Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Questions & Answers Regarding Grading...

Our second week of school, and I've asked my last class to give me questions and/or concerns over the idea of grading themselves.

Here are the questions from students (so far), and answers I have (so far)...

Q1: This idea is so different from all other ways of grading. It’s not like you get a B+ in this project and an A in this one it seems like we are just saying one grade for the whole thing. Is this true?
A1: Yes - ONE grade for the entire quarter. It's how our report cards report to parents right now.

Q2: I usually grade myself too low and it makes it hard in this case because maybe you think I deserve an A and I think I should get a B, and you like my reasoning and think I should get more credit though will you bump me up to a B+ or A?
A2: No - I will not bump you up automatically. If I feel you deserve a different grade than what you propose, we will have a conference and talk about it to decide on a grade together.

Q3: How should we prove that our grade is a good grade after a whole semester? Do we go and list everything we learned? I just don't know.
A3: (Here is where I need to share the chart below!)

Q4: How do we get a grade on HW and small assignments?
A4: We don't grade homework, as I many times it means grading a HABIT, and not what students learn. Rubrics will be provided for anything I would normally grade, and you may use those to help you grade yourself, or to switch writing with a partner, so you can give each other feedback.

As a result of these questions, I have also come up with another guideline to help us all. There are four very general categories for our ELA standards, and I believe students should choose what to use as their proof. Therefore, I've created this table students will fill in with their proof. Yes, they may choose one document for more than one category, if they wish. (How many? I don't know. I don't think they'll choose one document for four categories... I guess it depends on what they choose!)

Two minutes after I shared these questions and answers with students in class, we adjusted this chart for first quarter...  POLISHED became the word, instead of PUBLISHED, as we haven't even begun discussing blogs or digital portfolios. Also, they liked the idea of using the in-class journal as support for their independent reading practice.

Jessica (@JessLif) said that students could also highlight just what in each piece proves their learning. I've considered this, but I can imagine seventh graders highlighting the entire thing. Also, I'm going to try to be as authentic as possible with their published work. I wouldn't want to highlight my own blog posts to show proof of learning.

Teresa Lee (@mrsleeims12) said they use this type of documentation for parent/teacher conferences. I know I'll be using it for this purpose, for sure! Although, knowing me, I'll have already alerted parents to just WHY their children are giving themselves these grades prior to conferences.

Other thoughts from students... (copied and pasted straight from their responses!)
* I’m nervous about proving our grade, because there are so many aspects to it. I feel like I might miss something and not get the grade I think I deserve because of it.
* IDONT really know how its going to go but i would rather have a teacher grade me.
* I think grading yourself is very interesting. I can't wait it is going to be a lot of work, but it is going to be fun. It is something new so lets do this!
* I think it's a great idea as long as it's balanced and fair. I hope it's fair, well thought, and not to advanced.
* I'm scared about it because it's different from what I'm used to.
* I think that grading will be hard because I will want to give myself good grades because well I get make sure that I have a good grade. Also it will be hard because I will need to learn how to give me a bad grade if that is what I deserved.
* I think it may be a bit of a challenge but, it may be a new and fun way to do things.

What I LOVED... every student who answered the survey said that they agreed it was more about the learning, and not so much about the grade. I think we're on the right track with these conversations.

I'm looking to my students to teach me even more!

My resources so far: "FaR" tabs of our classroom Weebly
                                    Feedback Instead of Grades LiveBinder for parents to inspect
                                    My own reflections on this journey

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