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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Update to #TTOG

Went to Disneyland EdCamp yesterday.

This was EdCampIllinois, in Northbrook. I was feeling frisky and was the first to propose a session - about students grading themselves. I asked for participants to come HELP me!

Three big ideas came out of this session for me...

1. Michael Matera proposed a place for students to curate their ideas on how to give proof for the four strands. I created this document on the spot, which, after more discussion, we decided should go to four more documents, so students aren't overwhelmed by too much on one page. I immediately posted this on students' Edline (our school's online grading system) page, and we'll talk about it Monday (hopefully adding to it).

2. Since students will be sharing a five-minute video with me explaining why they should receive any certain grade, another teacher asked, "Will students' videos be shared with parents?" Hmmm... I'll have to ask the kids this one. Maybe we can share on a student-by-student basis. Should I ask the parents this question instead? One thing we did resolve - if a student doesn't come up with a video by the due date, he/she will be meeting with me one-on-one, and we will record the session.

3. The third idea I came away with was the fact that ONE grade is so very arbitrary. What does an "A," a "B," a "C" even MEAN?! We could've had an entire session dedicated just to this question... over many days. It's my hope that students see this through their reflections, and come to realize that it truly IS about the learning, and not about the grade.

My Vine this day... showing the helpful group of six other people we had in the session, and Michael wondering if, once a student gets a "4 = mastery" on a skill, he/she should include this in his/her grade anymore for the rest of the year... ???


I came home, browsed Twitter, and saw Bill Ferriter's post titled "If Grades Don't Advance Learning, Why Do We Give Them?" After nodding my head at most of this post, I read the first comment. In it, Renee Moore, community college & high school English teacher, gives some of the HOW TO:
At the end of the course, they have to use the portfolio to take the final exam--which for my class is a reflective essay on a) what have I learned as a writer; b) how has my writing changed; c) what aspects of my writing do I think need more improvement. The essay concludes with the student telling me what s/he believes her/his final grade for the course should be based, not on the grades, but on the actual writing evidence in the portfolio.
Makes me feel as if I'm on the right track.

So... Sunday came along, and I had yet to give any written feedback (to put in the online gradebook) to my last class on the writing they'd written this past week. After a bit of time (I will NOT time it - I don't want to know!), taking breaks after 8 pieces of writing, then 5 more, then finishing (small class!), I created a spreadsheet of these summary responses for Edline, so I could copy/paste, and save a teeny bit of time in this fashion:

I used one "summary" piece (ala Mark Barnes' SE2R) per skill (language usage / grammar, claim, quality of evidence, and analysis of evidence). In the actual document, I posted revision suggestions. Many of these began with, "I notice you ____. Consider ____." This leaves the decision to revise to the students.

Let's keep the conversation going! Please comment any thoughts, questions, ideas you have! I learn so much more when others contribute.

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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