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.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

"The Talk" - About Grades

Six full school days in... Today was the day my last class and I had "the talk!"

I pumped it up yesterday, TLAP style...
     "Tomorrow we're going to have.... (this part whispered-->) the talk!" Of course, they wondered if this was really health class, and I had to let them know that it was about the "g" word = grading!

I had plans. After 3/4 of class was through, I was going to have my 9/10 block fill out this survey first, then we'd project some answers and start the conversation that way. I was also going to record our conversation. I totally forgot those two things (I suppose I was a bit excited). I started, instead, by showing them how our class website was linked to their grading website (Edline), and all the goodies that are on our website. When we got to the "rubrics" tab, I skipped the rest until we got to the "FaR" tab. This, I said, was solely for their class. My eyes lit up, and I started excitement coursed through my veins.


     "Did any of your parents tell you how this class would be different?"
     ONE child raised her hand. She simply said, "Grading will be different."
     "We're going to grade ourselves."
     "What?" was heard many times over, and my smile spread.

After hearing this, and settling down, they were really ready to listen.

     "I don't have all the answers yet, but I've been thinking of you all summer long. I asked for permission from Mr. Kaye last school year, and he had some great questions, and made me think more. We knew there'd be some obstacles, but I've been working all summer to try and make this work for us. Do you want to know why?"

A resounding "Yes!" from students

"Because... what happens when you get a grade on something?"

"You throw it away," said one scholar at the front. YES.


And so the conversation begins.

I am so happy we are staring the conversation. Here are some questions I can remember students asking...

     "Can I give myself an F?" (That won't happen. I won't let it.)
     "How can I prove I should get an A?"
     "What if we lie?"
     "Can I just TELL you what I should get and show you proof?" (Yes - in a five-minute video.)
     "Can we tell other kids?" (YES!! Let's get the conversation started!)

And here is the transcript from my quick interviews afterwards. I simply asked, "What do you think of the idea of you grading yourself?" (Check out our latest posts on Instagram or Twitter to hear their voices!)
* I think it will be fun, 'cuz I can give myself good grades. I'll make sure I'm honest with myself.
* It's cool, but I think some people won't be honest.
* I don't really know how it's gonna work, but as long as you have to prove that you deserve a letter, I guess it's just more work for you.
* I think it's an interesting way to do school, or English Language Arts. I guess it will be fun but more challenging at the same time.
* I have no clue, 'cuz I'm not very good at grading myself, but I hope I grade myself good so I get good grades!
* I think that it will be very different and cool.
* It'll be fun, but I'm also kind of scared.
* I think it will be cool, but scary.
* I think it's interesting.
* I think it's going to be very fun, and very interesting, too, because probably no one's gonna give themselves an F, so no one's gonna fail the class, or not even a D, so I think it'll be interesting.
* I think it's nice.
* I think it will be interesting and a new, fun way to do grading.
* I think it's cool because like everybody gets like relaxed, and just read, and just like be calm.
* It's cool.
* It's good. Okay. Not the best, but good.
* I think it'll be fun.
I'm looking forward to more conversations!

1 comment:

  1. I notice you "forgot" two of your steps in introducing your No Grades classroom: the survey you had prepared and recording the conversation. I definitely relate to going to the trouble for steps then forgetting, in the excitement, to do them. What I see that you did, that I "forgot" was more purposefully engaging them in conversation about what was coming. When I introduced the idea of feedback instead of grades - first day - I did most of the talking, a habit I HAVE to break. I invited comment, but when I got little but nodding, I continued. Thanks you for the reminder that I have to be intentional in getting them to engage in the conversation. For the record, I had much better luck in a lesson a few days later.