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, April 6, 2017

Seventh Grader Reflections - A Snippet

Just a snippet of two conferences I had with students regarding their grade for third quarter today... Just a reminder - we've had no grades/marks all quarter, and students need to give me their evidence for reading, writing, and grammar.

A conversation with "Lisa"*
Me - "Why do you think you earned a 'B' for reading?"
Lisa - "Well, my comprehension scores are 97% for literal, and 91% for inferential, but I only shared two of the five books I read this quarter."
Me - "What makes you think you have to share more than two?"
Lisa - "You said if we share books, it helps other students read them."
Me - "What stopped you from sharing them?"
Lisa - "I didn't really think anyone else would like the other three I read."
Me - "Do you think we should share books we don't necessarily like?"
Lisa - "I don't know."
Me - "I think it's valuable to share books you DO like. You show here that you read 30 minutes each night?"
Lisa - "Sometimes less, if I'm busy. But I always make up for it on the weekends."
Me - "I still don't understand why you think you earned a 'B' for reading. Your evidence proves otherwise."
Lisa - "A 'B+' then?"

Lisa is so hard on herself. She had THREE goals for next quarter, when she clearly earned an 'A' for reading, writing AND grammar. Her goals were very high, so we discussed making them manageable so she didn't stress herself out!

A conversation with "Kyle"
Me - "It says here that you believe you deserve an 'A' for grammar. I don't see any evidence listed. Let's write down the pieces you submitted for feedback and go over the feedback that was given. ... For each of your three pieces, the feedback was 'needs improvement.' Do you remember what that would be as a score in a 'typical' class?"
Kyle - "Um... maybe not good."
Me - "On a typical rubric, that's a D. So... you've got three pieces that show your grammar skills at a 'D' level right now."
Kyle - "I revised one a lot."
Me - "Yes. My notes say you revised this one three times. My notes also say that I asked you to look back at my feedback. You seem to have added MORE writing to the piece instead. Is there a reason you didn't follow my feedback to add capital letters and periods?"
Kyle - "I didn't really read it." (Kyle had asked for WRITTEN feedback instead of video feedback this past quarter. I gave him one sentence that showed where he was doing well, and one sentence that suggested a revision. This was in lieu of a 2-5 min video.)
Me - "So... (trying to not let my emotions show on my oh-so-transparent face)... Was a one sentence suggestion too much for you? Would you prefer the video feedback again?"
Kyle - "No. I just wanted to write more."
Me - "Writing more is not getting better at writing. In fact, you wrote more without adding any capital letters or ending punctuation. When did you learn how to capitalize names and the beginnings of sentences?"
Kyle - "Um... First grade?"
Me - "So... You wrote more - without adding any capitalization or punctuation. You didn't improve your writing. Revising is what helps you improve."
Me - "Let's regroup. Let's look at the evidence, and reflect more accurately now on what you think you have earned as a grade for grammar."
Kyle - "Um... A 'C'?"

Big sigh. Sitting with Kyle for double the time it should take to confer is a struggle. Not giving grades or marks throughout the year is one of the toughest things I've tried in my teaching career. Even though the struggle is real, I won't give it up.


This is one reason: Some students need a TON of practice reflecting. Some have either never had the chance before, or just simply need more practice. I'm definitely giving them the opportunity to practice.

There are oh-so-many more reasons. You can discover some of them in the video I share with parents, but today's conversations were a glimpse into one other huge reason. Reflection is a skill that needs to be practiced in school. I don't know how much it's happening in some homes.

*No doubt - the names here are fictitious.

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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