Tag Archives: Evaluation

Feedback as A Teaching Tool

Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced often. Many students do not believe they are good writers, due to the constant grading of their work. Students can be very sensitive about their writing and grammar skills. Due to this, when teaching, I do not use terms such as, right or wrong. I aim to help students develop their writing skills and prepare them for their future since writing is used everywhere, not only in classrooms.

I observe my students writing over the course of several weeks and create mini-lessons to teach the aspects of writing they are struggling with. Editing and revising their work can show my students the mistakes they have made and can help them understand how they can refine their writing for clarity and preciseness. Students spend ample time working on rough drafts and editing before turning in a major writing assignment. Writing conferences assist students in producing better work.

I want students to understand writing is hard, but also very rewarding. Writing is an important skill that is used everywhere and needs to be practiced often. I support my students by having them write every day, providing them with choices for writing topics, finding engaging ways to learn grammar, not grading every writing assignment they do, and helping them feel comfortable when writing in my classroom.

This year in ELA I have stepped away from traditional grading to offer more valuable feedback to students and families without using letter grades. Students do not receive a grade on any single assignment. The grade book keeps track of whether or not a student is keeping up with their work and how they are doing toward the learning objectives for this course. I want to be able to show students and families in real time which standard they are meeting, exceeding, and working towards our online grade book. More importantly, I add narrative comments on written tasks and in the online grade book to include more specific information that impacts each student’s performance.  It is my hope that taking away the emphasis on letter and number grades will allow students to take more risks and responsibility with the reading and writing completed in class without worrying that it will negatively affect their grade. The expectation remains that students will complete all of the major assignments.

After reading Sarah M. Zerwin’s Pointless: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading (Heinemann, 2020) I have attempted to create more meaningful grading and feedback practices.  In lieu of grades, clear and meaningful learning goals are established, feedback in multiple forms is utilized, and students are held accountable to their learning and growth. I have repurposed tools that I already have in place including PowerSchool, Conferences, Rubrics and Checklists, student reflections to better enhance student feedback for their growth and deep learning. 

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Sign Along the Dotted Line: Grading Contracts in the Classroom

Grading is tricky and as much as I would love to throw away all numerical and letter grades in my classroom, it is not a reality in the school where I currently teach. I envy those teachers who have created successful classrooms without grades like Pernilles Ripp author of the blog, BloggingThrough the Fourth Dimension. But until the opportunity arises in my district to eliminate those numbers and letters that are loaded with emotions, expectations, judgements, and measurement limitations, I have turned to contract grading as a way to balance my own concerns about the grading dilemma.

What is contract grading?

Think of a grading contract a clear set of guidelines. Students need to complete all the requirements in order to earn a possible grade. I allow my students to contract for an A or a B. Nothing less. The contract offers multiple opportunities for students to earn a specific grade, there is no “one shot grading.” Students are working throughout the marking period to earn the grade. Students determine how much effort they wish to put into the class and take responsibility for their own work. Individuals must meet a minimum of the requirements of the assignments as defined by the rubric. There are no letter or numerical grades for the specific requirements. Thus students’ grades are based on effort and achievement of meeting standards. I tell my students their efforts and participation have real effects on their own and other students’ abilities to learn and develop in class. 

Each marking period, 40% of my students’ grade in English 8 is based on the grading contract below.

Thus, 40% of a students’ grade is based on their own conscientious efforts and participation.  The criteria for each potential grade is directly tied to how much the student wishes to participate and how hard s/he is willing to work. 

Here are some elements of the current grading contract I have in place:

Characteristics of “B” Quality Work in English 8

  • Be fully prepared every day so that you can engage with the work of that day. Have all assigned reading and writing completed according to the specifications of the assignment and available at the beginning of the class period.
  • Bring a writing utensil and your Interactive Reading Journal to class every day.
  • Actively engage in a positive manner to class and group discussions:  pay close attention to what others are saying; respond respectfully and thoughtfully to others’ ideas; and be willing to offer input on a regular basis.
  • Be on time consistently.
  • Turn in all formal and informal assignments at the appropriate time and meet all the criteria for the assignment.
  • Maintain a neat and legible Interactive Reading Journal.
  • Read an Outside Reading (OSR) book each quarter and complete a project on the book. 
  • Complete a Genius Hour Project that positively impacts the community each semester and share your final product with the class

Characteristics of “A” Quality Work in English 8

Students will complete all the components of the “B” Quality Work and in addition,

  • Make revisions on formative & summative writing assessments – extending or changing the thinking or organization – not just touching up or editing minor errors.
  • Volunteer to participate in a Going Global* collaborative project  – come to x-period twice a month to complete a small project in collaboration with students around the world. *Going Global is a closed networking site through the Japan Society that allows teachers and students to interact, collaborate, and share ideas beyond our classroom walls.
  • Read an additional OSR book each quarter and participate in twitter book chats about the additional text.
  • Publish the Genius Hour Project  in a TED-style reflective presentation on the entire experience  

 

 

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Evaluating Participation in the Classroom

Participation is such an integral part of my classroom. My students learn by doing. But what do teachers mean when they require active participation? What does exemplary participation look like and do teachers articulate this to students clearly?

A number of years ago I was teaching a middle school drama class and one of the students who sat quietly in the back all year long, not an active participant in class, broke down in tears when she did not earn an A for the marking period. A meeting was called by her parents, myself, and the principal to address why this student, who was an A student in all her other classes, did not earn an A in Drama. Her parents told me that she should not be penalized for being shy and since she was not a disruptive student she should earn a higher grade.

It was after this meeting that I decided I needed to articulate to my students (and parents) what is expected and what I define by active participation. Is active participation about answering the teachers questions? Or is there more involved such as attitude and behavior? After a number of years of editing and trying out different rubrics, I have come to trust the latest version I created which I have shared below.

Please share your own versions of participation rubrics or feel free to offer some suggestions how I can improve upon my own.

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