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.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Feedback In Lieu of Grading - Quarter Two

My reflection this quarter is for my students... I'd like to share with you your thoughts and suggestions, and how I'd like to proceed. Let's keep having the much-needed conversations about learning!

First class, block 2/4 Responses:

Let's address the concern in the last comment. (Yes, I moved the comments I wanted to address down to the bottom in each of these photos so I could see them better and be able to share them with you in order to write this post.) When we meet in our 1:1 (one-on-one) conferences, I let students know if I agree or not, and why. There were only a handful of students this quarter that I did not agree with, and those students didn't have evidence to support the grade they chose. In those cases, students created goals (or in some cases, we created small contracts) so that next quarter the student would be more accurate in his or her reflection. I also stated on those students' sheets that I did not agree and reasons as to why we had disagreements. In eleven (out of 67) instances this quarter did the final grade a student gave him or herself not match my own assessment of those students' reading, writing and grammar skills combined. The parents were made aware through the comments on our 1:1 conferencing sheets. I usually share something along the lines of "Your child was very reflective in his assessment of himself this quarter" or... "Your child and I disagreed on her grade for writing (or reading, or grammar), and have created goals to help her more accurately assess herself next quarter." Since we need to focus on learning, those eleven students have stricter guidelines now that, in fact, promote more learning through revisions or showing their skills during comprehension checks.

As a result of similar feedback from a parent last quarter, I added a small spot on our 1:1 conference sheet so parents would have a better idea of what I thought. Since I believe that school should be focused on learning, and that grades will reflect that learning, what I added was a reflection scale. This scale is to communicate to parents how reflective and how accurate student evidence was. I will continue to revise our 1:1 conference sheets to reflect parent and student suggestions.

Second class, block 5/6 Responses:

That last comment - "...sometimes I want to know what my grade is during the quarter..." Let's do it! Let's use the documenting sheets I provided each person, and figure out the midterm grade half-way through the quarter! The reason for creating the documenting sheets was so that students can pretty much always know what their grade is at any moment. Also, at any time during the quarter, you and I can meet to discuss the current evidence. Just ask!

Third class, block 8/9 Responses:
The last three comments here caught my attention. "It is challenging..." I like the challenge aspect - proving your claim is what so much of writing in our class is about. Proving it with evidence that students choose seems fitting for ELA class (and social studies, and science...)

The fact that "some students will truly benefit... and some will not because they will slack off" seems to be true for any type of grading.

"I prefer teachers grading us so that it is definitely the grade you are getting." Since we agree on a grade together, that is definitely the grade you are getting. If I truly disagreed with the final grade, I would intervene, parents would know I did not see the same evidence the student provided, and we would create a plan for the next quarter that would help the student be more reflective and accurate in his or her self-assessment.

Suggestions from all three blocks:

Line 2 & 9: Here are more writing prompts that you can use throughout the year. These are on our class Weebly under "Student Resources --> Writing Challenge" and also under "FAR --> Writing Guidelines." ;) It may seem as if I have not been giving more encouragement to write in class. I try to balance our reading with our writing, and it's always in my plans to provide more time for writing in class. Some students ask if they can write instead of read during independent reading time. That is an option for those who read on a consistent basis at home. You can always choose to write outside of class, as well. Add it to your independent reading practice at home.

Line 3: Let's remember to provide time IN class for this to happen. (Note: Some students already do this on their own.)

Line 4: I'm back and forth on "participation" points, as I've read a lot about introverts and how they are still retaining content from the class even without participating. Participating can cause introverted people actual, physical pain. We will have times when we need to present, but the culture of our classroom is trust, and I do not think it is fair to grade oral participation in this class.

Lines 5, 11, and 12: I will provide a mid-term check in this next quarter. We will use our documenting sheets to do so. This may be a good time for me to provide you with what I think your grade should be for reading, writing, and grammar at this point in time.

Line 6: Sorry. I have read too much research against traditional grading to go back now. Until our district uses standards-based grading, this system is more accurate and fair than how I used to grade.

Line 7: One time I made a change in a student's grade - by accident. I typed in the wrong letter on the wrong line. The parent gave me a heads up and I was able to correct it before it appeared on any final grade report. I have triple-checked our 1:1 conferencing sheets this time, so as to not repeat that error again (I hope!).

Line 8 & 10: I'm aware that for some students this type of grading can be "nerve-wrecking." I ask you this - can "traditional" grading also be nerve-wracking if you're at a 89.6% or if you have a test or a project due on the last day of the quarter? Use the documenting sheets to their full potential. They're with you so you know where you stand at any given moment and have more control of your final grade. Share more books with the class (orally or written) so you counter-act any "low" comprehension check data by proving you understand what you read. Submit more writing than is assigned so you have more choice as to what evidence you'd like to use for your writing and grammar portions of class.

I hope this is what students will feel by the end of this school year...

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


  1. Joy - Thank you for sharing so much of your reflecting through this blog! I have been sharing many posts with a couple colleagues who are tackling the same style of grading, and I believe they have appreciated the insights and camaraderie.

    How are you responding to these students after the survey? Do they read your blog, or are you planning on some kind of discussion? This seems like a great chance to model some reflection.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Clint! I'll be sharing my blog post with each class at the end of this current unit. We'll then have an open discussion where more ideas can be shared. :D