I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 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 my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Predictions - Students Grading Themselves...

I have many fears, and yet I know this pilot with one of my three classes will be successful in many ways. Here are my predictions for this coming year with my 9/10 block - one week before school begins!

  • No matter how transparent I make our plans, some parents won't get the letter I send out, and will express concern (putting it lightly?) when I do not put grades in the online grade book.
  • Many parents will not look at the research I share behind the idea of feedback instead of grades.
  • Some students will need hand-holding when it comes to deciding on a portfolio and adding artifacts to show their learning.
  • Some students will not check their documents or the online grade book for feedback. I hope to have these students in before or after school (or lunch) to explain the purpose of revisions and give them time to revise.
  • After a few weeks, some students will not have work that proves that they are learning. Or... they'll have work, but decide to not revise it. These may be the students that answer me with an "I don't know - you tell me" when I ask them to prove what grade they earn and why.
  • Some students will try to prove that they deserve an A - for effort, even if they have not met the standards. I wish I could give them a grade for effort, and we will include that reflection in written form, by asking students to fill in this self-reflection (inspired by Paul Solarz in Learn Like a Pirate). This reflection will go in the envelope alongside their progress reports, and hopefully it will be a catalyst for a conversation with parents at home.
  • First quarter will be tough. For everyone. Me, students, and parents. And my husband! We'll all be figuring out how this is going to go.
  • After first quarter, students will be more motivated to be able to prove the grade they think they should earn.
  • I will be frustrated, and yet learn a lot as the year goes on.
  • No matter how it goes, I'll have a lot of material to work with when writing for my renewal for my National Board Certification! (WHY am I doing both in the same year?!)

I'm prepared for some struggles, but I'm also excited for successes. What's the point of all of this anyway? I'll keep my thoughts on my goals - I do not need to "give" grades. I'm in the classroom to help children LEARN.

My resources so far: "FaR" tabs of our classroom Weebly
                                  Feedback Instead of Grades LiveBinder for parents to inspect

Side note: I will learn something in the first few days about what students think of the idea... We're using this quick Google form as part of our QR code scavenger hunt! (For my students only, please.)


  1. Joy, your posts are often so generously filled with links and resources. It's inspirational to an erratic blogger like me.

    I'll add some predictions to your list:
    -many parents will appreciate the high levels of communication
    -once the "feedback instead of grades" idea takes hold (and it will take hold), motivation, engagement, independence, and reflection will reach new personal highs for most students.
    -growth mindsets will begin or continue to develop in many students, in you, and some parents. (Here is a Growth Mindset for Parents resource that you and members of your parent community may find helpful.)
    -you will be brilliant in your National Board Certification renewal

    Be encouraged! You've laid some amazing groundwork for learning and relationship building that will be the foundation of a great year built together by you, your students, and their parents.

    1. Scott, I didn't even notice how negative my predictions were until I saw your positive ones - oh, how I needed them! They are the REASON I'm putting myself through this anxiety! Crazy how the negative thoughts rise when I'm anxious. I'll re-read your comments prior to Parent Night so I'm armed with the spirit in which I talked to my principal about the idea once again.

      Thank you, too, for the mindset resource - I'll have to try a lesson myself so I know how to share it with parents. (I'll probably end up sharing it with my sister, as well - her twins are in 4th grade, and she thinks so differently from me when it comes to school ideas!) I'm so - very - fortunate - you are in my PLN and we can learn from each other. Thank you again. And again. ;)

  2. Joy, I will also be implementing a ROLE with my 9th and 11th grade ELA classes this year. With your permission, I would be honored to adapt your letter to the parents. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It's so nice to NOT feel alone in the exciting endeavor:)

    1. Of course! I actually tweaked another parent letter - one generously given by Jamie Born (@JC_Born), who teaches AP English!! Contact her and she'll share her resources! :D