Category Archives: grading

Vol.#99: Missing Work Memes

As a teacher, one of the most difficult things to do is get students to complete and turn in missing work.  I feel I am constantly chasing down students who have not yet submitted an assignment. I have too many students missing work to speak to every student individually. I have tried emailing parents, but this has not been very effective. Also, parents become dependent on an email and instead of being appreciative, they are angry when I do not email about every single missing assignment.

I’d tried a colleague’s method of writing all the names of students who are missing work on the board, but that was very time-consuming. I then moved to printing the missing assignment report the computer gradebook program can create. I would post this by my door. This was simple and worked well initially, but students eventually stopped checking. They did not seem to notice when the list was changed and new names or assignments had appeared. The novelty had worn off.

I decided I needed a way to indicate that a new list was posted. My students love memes, so I decided I would change my meme when I changed the list. This would catch their attention and let them know the list was updated.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.23.25 AMDuring a nine week quarter, I would post a meme and an updated missing work list twice before interims and twice after interims but before report cards. For example, it might look something like this:

  • Week 1 = begin quarter
  • Week 2 = collecting grades
  • Week 3 = post missing work list
  • Week 4 = post missing work list
  • Week 5 = Interims
  • Week 6 = collecting grades
  • Week 7 = post missing work list
  • Week 8 = post missing work list
  • Week 9 = Report Cards

Since I post the lists by my door, it has facilitated some great conversations with my students during class changes. As I stand by the door during transitions, I can glance at the reports and talk to students as they come and go.

Here is where you can get my 16 memes or of course you can make your own!

What are some strategies you use to facilitate getting your students’ missing work? Please share tricks of the trade in the comments!

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Vol.#84: “Is This A Grade?”

They say there is no such this as a bad question, but, “Is this a grade?” makes me think otherwise. This is one of my least favorite questions of all time, and teachers are asked this by students often.

It reveals a student’s thought process on if a learning experience is important and worth their time or not.

I have tried several approaches to this question. I have tried to ban  the question from the classroom without success. I have tried consistently using the vague response, “All things in life are assessed.” They have been undeterred.  My students have even gotten savvy enough to know to ask, “Is this formative or summative”?

I decided I do not want to answer this question again. To that end, I have created a flow chart to post on my wall:

Is this a GRADE-

PS: I love you Piktochart.

If you would like it for your classroom as well, it is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store here.

What habits of your students do you try to break?

Vol.#75: Mastery vs. Work Behaviors

I apologize for the absence of fresh posts lately. Any teacher knows how the time second quarter can just get away from you, so I won’t try to explain.

As the quarter closes this week and I enter numbers that turn into the less-specific feedback of letters representing a range of numbers on the report card, I think about what report cards really represent to students and parents.

The last days have been met with so many of the usual questions that teachers get at the end of the quarter:

“Can I have a packet for extra credit?”

  • No. Nor may you eat junk food for months and then eat a salad right before the doctor’s appointment and get the same results as the person eating healthily the entire time.

“What can I do to get an ‘A’?”

  • Um . . . know more and do more to show that you know it?

“If I do XYZ (turn in this missing assignment, retake the low test grade, etc.) is it possible to get an average of blah-blah?”

  • Look, even if you had all the exact numbers in your mythical scenario to give me, I am afraid I could not plug it in with your grades – which I don’t know of the top of my head – and compute the weighted average to give you an answer. So…stop.

What’s frustrating is that the focus in all these questions is how to get the (usually lowest number in the arbitrary range of the) letter grade. Not the learning. Nor the work that should have gone into mastery. Nor the opportunities already missed. 

If it’s not on the report card, it does not have meaning or value for parents or students.

Teachers know that work behaviors and effort are very important, probably even more important to a child’s future success than if s/he can diagram a sentence, or solve for x, or find the capital of Belize on a map.  Therefore, teachers usually have typically included them in a grade to give them meaning and value. Those behaviors might count for 25% of a class’s grade, or 10%, or “folded in” to each assignment and result in some unknown number.

I’ve done the same. Valuing effort is important.

The problem? A grade as a method of communication to students, parents, universities, and other stake holders in that information is compromised: What does that “B-” mean? A hard worker who doesn’t fully get math – or – a lazy but brilliant math student? It could be either – and it often is.

Here’s my proposed solution: We need to report both content mastery and work behaviors.  Equally.

content work

Each class each reporting term should have a content mastery grade AND a work behaviors grade.  A student earning an “A/D” knows the material set forth in the standards, but does little in the way of these important behaviors, which he will also need in life. (ie: the lazy AIG child, who does almost nothing but gets an “A” in mastery anyway)  However a “C/A” student may struggle with the content, but she works REALLY hard to get that “C” in mastery.

Parents would know an “F/F” on the report card means there’s a reason the child isn’t learning any of the material. An “F/B” however  represents a student mostly trying and still failing to grasp concepts. That’s a very different problem. We already know the difference as teachers: parents should know this about their children too. It should be reported to them. It should be reflected on the report card. It should matter.

Work behaviors need a separate grade on a report card so that they are deemed important but the content mastery is still clear.

Thoughts? Rebuttal? Hit me up in the comments!

Vol.#59: Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Grades Online

old report cardSchools have been communicating with parents about their child’s success in school since the days of the one-room school house. I remember getting “progress reports” or “interims” for the first time as a student in the late eighties. In an effort to update the parents and students with progress before the end of each quarter, we received written notes or computer printouts mid-quarter. These had all the assignments listed, where report cards simply had an average or letter grade.

However, in the information age, parents and students can now check on a computer or smart phone around the clock and see the status of grades in each class. This is a powerful and relatively new reality in education. Were I able to log on and see all my grades as a student, or were my parents able to, I know many things would have been different.

However, after a teaching students with families who have this capability for several years now, I have found the “resolution” to which some parents wish to have their child’s grades focused at all times a pragmatic impossibility for the teacher.

Here are four things I wish every parent knew:

1. Grading is not immediate. 

Look, I get it. I type in my phone number at Yogurt Mountain for the rewards program (I may have a “sea salt caramel” problem, but I digress) and before I grab a napkin the rewards email comes in and my phone chimes in my pocket. We are in an age of expecting immediate feedback, from our banks to our froyo.

However, a middle school teacher with four classes of thirty students teaches 120 students. If the teacher looks at your child’s assignment for only three minutes, she has six hours of grading to do. Just because the posting is immediate doesn’t mean the process to assess the work is, and it will go a long way with your child’s teachers if you keep that in mind.

2. Ask your child about the grade first. Always.

I have entered a grade at 9 am planning and had an email asking about it within ten minutes. In class, I was handing out the test and reviewing the information, retest procedures, and so on. Were the parent to wait until their child got home, the child would should be able to answer the questions.

This is more than just the “you have one of them and I have 120” mentioned above. By asking, the parent reinforces the student is the one in the driver’s seat of his/her education. By explaining what they learned at school, a student will reinforce those concepts. And absolutely, if your child can’t explain something after you’ve talked with him or her, feel free to follow up with a call or email to the teacher. You’ll know more than you would have and have a great starting place.

3. Understand the way in which your child’s grade is calculated.

I have a “formative” category that is weighted zero. These might be pretests, standardized benchmarks, and other grades which provide information of progress that to not factor into the actual average. I say this at Open House. I say this at “Meet the Teacher” night. I say this a Student Led Conferences. It’s printed on the interims, in comments next to the assignments, and is posted on my webpage. This doesn’t stop me from getting emails. Actually, I don’t even mind the confused emails as much as I do the angry ones who accuse me of incorrectly calculating the grade because the parent has added and divided by the number of grades, ignoring the fact that major summative assignments are weighted more heavily than minor ones. So, maybe this tip should just read, “Seek to understand before you attack.”

4. Keep in mind that it is just a snapshot in time.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.35.28 PMIf you check grades online or the teacher prints them for you to review, keep in mind that like your bank account, it’s just what’s there at that very moment. Your child’s average is obsolete as soon as another assignment has been collected. Do not panic about that grade that is lower than you’d like,  nor “relax” if it’s fine. It’s just that day’s reality, and will change soon. Your efforts are better spent looking at with what types of assignments your child struggles, if there are retake or make up opportunities listed, and if your child is turning work in on time.

Teachers, what tips for parents would you add?

Parents, what things could a teacher do to help communicate your child’s successes and struggles in online grade reporting?