. A student can attempt to demonstrate mastery multiple times. I believe many teachers get hung up on redos because grades are so tied into multiple choice testing. In that case if a student gets a redo then they have simply eliminated an answer choice and are guessing out of 3 choices rather than 4. This is not the SBG concept though which is more like Angry Birds. I have been working on a test corrections model that will overcome this on large tests and I believe some grading schemes like Power Law and Decaying grading helps with this as well. The point is that if a student masters the skill or content they shouldn’t be punished for not having mastery on the first try.

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