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, October 31, 2015

First Quarter - Students Grading Themselves

We did it! We got through one full quarter of not putting any grades in the grade book!

Friday was our last day of the first quarter of our year. Student reflection videos were due the Sunday prior, and a few trickled in afterwards. I did have three one-on-one conferences with my seventh graders, as they did not create videos. Thanks to a reminder from Mike Stein in his own reflection, I put students' self-chosen grades in the grade book for their final grade of the quarter. I also put two comments they chose (from the list our middle school uses) on the progress report as well.

Parent feedback (I will add more if/when more comes in from this simple form...)
I think it was tough for the students, but they reflected a lot and it was a great experience. My son can be somewhat of a perfectionist, so making a ton of revisions got a little hairy. I think that with more experience, this process will be easier and smoother. Thanks for trying something new.  
I'm still a numbers girl...
     So I have a spreadsheet that I created last year with numbers. At the end of last year, I documented the number of females and males that had As, Bs, Cs (and Ds) after each quarter. I got these numbers ready so I could compare this year's numbers, wondering if I'd have grade inflation overall due to one class grading themselves. Although our numbers are down this year, the percentage of As was surprisingly similar for this quarter:


I chose the last class of the day for this pilot, because normally this is my "rowdiest" group - it's after lunch and sometimes it seems as if none of us has any energy left for school at this point in the day. So... here are the numbers from the last class of the day:


I did not agree fully with two of students. However, according to their rationale, I can see how they came up with their grades. We have different opinions on what to use for proof. Next quarter will weed out (some of / all of?) these differences, when all proof must be published online somehow.

I know I could play with numbers until my brain hurts, so I don't know what else I will do with these facts. I only know that I wanted to be sure to document them. Another stat I could add - number of grades in the grade book. We had 12 assignments in the online grade book this year, and 10 of these had grades attached (two were just checked in). Actually... it was really only NINE assignments... two of them had multiple grades attached. See my issue with numbers? I have to step away from them, as they are not the reason I'm asking students to grade themselves.

So... WHY? Why am I asking students to grade themselves?

     So they begin to see how arbitrary grades can be.
     So they know more about what goes into (or SHOULD go into) a grade.
     So students revise more than they have before.
     So students come up with multiple ways to show their skills and prove their grade.
     Best part so far - So I can hear (and learn from) these types of reflections...
          I tried to change my writing because of feedback.
          I didn't feel comfortable sharing my writing with the class yet.
          I shared twice during Friday reflections - not the best, but it's better than nothing.
          I gave one good book talk, which is a good start.
          I didn't have much time to read outside of class because of soccer practice and games.
          I had a hard time giving evidence for my cardboard challenge reflection.
          I add a lot of apostrophes at wrong times.
          I have trouble with words that sound the same, like "their" and "there."
          I need to talk louder and not mumble so much.
          I always revise until I get the feedback I like.
          I read all the time - at home, school and weekends.
          Sometimes I make a few silly mistakes, but I need to work on that.
          I not only participated in fishbowl discussions, but I added to the conversations.
          I can work on listening to others.
          I'm an active participant in class.
          My goal is to get good writing feedback in the first place.
          I revised my writing of "A View from the Bridge" to add evidence.
          I left a cliff hanger in the "fear" big idea notebook for The Fifth Wave
                    (Many thanks to Penny Kittle for the big idea notebook implementation!)
          In my book talk, I hesitated a bit, and could've added more detail.
          In fishbowl discussions, I share good evidence.
          For independent reading, I'm not finishing a lot of books. I'd rather read articles.
          In fishbowls, I'm not afraid to give my honest opinion.
          I give feedback on others' writing to help improve their writing in any way.
          I read several books at one time.
          I never typed up my narrative, so I didn't receive any feedback on it.
          I make a lot of capitalization errors.
          I not only give feedback in class, but it is positive and constructive.
          I feel I can contribute or am strong in that area.
          Fishbowl discussions sometimes change my perspective on things.
          I do revise, but not a lot. Or not enough.
          I'm getting better at not doing run-on sentences.
          As for fishbowls, people will say what I wanted to say, so there's no point in
               repeating them.
          Monday and Wednesday I get really tired and sometimes almost fall asleep or
               don't understand.
          I didn't really read last year or in the summer, and now I'm reading more.
          I didn't really read 20 minutes a day. Sometimes my schedule didn't allow that.
          I read 20 minutes or MORE every day.
          On one assignment, I got the feedback "ready to publish."
          When we read "Streets to Memphis" ("The Night I Won the Rights to the Streets 
               of Memphis"), I gave a poll to the class to see how old they think the author
               was at the time. (More proof of speaking and listening skills...)
          I read eight books this quarter. (Then she lists them!)
          In fishbowl discussions, I went back to the source.
          I gave feedback and quality boosters, without repeating what was already said
               or making kids feel bad about their writing.
          I showed by using good descriptive adjectives and verbs.
          I wrote my cardboard challenge reflection twice, because the first time I just didn't
               do it well.
          I double-check and triple-check my grammar and look for words that aren't necessary.
          I don't bring a book every time we read in class.
          I have to be told to revise.
          Sometimes I don't use punctuation.
          I don't participate in fishbowls, but I listen good.
          I need to put more effort into writing.
          I need to check for capitals and end punctuation.
          I will join a fishbowl next quarter.
          I read 10-15 minutes a day, which is good considering I have after school activities.
          I gave one book talk. We shouldn't have to give book talks for all the books
               we read, so I did okay.
          I participate in weekly reflections.
          I didn't get a chance to share my writing with the class - if I could, I would.
          I need to work on run ons.
          I only read two books. I don't read every night.
          My claim was right to the point and I used as many pieces of evidence as I needed.
          I had one tiny error in my Baseball Great response.
          People deserve feedback if you've heard the whole story. I get distracted sometimes,
               so I don't give feedback then. If I can listen to their whole writing, I will give feedback.
          In "View from the Bridge," my claim was unclear and my evidence didn't reflect the claim.
          In my cardboard challenge reflection, my evidence was both explicit and inferential.
          When I read, I take a long time, because I want to understand the correct information.
          When I write or type an essay, I always go back and reread to correct any errors.

I purchased a binder today to keep student video reflection notes (and more) together. I'll be following up on some student comments, goals, and repeated issues so we can all learn even more this coming quarter. On Tuesday, I'll be asking students to come up with a goal for each of the areas on which our class focuses.

These will be in the new binder as well, for any of us to check throughout this next quarter.

My next goal - to help students publish everything they'd like to use as proof for their Q2 grade. They'll need three PUBLISHED pieces for reading, writing, language usage (grammar) and speaking & listening this time! We've got our blogs. It's time to make our work relevant enough to add to our blogs... Why do I do this to myself??!!

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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