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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Do It Anyway...

We had two parents come in for a conference last week. After talking about her child, the mom thanked me for the ELA updates on the blog. She said she loved the photos, and loved what the class looked like.
     She turned to the dad, and said, "Do you see the updates?"
     He replied, "No."
     "Do you get the emails?"
     "Yes. I don't read them."

It happens! No worries. If our message goes out to 50% of the parents, that's 50% more than it used to get out to!

Martina McBride is my favorite country singer. (Jennifer Nettles is a close second!) She's got this song that I love to belt out... "Anyway"

I spent one entire summer (2013) building our class website, and I continue to edit it practically each month. I'm going to keep building it! Every two weeks, I send an email out to all the parents, leading them to the part of the website that has our two-week updates.
I do this for me, and I do it for my students and their parents. Some may never look at it outside of our ELA class, and I am okay with that, because some actually do find it useful!

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grade Book Help for Parents - Without Grades

Help for parents (and students)!

I've created a video helping parents see how their child is doing in ELA class - without any grades in the online grade book! I hope this helps parents better understand the system (which will be constantly evolving, I'm sure).

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