Tag Archives: Assessment

Integral to Instruction: Assessment

“Assessment should always have more to do with helping students grow than with cataloging their mistakes.” — Carol Tomlinson

Assessment in an integral part of instruction determining whether or not the goals of education are being met. It is used to measure the current knowledge that a student has. It meets many needs for many individuals. Through assessments we continually ask the questions,

Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?

Are students learning what they are suppose to be learning?

Is there a way to teach the subject better, therefore promoting better learning?

Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and in some cases, school funding.

Teachers are engaged in assessment every minute they are in the classroom. As teachers, we are always observing, noting, and evaluating. Because assessment in completed integrated into the fabric of curriculum, our evaluations are just as accurate (or not) as the classroom experiences we design for our students. The learning standards and Common Core lead us to give particular kinds of assignments. The key is to offer a variety of assessments, both formative and summative, to help our students show us they are meeting the learning targets.

I am currently in the process of designing a multi genre inquiry unit on WWII and the Holocaust with a social studies teacher and amazing colleague.

The unit brings social studies and English together in order to promote coteaching and collaboration among these two content areas with a focus on building students literacy skills and historical knowledge.  Combining the new C3 social studies standards and the Common Core literacy standards promotes critical thinking, close reading and students creating their own multigenre text on a specific topic and theme about World War II.

For the final project (and summative assessment) students will create a Multi-genre blog that incorporates five different texts (fiction and nonfiction) grounded in specific historical documents to highlight a common theme prevalent in WWII.

Reading closely and writing narrative, argumentative, and informative/explanatory are core learning targets for 8th grade students as described in the CCLS. There are limitations to each of these writing genres when taught in isolation. Allowing students analyze, synthesize, and evaluate historical text (primary and secondary sources) in multigenres allows students to see the depth of history and personal accounts. This in turn builds empathy and understanding that history is living and breathing. Allowing students to be researchers and writers enables students to use higher order thinking and comprehension skills while at the same time tap into 21st Century skills as digital citizens and creators. Students will utilize technology for research and writing to produce a blog that presents their understanding and learning of this inquiry unit on WWII and the Holocaust.

Additionally, throughout this four week unit there will also be formative assessments to help teachers gauge students knowledge and understanding about historical events and the writing process. Formative assessments range in “formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.”

Examples of formative assessments for the unit include:

Teacher observations

Student-teacher reading and writing conferences

Weekly Literature Circles Discussions and Reading Notes Presented on Google Slides

Weekly Articles of the Week with Written Short Response Reflections with Actively Learn

Fishbowls, Socratic Seminars, and Class Discussions

Constructive Quizzes

Graphic Organizers

Google Forms

Summaries

Write Arounds

Sketchnotes

Jigsaws

Self Assessments & Reflections

 

 

 

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New Ways to Use “Old School” Bingo in Your Classroom

Old School games are a great way to bring gaming into any content area. Whether playing  Jeopardy, Who Wants to be A Millionaire, or Jenga, these types of games build collaboration and can help students deepen their content knowledge. One of my “go to” games with my students is Bingo. Here are a few ways that I have adapted Bingo for learning and assessment.

1. Text Dependent Questions – I will fill an entire bingo board with text dependent questions or problems and students have a specific time to fill out the Bingo board. You might utilize this as a homework assignment for the week (each night complete one row or column), assessments (A = complete the entire board correctly, B = complete 4 rows of Bingo, C = 3 rows of Bingo), or an in class activity. Below is a class activity that I use to review Chapter 7 & 8 in To Kill A Mockingbird.

2. Pursuit – Give students a Bingo board with situations or actions and students are required to find specific textual details (or direct quotes) that highlights the situation. I recently made a Bingo board like this for MidSummer Night’s Dream Act 3. The pursuit gave students a mission to uncover key events and show their understanding while reading the play in class.

3. Picture Bingo & Empty Bingo Boards – Use pictures instead of text or give students a word bank to fill in their own Bingo Board. Then,  ask questions related to the words in the word bank or images.

4. Persuasive Bingo – When I taught speech and debate I created five different Bingo Boards with a variety of persuasive speaking tasks: Persuade your parents to increase you allowance, persuade your sibling to do your chores, persuade your teacher to give you an extra day to complete an assignment. The key was that the students couldn’t bully, blackmail, or bribe to achieve Bingo. When a number and letter was called the students had to persuade the entire class effectively in order for it to count.

Bingo is fun and interactive. Bingo boards can be adapted for any content area or grade level.  Plus, they are easy to make. Depending on the task created for students the questions can tap into Bloom’s questioning, critical thinking, and allow teachers to assess student understanding.

 

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What did you Read this summer? A Back-to-School Summer Reading Assessment

Summer reading is a political topic these days. Should students be assigned a required summer reading book or should summer be about reading what ever one likes? Should students be allowed to have choice in what they read? How many texts should students be required or expected to read over the summer?

This year, my colleagues and I decided that instead of a required summer reading text, students could read any book of their choice. Incoming students were given a suggested book list created by students that included many contemporary titles both fiction and nonfiction.

With a wide range of summer reading books, how does one assess students? Rather than a creative book reflection and project, I have turned to the traditional essay to assess student reading. This assessment is not one that is graded, but used as a gauge of reading tastes and gain data of students’ reading and writing strengths and weaknesses. I use these assessments to help guide my teaching of reading and writing at the start of the school year.

My summer reading assessment prompt stems from the poignant essay What we Hunger For written by Roxanne Gay.

This essay is honest, harrowing, reflective, and offers a personal response to the Hunger Games trilogy.  The author begins by highlighting the representations of strength in women like Katniss and then brings in her own personal experiences that shaped her reading and admiration of strength in the “flawed” protagonist of Suzanne Collin’s books. Gay addresses the negative response to the violence in the trilogy and through her personal confession offers a counter claim against telling young people what they can and should read. She brings in supportive arguments from contemporary YA authors like Sherman Alexie to support her claims.  Gay concludes with her analysis of Katniss as a strong and relatable character by highlighting imperfection in and all around us. This essay is powerful and inspiring. I knew it was something I wanted to share with my students.

For my 8th graders, I have edited the essay to use as a mentor text. I want students to think about the central ideas in their summer reading books and how it shapes their thinking. How do the books we read over summer time support us and sustain us?

summer reading essay 2016

I look forward to what my students share with me. What are the books they read over summer vacation, and the lessons they share with me.

Do you have a unique or thoughtful summer reading assessment? Feel free to share in the Comments section on this blog.

 

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Playing with Legos for Classroom Learning

I just finished reading Quinn Rollins’ book Play Like A Pirate: Engage Students with Toys, Games, and Comics and found more than a dozen ideas to bring into my classroom. As a huge fan of Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate, I knew this was going to be another resource filled with ideas to engage students and energize teaching.

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In each chapter, Rollins takes on a toy, board game, and kid favorite by sharing ideas and examples how he has used them in his own classroom to promote learning and understanding. Whether it is action figures, Minecraft, or games like Monopoly and UNO, his teaching tools go beyond worksheets and textbooks to “playfully” teach his content material. Bringing in these games and toys does not only bring an element of fun into the classroom, but is also allows students to use their own critical thinking, creativity, and analytical skills. The chapter on Action Figures gave me many ideas for sidequest projects this upcoming school year.

As a parent to a future Lego engineer, the over flow of the Legos in my home has ended up in my classroom. Two years ago, I was able to get my son (then eight) to help me recreate scenes of Midsummer Night’s Dream for a slide show to share with my students and help with their understanding of Shakespeare.

Rollins’ book bolstered the idea to put the Lego work in my students hands. In small groups, students selected the most telling quotes from each Act in Midsummer Night’s Dream and then created a Lego scene to depict the quote.

The final products were great. I talked with the students’ about taking multiple shot types to help find the best angle to convey the scene.

Rollins offers additional ideas for using Legos in the classroom:

Design a Minifigure – Students could design the four most important characters in a novel or a historic archetype, or four leaders of a particular movement from history.

Design a Set – Students design a Lego set about a historical event. For example, a set for the Great Depression can include a Lego representation of the Okies on the Road to California or a Hooverville.

Lego Stop Motion – Legos is a great tool to make stop motion animation videos. YouTube offers lots of amazing examples to inspire students creativity.

As the late Jim Henson said, “Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

 

 

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Close Reading, Common Core, and State Assessments

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey define three phases of close reading and the aligned Common Core Standards in their text, Text Dependent Questions: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (Corwin, 2015):

I. What does the text say?

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.3
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.6
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

 

How does the text work?

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.3
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.6
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

What does the text mean?

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.3
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.6
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
If we look at the most recent test questions on the New York State Exam (ELA Grade 7), the questions asked on the reading comprehension section fit seamlessly into these three phases of close reading.
What does the text say?
What does _______ mainly represent to ______?
Which detail would be most important to include in a summary of the article?
Which line best reveals the change in attitude towards . . . ?
Which claim can be supported by evidence from the article?
Which evidence from the article best supports the author’s claims in these lines?
How does the text work?
What does the word ______ suggest about _______?
Why does the author most likely include lines X through X?
How do lines X most affect the meaning of the story?
Which quotation best supports the author’s claim?
How do lines X  through X develop the central idea of the article?
How des the setting affect the plot of the story?
How do lines X through X mostly contribute to the story? (By describing, revealing, suggesting, showing)
How does the author organize the ideas in the article? (By explaining, showing, relating, describing)
Why are lines X important to the article? (they explain, emphasize)
What does the text mean?
Which question best expresses a theme developed throughout the story?
Based on lines X, readers can conclude . . . ?
What is the main significance of the ______ in the story?
Which inference do these sentences best support?
What does the phrase _____ suggest?
These questions represent the New York State’s interpretation of the Common Core Standards and can be used to inform teachers and students of how the state portrays close reading. I am not going to address the ambiguity of many of the questions asked nor include the uninteresting reading passages that went along with the reading comprehension questions. Rather, I wanted to make public the questions that students are being asked on these standardized tests for teachers to utilize.
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Eliminating Homework: No More Tears, No More Dirty Looks

This year I eliminated homework. No worksheets, short responses, or essays sent home. No more tears. And no backlash. No stress. More family time. Less anxiety. All work is done in class.

I request students read for at least 30 minutes a night a text of their choosing. I tell them that to become better readers we need to read more. I offer an Article of the Week (AoW) with a written reflection based on their reading for students looking for additional reading and writing practice, but the AoW is not graded. Students earn game points for completing the Article of the Week and reflection. The game points students earn unlock privileges: extended time on in class assignments, passes on notebook checks, or even having their teacher tell them if the quiz question they answered is incorrect while taking the quiz. Sometimes I might even bring in a sweet treat for those who have earned 2,000+ game points.

In response, my students tell me that they feel as if “the pressure is off” when there is no homework. The work that they do in class is their work – not their parents or tutors or copied from friends. Researchers, such as Alfie Kohn (2006) state that there is little or no benefit to giving homework and that it does not really lead to improved academic performance.

My eighth grade students are bombarded with homework in their other classes in addition to the countless after school activities and sports commitments they have. I have had my students tell me that they sometimes have sports practice or a game until 9:30 PM! Sleep and spending time with one’s family are essential during adolescence for brain development and one’s social-emotional intelligence. Homework only gets in the way of that.

I write this post as both a teacher and a parent of elementary school aged children. This past week I spent two and a half hours for three consecutive nights at the kitchen table with my fifth grader as he wrote up a science lab he did in class. Together we talked through the procedures and conclusion of his investigation. I watched him erase and rewrite countless times to get the words right. As he continued to get frustrated and cry, I tried to hold back my own tears as I told him that what he had written was good enough.  My son told me how much he hated this project and never wants to do a science experiment again. This homework assignment lacked any benefit in the long run. I did email to his teacher and included the following:

As a teacher of middle school students the amount of anxiety that I am seeing in my school among my students is upsetting to me. I am beginning to see the same anxiety in M***. He wants to succeed and do well and school is challenging. Sitting for almost 6 hours a day is challenging. We have hired a tutor to work with him and give him more individual time to go over his math which he struggles to grasp. His father and I tell him everyday to do his personal best, that is all that matters. We want M*** to be happy with himself. School makes that hard to do.
A fifteen year old boy in our community killed himself earlier this week. M*** knew him through our Temple. No one knows why he killed himself. As a parent, this is our worst nightmare.
When I am sitting at the kitchen table with M***while he writes and erases countless times on his science report to get the words right I tell him do your best. I encourage him. I try to combat his feelings of insecurity when he doubts himself. I hope that you can see M*** as someone who not only struggles in school but as a person who needs a boost of confidence from time to time and for you to point out when he is doing something right. Also, moving forward I hope that you will be considerate that many of your students have activities after school and two hours or more of homework defeats family time and bedtime curfews.

 

Weigh in on this debate. Where do you stand? Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post.

Need more information check out the following links:

The Case For and Against Homework by Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering (ACSD, 2007)

Homework vs. No Homework is the Wrong Question to Ask (Edutopia, 2015)

The Homework Wars (The Atlantic, 2013)

The Homework Debate: One Teacher’s Perspective (Cycle of Learning Blog, 2015)

 

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The Need To Tell: Monologue Writing in English & Social Studies

Diane Arbus Photograph

Look at the person in the photograph.

Who is this person?
What is her/his name?
What is special about her/him?
Where is she/he?
How does she/he feel about being there? Why?
What does this character want, need, or dream about?
What’s stopping her/him from getting it?
What does she/he need to tell?
Who is she/he telling?
Why is this day different from any other day?

Objective:
1. To create an individual character and establish a foundation for characterization.
2. To write a monologue based on a photograph used to create a character.

This activity was first presented to when during a playwriting workshop for teachers presented by Young Playwrights, Inc. This activity can work as a creating writing assignment or role playing in response to a story or specific period in history. For example, I use photographs of Japanese Internment and students choose a person in one of the photographs to write about experiences during internment. Integrating tools of creative drama and theater tools – like pantomime, movement, improvisation, scripted drama, oral interpretation, debating, storytelling, readers theater – creatively communicates ideas to others and requires students to become the people they read about and study.

Procedures:

  1. Post a photograph on the SMARTBoard. This will be used for a whole class brainstorm.

Tell the group that there are no right or wrong answers, as you will all be making this up as you go along. Ask the following questions:

Who is this person? – Get a specific answer. You may have to vote between 2 or 3 names.

What is her/his name? – Have writers begin to define the age, occupation, and general biographical information based on what they see in the photograph. Make a group decision who this person is.

What is special about her/him? – Have writers think about the way he or she talks, dresses, walks. We are looking for specific character traits.

Where is she/he? – Get writers to be as specific as possible.

How does she/he feel about being there? Why? Happy? Sad? Worried? Angry? What does the expression in the photography tell you?

What does this character want, need, or dream about? – We are moving away from what can be seen to inferring emotions and thoughts based on visual cues.

What’s stopping her/him from getting it?

2. Inform the group they will now have the opportunity to allow her or his 􏰂􏰋􏰆􏰃􏰆􏰂􏰅􏰌􏰃􏰁 􏰅􏰉􏰁character to speak. to begin writing a monologue or speech Instruct writers 􏰎􏰈􏰌􏰆􏰣􏰜􏰁(written in first person) bearing in mind what the character Needs To Tell. Add three new questions writers should answer individually:

What does she or he need to tell?

Who is she or he telling?

􏰖􏰁Why does this need to be told today?

The character doesn’t need to answer these questions in the monologue, but the answers should be what drives her or his words.

3. Expand the Activity – After students share out ideas based on the class character brainstorm, I have them choose their own photograph (I have a class set for students to choose from around seven or eight different photographs based on the theme we are studying) and complete the assignment on their own. It is often fascinating for writers to see how many different and distinct stories and characterizations can emerge from a single photo.

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Thinking About Ongoing Assessment

In Data Driven Differentiation in the Standards Based Classroom (2004) G. H. Gregory and L. Kuzmuch identify three questions that help planning assessment:

1. What do I know about my students now?

2. What is the nature and content of the final assessment for this unit or period of time?

3. What don’t I know about the content knowledge, the critical thinking, and the process or skill demonstration of my students?

Early in the school year, parents are requesting grades while I am working on building skills and learning more about my students strengths and weaknesses. This past week for example, after reading through the summer reading assessments (which I do not grade), I did a teach back of the introductory paragraph and claim and students revised their writing. Instead of a grade, I used a rubric that offered three responses in regards to meeting the learning target rather than a grade of 1, 2, or 3: “Nailed It!” “Almost There” and “Keep Trying.”

For me, assessment informs instruction much more than it informs student learning. Here are some assessment strategies I use in my classroom to support student success:

1. Whip Around: Teacher poses a question, students write response, students read written responses rapidly, in specified order. This develops closure, clarification, and summary.

2. Status Checks: This can be a thumbs up/thumbs down, students can use colored cards (red, green, yellow) to show their understanding.

3. Quartet Quiz: Teacher poses question, students write a response, students meet in quads and check answers, the summarizer reports, “We know . . .” The teacher can record responses on the board. This allows for closure and clarification.

4. Jigsaw Check: Teacher assigns students to groups of 5-6. The teacher gives each student a question card, posing a key understanding question, students read their question to the group. The scorecard keeper records the number of students for each question who are: really sure, pretty sure, foggy, and clueless. The students then scramble to groups with the same questions they have to prepare a solid answer. Students then report back to their original groups to share answers and re-do scoreboard.

5. Squaring Off: Teacher places a card in each corner of the room with one of the following words or phrases that are effective ways to group according to learner knowledge: Rarely ever, Sometimes, Often, I have it! or Dirt Road, Paved Road, Highway, Yellow Brick Road. Tell the student to go to the corner of the room that matches their place in the learning journey. Participants go to the corner that most closely matches their own learning status and discuss what they know about the topic and why they chose to go there.

6. Yes/No Cards: Using a 4X6 index card the student writes YES on one side and NO on the other. When a question is asked by the teacher, the students holds  up YES or NO. This can be used with vocabulary words, true/false questions, or conceptual ideas.

7. Thumb It: Have students respond with the position of their thumb to get an assessment of what their current understanding of a topic being studied. Where I am now in my understanding of ______________? Thumb Up = full speed ahead (I get it), Thumb Sideways = Slow down, I’m getting confused, Thumb Down = Stop! I’m lost.

8. Journal Prompts for Ongoing Assessment: Choice A – Write a step by step set of directions, including diagrams and computations, to show someone who has been absent how to do the kind of problem we’ve worked with this week. OR Choice B – Write a set of directions for someone who is going to solve a problem in their life by using the kind of math problem we’ve studied this week. Explain the problem first. Be sure the directions address their problem, not just the computations.

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12 Tech Based Alternative Assessments In Lieu of Book Reports & 5 Paragraph Essays

The ideas presented below are part of a poster session I will be presenting at at the International Literacy Association (ILA) in St. Louis, MI July 17-21, 2015. I always want to encourage my students to read and love reading. At the same time, I am trying out different ways to assess student reading and understanding of a text without a test, essay, or book report. Here are a dozen alternative book assessments that I have used with my own middle school ELA students.

1. Twitter Chats & Cyber Book Clubs- Students hold book discussions on Twitter.

2. Video Trailers – Students create a video trailer about the book and to promote the book to their peers using iMovie.

3. Movie Poster – Use Glogster or BigHugeLabs to create a promotional movie poster.

4. White Board Animation Video – Summarize the book in a creative and visual way.

5. Blog Post Review or Discussion Guide – Students write a review or create a discussion guide and post on a class blog.

6. Instagram Scrapbook – Students create a digital scrapbook of the key events and ideas expressed in the text.

7. Symbaloo or Thinglink Text Set – Have students create a text set (various articles and texts) to support the main idea or theme in the text.

8. Storyboard That – Use animation or storyboard platforms for students to recreate the key elements of the text.

9. Lego Movies – Students can design and film lego versions in key scenes from the text.

10. Prezi Teachers Guide or Lessons – Students can use Prezi or any presentation tool to create a teacher’s guide and design a lesson to teach from the text.

11. Write Book Reviews for Amazon or GoodReads

12. QR Code Key Quotes – Students can design a QR Code Scavenger Hunt throughout the book of key quotes or scenes that support the theme of the text.

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To Grade or Not to Grade Genius Hour

I recently received the following email from a parent:

Dear Dr. Haiken,
I wanted to send you an email regarding the substantial Genius Project just completed this semester.  The project assigned was very ambitious, and very welcomed by XXXX. She jumped at the opportunity to delve independently into a task of her interest and choosing.  This was not an easy task; it was one that required tremendous planning and tenacity. I must admit that, at first, I was wary of the ambitious project XXXX envisioned, but she rose to the occasion. She made a timeline, sketched (and re-sketched) the designs . . .  She documented her work all along the way, and created the trifold board presentation and brought it to school along with all of her finished designs–and all on time!

I attended the parents reception and saw that a wide variety of projects were presented with varying degrees of difficulty. While I understand that it is a difficult task to grade projects of varying scope, I do not think that it is fair not to grade them at all when some of the students dedicated so much time, energy and passion to the assignment. I think that XXXX’s grade should reflect the high caliber of her work.  I am sympathetic to the grading challenge this project presents, but it was assigned, and XXXX’s GPA should be indicative of a wonderful project completed. As a teacher, you rightly encouraged the students to reach for more, and I applaud you for doing so and for stepping outside the box.  Those who responded and took on the challenge should be recognized and rewarded.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Is a grade a reward? Does everything completed in school have to have a letter or numerical grade? What does a grade really show and mean to teachers, parents, and students?

These are questions that I have been thinking about over and over again as I rethink another school year. I decided not to grade my students’ genius hour projects this semester. Genius Hour is about allowing students to take learning in their own hands and as I wrote back to this parent, The genius hour project is a project that lets students make choices and take the lead in their own learning.  Not everything that students complete in school is nor should be graded with a number or letter.  The purpose of the genius hour project is for students to excel in an area of personal interest without the fear of failure.

I do have my students complete self reflections and plan out monthly goals for their genius hour project. I do not grade these items either, but these reflections and plans help me to support my students in their genius hour quest.  I have yet to have a student tell me they are disappointed that their project is not being graded. Rather, I want to encourage students to pursue their passions, accept challenges and failures, and at the same time be motivated by personal interests rather than a stamp, sticker, check mark, letter or number.

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