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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Conferring Once Again - Q3

The end of each quarter, I sit down with my students, one-on-one, and we talk about their learning from the past seven or eight weeks. Ultimately, we have to come up with one letter grade that represents learning they've shown. This one little letter is all they get for their work, but that's how the system is for me at this moment in time.

These conferences are my most stressful time of each quarter, and also my favorite. They're stressful because I need to make sure I have time to see each child, and I hope to goodness that they're not absent the day they were scheduled. They're also stressful because I then have to enter that one grade in the online gradebook, and I worry about parent reactions. THANK YOU to all those supportive parents who have read my myriad two-week updates and emails home. One more stress? The rest of the class is working on their own... or are they?! Letting go of that control is tough, but most students are doing what they need to be doing during this time.

These conferences are also my favorite time of each quarter. This is a result of the conversations we have, the learning that is demonstrated and celebrated, and the reflections and goal setting.

Here are some tidbits from this past quarter... All names are changed and do not even closely resemble the child's name.

Abby's goal for next quarter is to ask more questions. She didn't know where an assignment was, and was too nervous to ask me. ME. I wonder how she functions in other classes.

Bill's goal for next quarter is to set his alarm on his phone so he remembers to read every day after school. He went to his locker and set it right then.

Cliff realized, although he's doing very well academically, that he has a tough time with theme and the author's message. He decided he's going to write about the theme of everything he reads in class and at home from now on.

Donny is proud that he's now reading at home and that he found a genre he enjoys (nonfiction).

Edgar thought he should get a "D" in class, because he never reads at home. We had a great discussion about how reading habits affect comprehension, but that I don't think habits should belong in a grade. It turns out we agreed on a "C" because his comprehension was in the 70% range. He asked, "If I read more, will it go up?" I got to tell him that the only thing that helps improve reading comprehension is more reading.

Frank revised then revised then revised once again to improve the grammar in his writing the week before we met. His new goal? --> Revise as soon as he gets feedback!

George, once again, admits to playing video games all afternoon and evening. Talking with him helps me know that I can NOT do it all alone. It also helps reaffirm that we should be reading (books of students' choices) in class every day.

Helga's goal for next quarter is to stay away from distracting friends during independent reading time.

Issac is proud of his improvement this past quarter!

Judy has stepped up her participation this past quarter!

Kelly realized (without my help) she is distracting other students when they work in a group! Her new goal is to focus on getting the task accomplished when she works with friends.

Leo was nervous about his meeting with me. He came and said, "I'm nervous." It turns out that he was hyper-focused on one part of the grade. When we looked over the other evidence, he said, "I'm not as nervous anymore." We discussed averaging points in the gradebook versus taking the evidence for what it is, and he was happy he had revised his writing.

Molly's new goal is to head to our class website reading challenge page to look through the myriad lists of books and create a large one for herself so she can begin to choose what to read on her own (instead of coming to me each time she finishes a book).

Nick thought he should get a "D" because of his behavior in class. We then had the discussion about how behavior will impact his learning at some point, but for now the evidence for his academics shows he's in the "B" range. We then talked about how his behavior might be impacting OTHER students' learning...

Olga's new goal is to stop doodling during classwork time. She didn't do as well as she'd hoped this past quarter, and blames it on "not getting down to work."

Patrick told me he really wants to change seats so he's away from a certain someone who distracts him.

Those are the stories I remember offhand, without going back into my notes. When I feel as if my class is slipping away from me (let's call it "spring fever"), I can go back to these conversations and realize that we do have a connection, and we can have discussions about what's going right, and where we can improve.

My "gradeless" 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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