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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More Questions - NOW We're Talking!

Two weeks before grades for first quarter are due...

We discussed the video self-reflection portion of our work today in block 9/10. I adapted this from Jamie Born's AP Lit. self-reflection assignment - I really only changed a few things to make it work for us. (THANK YOU, JAMIE!) One thing I took out was effort. My students have been informed that their effort will show in their performance, and we had previously had the discussion of when effort is used in calculating grades. They understood it from the math teacher's perspective... do the homework, and you'll do better on the quizzes. Put in the effort (mostly in the form of revisions), and it will (most likely) show up in your performance.

While we talked through the sheet I handed out - and also put on Edline for their homework - they had a multitude of great questions...

S = Can I give myself minuses and pluses?
Me = Sure.

S = And if you don't agree, we'll have a conference? With our PARENTS??
Me = Just me and you. Before school, during lunch, or after school. You'll need to make an appointment.

S = Sometimes for my 20 minutes of reading some nights I read articles, because I've left my book at school. How can I prove that I'm reading each night?
Me = Maybe next quarter you can start a log of the articles you've read, or you can review a couple on your blog... You'll have to figure that out. Explain the situation in your reflection for this quarter.

S = What if I have three pieces of writing that I didn't revise? How can I use those for evidence?
Me = You can use those as evidence of what you have yet to learn, or yet to try. What do you think you deserve for each piece? Figure those into your overall grade.

S = What if I did really well on one piece for grammar, but not my other two? Can I average them?
Me = What do you think? Explain your thinking in your reflection.

S = What if I read really slow and I've only read one book this quarter?
Me = Are you reading at home for 20 minutes a night? If so, you should be getting a bit faster at reading. How can you prove what you've been reading each night? Explain what you can for this quarter, and then you'll have to figure this out for next quarter.

S = What if I have bad evidence for grammar, but good evidence for reading? Can I average these?
Me = Your grade will ultimately be an average of your reading, writing, language usage / grammar, and speaking & listening strands. You have to figure out how they all average out. (I hope this helps them see how arbitrary grades can be.)

The more questions they asked, the happier I became. 
I felt that THIS is why we're trying this.

I told them, "I am so geeked that you are asking these great questions. The fact that you KNOW your reading, writing, grammar and speaking habits is WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. It's not about the grade. It's about the LEARNING. You are sharing with me right now what you've learned about HOW you learn. This discussion is better than any grade you could earn. Just tell me in your reflection what you believe you have earned, and why. Let me know your story, and give me the evidence to back it up."

Afterwards, I used Angela Stockman's idea of "Four Corner Feedback" (found in this post last week) for students to let me know more questions or concerns. (Side note - we use the plus/delta idea in this post for weekly reflections and it works really well! See a taste of it in this blog post...) Is it just a seventh grade thing - for you to have five minutes left of class for kids to come up and ask you questions, and yet they'd rather leave you a sticky note instead??? I'm glad I was able to provide this option to them, because I did get two more questions that hadn't been asked yet.
I'm confused...    I'm curious...    I'm questioning...    (I think these 3 are so similar...)   and   I'm clear - for now.
There was one more question as they were heading out the door...

S = Can I just have a conference with you instead of creating a video?
Me = Yes. Prepare your strengths and what you need to work on, and bring that evidence to the conference.
S = But can't we just meet?
Me = You need to prepare for the meeting, just as you would for the video. Be ready to tell me what you think you should get for your reading, writing, language usage / grammar, and speaking & listening strands. Then set up an appointment time.
S = Can't I just come unprepared?
Me = Nope. I want you to LEARN from this experience. Do the prep work, and we'll meet.

Ah... seventh grade.

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

1 comment:

  1. This is great Joy! As we transition to standard based grading, I was just talking to a group of teachers about how to help the students understand the process and how to shift the focus to the learning. We need to foster great conversations like this and have the students reflect on LEARNING. You can see the great culture you have created in your class through these conversations. Thanks for the inspiration!

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