Some quick thoughts

I haven’t put a big post together in a bit and I really need to get to that. I have a growing list of ideas that includes: three other posts about teaching girls, using modeling in history, modeling instruction in middle school (may be a guest post), and I still haven’t said a word about SBG. Too many thoughts…too little time.

Until I write something more substantial, I have the following kernels of ideas that I haven’t really developed further, so I’m letting them loose in the wilds of the internet to see if they survive. I need to record them before I forget them (again!), so here they are.

1. If you spend your first day of class discussing grades, don’t be surprised when that’s what kids focus on. I tweeted this a week or so ago, when it first came to me while discussing with a colleague how our first week went. Traditionally, the first day is spent establishing the expectations of the class which often means going over the syllabus. If you haven’t taken John Burk’s Inspiring Syllabus Challenge, then much of your syllabus is probably about grading. Dumping grading info on kids on day one suggests that you think its a priority, and now they do too. So, I didn’t do that. In fact, this week was the first time one of my classes talked about grading. We’ve spent the last two and a half weeks learning. We’ll see if this changes the dynamic around grades.

2. If you start a student’s grade at a 100, then their grade is a record of their mistakes. If you start it at a 0, then their grade is a record of their growth. This came up organically in class when a student mentioned starting the class at a 100. Often teachers will claim that a student starts at a 100% at the beginning of a class. The ridiculousness of that idea really hit me this year. If the grade is meant to reflect how much and how well you know the content, then why would a student who has never taken the class and has yet to show you any indication of their knowledge have a 100? There’s only one reason – you gave it to them. It’s no surprise then that they think you gave them that C- on their first quiz or that 89% instead of a 90% on their final. If you can wrap your mind around the idea of a student starting with a 100%, then their grade is really just a tally sheet of each and every mistake they make. However, if their grade starts naturally at a zero, then subsequent scores tell the story of what they’ve learned.

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2 comments

  1. I definitely subscribe to the belief that the first day of school is the most important day of the year. However, I was so disheartened when I talked to my students as they sat in my class on the first day, and they told me that all they did in their other classes was go over rules and regulations – what they need to bring to class, when they can go to the bathroom, what makes up their grade. I’m all about discussing expectations, but it needs to be framed in a way that is positive and inspiring to the kids, otherwise the first day of school just serves to squash the excitement that the kids SHOULD have when they come to school on the first day.

  2. Interesting discussions, I heard a presentation several years ago, one simple statement has stuck. Start the year with one of your best activities. I add three simple rules and the students are interested from the start.
    I am very interested in your philosophy on Standards based grading. I teach Physical Science and have been implimenting SBG for almost two years. Students are buying into the process and I am seeing more learning, maybe because I am constantly adjusting my teaching and using elements of differentiaiton in the class.

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