Friday, October 9, 2015

Give More Feedback and Fewer Grades

What do grades provide to students? Does that number actually help students improve? In reality grades are nothing but a way to tell students where they stack up among other students. This is the reason there is a whole movement going on in education called Teachers Throwing Out Grades. I was first introduced to this group by a Cult of Pedagogy podcast, where the host, Jennifer Gonzalez interviewed Starr Sackstein, one of the teachers leading this movement. I have since joined the Teachers Throwing Out Grades Facebook Group.
Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources.
Reading what these teachers have to say made me realize that I was doing a “no grades classroom” without realizing I was doing it. Even before I started working in a school with a standards based report card, I taught using rubrics and conferences and took as few grades as possible in order to give students as much time as possible to learn and grow. Once I started working in a school with standards based report cards, I graded less and conferenced more. Using rubrics instead of number grades allows you to give students real feedback on where they are strong and where they are weak. This information gives the students a roadmap as to what they need to do in order to get better. Rubrics should list out the most important skills that you want to assess. They can be extremely long or extremely short. Here are a few examples of rubrics I use with my students:

Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
This rubric is from my 36 Week Reading Response Journal where students complete a written response to a student selected book each week of the school year. The students have all week to complete this during their literacy “stations” or as we call it “to do list time”. (For more information, see this blog post about why I don’t do center rotations.) Then for the last hour of Friday’s literacy time, I sit with each student. During this time, we do a fluency check recording (For more information on fluency check recordings, see this blog post about using Evernote to collect data.) and we conference about their reading response. At this time we fill out this rubric together.

Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
This rubric is from my Problem Solving Path Math Journals. For each problem the students and I evaluate their work. We discuss from the beginning of the year that the rubric is specifically weighted so that work is more important than the correct answer because the skills that these journals should enhance is working out word problems.

Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
This rubric is from my Primary Writing Journal. It’s actually two rubrics, one for the student to self reflect on their writing and a second one for the teacher to use during conference. When I taught first grade, these made such a huge difference for my students.

Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
This rubric is from my Desert Research Project where students research one specific desert and create a presentation to teach the rest of the class about their desert. I filled out these rubrics while the students presented their projects and then sat down with each group to review where they were strong and where they were weak so that they could know where to focus on their next presentation.

Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
This detailed rubric is from my Amazing Americans Technology Project. Students are expected to create an informational power point using the information they research about a specific person in American history. The rubric covers all of the pieces of solid writing, giving students a lot of information about their work.
When it is necessary to give a graded test, I sit down afterward with each student and conference about where they are strong and where they are weak. I tell them what we still need to work on. Then, I use the results to form small groups and work on re-teaching. The kids know that these groups are formed based on their needs and that we will work until they have mastered the topic to my satisfaction. This changes our focus from a specific grade to a learning goal with standards that we have to master.
At the end of each school year, my students spend time reflecting on their work. This use these reflections to build an online portfolio. They choose their own writing samples and projects that best reflect their capabilities. These portfolios also include written student reflections. Portfolios give a much clearer picture of where a student is than the numbers that come back from their standardized tests. For more information on how I help my students build their portfolios, you can check out the blog post:   or you can download my Student Created Portfolio Guide.
Rubrics are Better Than Grades. They give students more information about how to improve instead of giving them a way to compare themselves to others. Opinion from Raki's Rad Resources
If it was up to me there would be no grades and no standardized testing. I would replace these things with rubrics and portfolios and discussions about the learning that is happening. Give students more feedback and less grades and see their focus turn towards learning and personal growth and away from competition and complaints. So what about you, do you prefer grades or rubrics? Please feel free to leave your point of view in the comments. Let’s start a discussion about what should be happening in classrooms.
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources