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 4, 2016

Benefits of Comprehension Checks in a "No Grades" Classroom

They are not called quizzes in a "no grades" classroom. They are called by their purpose - to check comprehension. They also do not have the downfalls of typical quizzes. They do NOT affect a student's grade.

The first comprehension check I passed back had mixed responses from students.

     "I thought you said you weren't going to grade us."      (I'm not.)
     "Does this go in the grade book?"      (As a comment.)
     "Will we have more of these so I can raise my grade?"      (Yes... and no.)
     "Can I retake this?"      (No.)
     "What does this mean?"

The first comprehension check had five questions. In my spreadsheet, these were the possible comments students received in the online grade book:

Yes. It looks like a mark, but it does not get computed in the gradebook.

As a result, it is ONLY INFORMATION. It is feedback for the student and parents.

As a result, we had a valuable conversation about literal vs. inferential questions.

As a result, students were curious about why they had one or more wrong.

As a result, their final grade does not get knocked down a notch (or boosted).

As a result, students read more closely the next time we had a comprehension check.

As a result, students were not inclined to cheat.

As a result, students do not groan when I hand them out. They know they are checking their comprehension on this one piece of text. They do not have to use this piece for evidence in their final grade if they have better evidence from which to choose.

As a result, I have never given so much formative assessment. I used to despise how it kept raising some grades and kept knocking down others. I felt guilty putting the grades in the grade book. Now I truly view it as formative assessment in its pure form.

Three comprehension checks later...

I am "grading" the four literal questions. The backside of some students' work was not completed. One wonderful benefit of this type of learning - I do NOT feel guilty marking it as "2 out of 4 literal questions answered correctly." Students will know it is because they did not follow the directions.

Hopefully, as a result...  they will follow directions more closely next time. In ALL of their classes.

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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