education, grades, grading, high school, learners, scoring, students, teachers, teaching

Amending My Late Work Policy…Because Learning Rules

Since my first year of teaching I have not had a late work policy. I have allowed students to turn in work up until the last day of the marking period without penalty. (The goal with this philosophy is as follows: It takes some students longer to learn material and therefore if they do the work eventually, it should be counted. Also, in the real world, deadlines can be negotiable. And don’t pretend like that’s not true. How many times have you said to your boss “I need more time” and he or she has acquiesced to your request?) I liked this philosophy because it felt very “real world”-esque and isn’t that what I’m preparing my students for? (Well, back to this idea in a minute…)

Ultimately, I have decided that my late work policy needs some serious amending–for a few reasons. First, some students copy their work from a classmate after I have handed it back, which, in the end, doesn’t give me an accurate picture of what they know and are able to do. Second, some students forget about the work and don’t care until they see their (usually very low) grade and THEN they decide they need to do something about it (instead of learning the material in the moment, when the learning is needed). This forces them to care about their grade as opposed to their learning. Third, I get a slew of papers handed to me at the end of the marking period and I become inundated with work to grade that should have been handed in–and handed back–a month earlier and my other responsibilities (such as planning and prepping upcoming lessons) suffer.

Here’s my new idea. My students’ assignments will all have a due date and a deadline date. If students hand in their work on the due date, they will receive all the credit they earned on the assignment–usually determined by an answer key or rubric. Then, those who did not hand it in when it was due, will have a 3-day grace period in which they can still hand in their work–although for reduced (earned) credit. After the deadline date passes, the work will no longer be accepted and will result in the score of a zero. There are, of course, amendments to this policy for students who are absent or have extenuating circumstances.

Here’s the goal concerning this new philosophy: First, please understand that I don’t have students complete assignments for no reason. If there is something that has to be done, it has a purpose and it is relevant, which means I need the students to complete it in a timely manner so I can offer them feedback and determine if they need help. Second, it reduces copying answers from a classmate for credit. By the time I hand back the papers, the grace period is over and the deadline date has arrived. Third, it eliminates the end-of-the-marking-period burden of speed grading for no other reason than to help students recover credit–as opposed to truly offering pointed feedback for learning. Fourth, it emphasizes timeliness and responsibility.

Here are my difficulties with it: It’s not very realistic and it doesn’t give me–or those looking at the student’s performance in class–an accurate depiction of that student’s academic capabilities.

Here is how I justify these things: First, I (and most teachers around the country) work within a system that supports amalgamated grades. If we graded based on separate standards or academic and behavioral skills, I’d reconsider the policy. But until that day comes, I can’t wish we had disaggregated grades because we don’t. (And I can’t work within a wishful philosophy, because it’s actually an injustice to my students and to myself.) The other issue I have with the new late work policy is that it is not realistic (within the post-high school world). There have been many times I have asked a superior for more time to complete a project or to compile data. More often than not I am granted that extension without penalty. And think about it, so many people miss deadlines without penalties as well: new iPhone software creators, mortgage commitment brokers, and real estate closing attorneys. How many times have you missed the deadline for renewing your car registration or driver’s license? Heck, even your mail arrives late some days! But high school is not the real world. It is high school. It’s a different animal that is confined by timelines and due dates. The days go on and so does the curriculum, and there’s not a lot of flexibility when it comes to deadlines and timeliness.

I do my best to prepare my students for what they will encounter after high school, but I realized I’m actually hurting them by allowing them to hand in work weeks–and even months–late. I’m showing them that the assignments and their timeliness are irrelevant, when in fact, the opposite is true. I want a clear picture of what my students know and are able to do at a particular moment in time, and I want to be able to give them feedback on that work that is relevant and helpful. If I allow them to hand in work after deadline and only “grade” it for credit, I send the message that “grades rule”, when in fact, learning does.  

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curriculum, education

Curriculum Overhaul

Netflix just came out with a documentary called “Making a Murderer”. Parts of it are profoundly sad; specifically the parts where law enforcement officers manipulate a young man into giving a false confession. How do they do this? One of the worst and best tools at our disposal–and certainly the least costly and most valuable: Language.  

 

When you think about it, language can start, and end, wars. Language can make or break a relationship. Language gives us access to–or blocks us from–opportunities. Language is love. Language is money. Language is life. If it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t need it to survive.

 

As a(n American) culture we have gotten away from viewing language with any sort of reverence, and it’s high time we begin to give language the respect it deserves. One way to do that is to offer a curriculum that truly values language and all of its complexities.

 

Here is my proposal.

 

Each year, the “themes” for the units would be the same, but the works/content/difficulty of language explored within each unit would vary. Here’s a skeleton outline of what I mean:

 

Q1: Types and Functions of Language

Essential Questions: Why do we read and write? What is the purpose of language/literature/essays?

Content: Literature and Nonfiction

Focus: varies from 9-12 (depending on the works)

Example: Grade 12: Literature-Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (propaganda)

        Nonfiction text-Supreme Court case transcripts (complex/specific language)

CCSS: varies from 9-12 (depending on the works); RL.1-10 and RI.1-10

Q2: Manipulation of Language

Essential Questions: How is language used as a means to achieve a particular end? How do we make language effective?

Content: Literature and Nonfiction

Focus: varies from 9-12 (depending on the works)

Example: Grade 10 or 11: Literature- Animal Farm by George Orwell (logical fallacies)

                                             Nonfiction text- Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (satire)

CCSS: varies from 9-12 (depending on the works); RL.1-10 and RI.1-10

Q3: Persuasive Techniques

Essential Questions: What are persuasive strategies and how are they used?

Content: Nonfiction

Focus: varies from 9-12 (depending on the works)

Example: Grade 9: argumentative essays/speeches about various topics and discussion of arguments of definition; use of persuasive strategies such as logos, pathos, ethos, rhetorical questions; argumentative model: debate. (Students will write argumentative essays based on what they examined/learned.)

Example: Grade 12: argumentative essays/speeches about various topics and discussion about and practice with deductive and inductive arguments, use of persuasive strategies such as inclusive and exclusive language and connotation; argumentative models such as Toulmin or Rogerian. (Students will write argumentative essays based on what they examined/learned.)

CCSS: RI.1-10, W.1, and W.2

Q4: Narrative Techniques

Essential Questions: What are narrative strategies and how are they used?

Content: Fiction/Literature

Focus: Varies from 9-12 (depending on the works)

Example:  poems by Maya Angelou, Wm. Shakespeare, our current poet laureate, etc., various short stories, plays, narrative nonfiction, etc. as mentor texts (examining narrative techniques and modeling them) for writing their own poems, narrative nonfiction, and short stories

CCSS: RL.1-10, RI.1-10 (for narrative nonfiction), and W.3

 

The above is, of course, a rough outline–planning and implementing curricula takes years of prep, practice, and reflection–but I think this is a good start. It still keeps in mind what students will encounter on their state standardized tests and prepares them accordingly, but it makes more logical sense and focuses on the necessity and beauty of language in our culture and in our world. It also allows for a broader use of content depending on what is popular, interesting, or necessary to read (and write). The topics or themes stay the same while the content is flexible. (Which–side note–is part of the beauty of the CCSS.)

 

Maybe, someday, we can think about English curriculum from the standpoint of language as opposed to making sure we cover the necessary literature and standards. Such things will take care of themselves when language becomes the true focus of the curriculum.

 

What do you think?

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education, effort, engagement, motivation, students, teachers, teaching

Spinning into Motivation

It’s a rare treat when I can go to spin class on a weekday morning (thank you winter break!), and especially one with Gina. Gina is a great instructor. She pushes us to our limits but she also allows for our strengths to shine through. She encourages us to try things that are challenging–hello there simulation of the 20th leg of the Tour de France (I couldn’t walk for 2 days)–and it ends up being so worth it. I like taking her class because I feel motivated to work hard when I’m there. (It’s not that I ever walk into spin thinking, “I’m just going to give it 75% today…”) but Gina helps me go above and beyond during my workout.

Before class, Gina greets everyone by name and introduces herself to new spinners. She helps set up bikes and she even helped me into my new clips today. (A story for another day–what a challenge that was!) Throughout class she looks out into the sea of bikes and picks out someone by name and offers them a compliment–usually that they are kicking some serious butt–and I love it when she zeros in on me. It’s not that I need my fellow riders to know that I am doing well; it’s because once I hear that affirmation from her I begin to work even harder. I think, “if I can do that, I can push it even further,” and I do.

When it comes to assessing students (and teachers, too!) we tend to focus on the weaknesses that are present in the work we see. (Look here again…try it this way…this isn’t quite there yet…) After my students finish an assessment, I score it and automatically look to see which questions they got wrong.

So as I was going into a seated climb–ouch–about halfway through my class this morning, it hit me. Why am I not focusing on student’s strengths as much as I am focusing on their weaknesses?   Well, it makes sense to focus on the areas they need to improve upon because I can begin to help them strengthen those areas. But in the middle of the climb I decided that a better way to bring attention to my student’s weaknesses is to start with their strengths: “hey, I see that you rock at determining author’s choices, but have some trouble determining an author’s diction. It’s a very similar skill. Try applying what you do to determine author’s choices to determine an author’s diction.”

Now, I realize that this isn’t earth shattering people, but I know if Gina said to me, “engage the same muscles you would for a standing climb when you are in the seated climb. It may be a bit tougher at first, but you will work through it and condition your legs to handle it over time,” I would be more apt to follow her advice. First, it makes sense. Second, I’m already going in the right direction–since I have mastered standing climbs–and third, I’m motivated. I’m right in my Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky!) both physically and mentally.

Now my task is to find a way to connect each student’s strengths and weaknesses and motivate them through their strengths to fortify their areas of weakness.

So thanks for the inspiration today, Gina. I’m going to bring it with me when I get back into the classroom in 2016 and I can’t wait to try it out.

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education, teachers, teaching

What Teachers Need

Ask a teacher: “What do you need more of?”

 

Textbooks.  No.

Computers. No.

Supplies.  No.

Space. No.

 

The answer is simple and I can almost guarantee that most teachers will agree when I tell you the answer.

 

Time.

 

Yes.

Teachers need time.  I could ask any of my colleagues at any given moment, “what do you need?” and the inevitable answer always has to do with the desire for more hours in a day than the frustration of needing more desks in the room or bandwidth for the internet.

 

This phrase is worth repeating: Teachers need time.

 

Think about the last time you planned a party.  It took a lot of time, didn’t it? Days, even months, of planning for 4 hours of enjoyment.  Forming the guest list, sending out the invitations, creating the menu, buying all the goods–including the food, the tablewares, the decorations, and any other commodity fit for celebration–preparing the food, coordinating any other important provisions such as music or entertainment…and this all happens before the guests arrive. And even after the guests arrive, you, the host, spend a lot of time (there’s that word again…) making sure the party runs smoothly, everyone is happy, and the food and drink keep flowing. And when it doesn’t flow, you make it flow.  By the end of the night you’re exhausted and grateful you only plan parties once or twice a year–if that.

 

Planning a lesson and implementing it is like preparing for a party every day. Teachers must consider their students, determine the goal of the lesson, and set up an interesting way for students to accomplish that goal.  They must create materials, sometimes several versions of one particular tool in order to differentiate for various learners, make sure they have enough materials for everyone–and extras–and coordinate outside components such as booking time in the media center or getting an iPad cart. And this all happens before the students arrive to class.  After the students show up, the teacher has to put her plan into action by making sure the lesson runs smoothly, everyone is happy, and the flow of the class period leads the students right to the ultimate goal.  By the end of the period she’s exhausted, but has to do it 4 more times with different students and usually with different content.

 

Please understand, I am not trying to make all the non-teachers feel sorry for those of us who chose this profession.  I knew what I was getting into and if I wanted to get out of it I could.  I say this because just as planning a party takes time, so does planning a lesson.  Really thinking about the students, what they need, what materials will help them achieve the goal you have set forth, and how they best learn takes a lot of time.  And the time it takes to plan and prepare for a lesson is disproportionate to the time it takes to implement that lesson–just as it takes more time to plan a party than to host it.  It takes hours to plan a lesson and minutes to put it into action. So, if we know this, why are teachers always clamoring for more time?

 

During the course of a typical day I have 42 to 84 minutes of preparation time built into my 7-hour scheduled day. (I work far beyond this required schedule as most of my colleagues do. Nights and weekends are definitely not ‘free minutes’ for us.) So out of my 420 minutes a day I have 84 with which to plan and prepare my lessons.  That’s 20% of my day.  And that’s on a good day.  Most days my planning periods end up being about 10% of my time. The other 336 minutes of my day are taken up with teaching, duties, or curriculum development/PLC time.

 

Eighty percent of my day is spent in action, right?  I’m performing.  I’m maintaining the flow of the party, if you will. It’s easy to see that I’m “working” when I’m interacting with my students and colleagues.  It’s easy to justify the 336 minutes of work because it’s visible. Anyone can walk into my classroom, to my duty post, or into my meeting and say, “great! Looks like you’re working hard.” but what about those 42 minutes my body is off but my brain is on? No one ever says, “great! Looks like you are really thinking.” unless there is something to show for it.

 

Planning requires thinking and thinking is not visible. Because of planning’s invisible nature it is not as valued as much as visible work is. This is evidenced by the fact that teachers don’t get a lot of time in their day to plan or prep. You can’t look at me and know that my brain is calculating which teaching strategy I want to use or how to set up a particular graphic organizer–you will see it later if you come into my classroom, but that’s if you decide to do so.  If not, it looks like I sat at my desk for 42 minutes and stared into space or doodled on a piece of loose-leaf.

 

My point is this: Teachers need time and unfortunately the sad truth is that they will not get any more time during the day to plan and prepare lessons. Already for some (particularly politicians who know nothing about teaching or education) 42 minutes of “prep” time is too nebulous…too open-ended…as it does not yield immediate results. So it’s up to us, those of us who live education to resolve this need for more time. Whether you are an administrator, a teacher, or a support staff member, help out the teachers in your building.  Administrators can give teachers co-planning time during department meetings or PLC time.  Teachers and support staff members can offer to take over duties–I have had this done for me, and it was as productive for me as it was kind of my colleagues to do so for me. Teachers and support staff members can share ideas they have used or have seen in the past. There are ways to create more hours in a day for teachers, but we need to work together to make that happen.

 

And even if I end up working on those nights and weekends–beyond my 42 minutes a day–which is highly likely, I invite you to come see what my brain did by watching me in action. It’s just further proof that time really is a commodity when it comes to planning and implementing successful lessons every day. And that it is necessary in order for teachers to be successful in the classroom.

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education, scoring, teachers, teaching

Reporting Outcomes: What is an “A”?

Several blogs have been popping up lately about doing away with grades (see Parents React to a Classroom Without Grades and Why It’s Time to Give Up Grades) and it seems a worthwhile topic to explore. Let’s take a serious look at a world devoid of our traditional grading system.

 

The Common Core has certainly pushed–some say forced–us (teachers, students, parents, administrators) to make some serious changes at the national level all the way down to our individual classrooms.  Some of those changes have been effortless and smooth while others have been laborious and frustrating. One impending reform is a transition to standards-based reporting as opposed to the traditional “report card”. This transformation will require doing away with our popular and widespread grading system. There are some benefits to this major shift that could become a way of life in our near future.

 

Learning Becomes the Focus in the Classroom

Passing. GPA. Class rank. Exemption status. Students concentrate more on these factors than they do on learning. Worse, grades become a motivational factor for students. (Grades should not be the reason why students work hard. Unfortunately, the reality is that grades are one of the only reasons students work hard and this is a problem.)  Numbers have become the point of obsession when learning the skills should be paramount. And the students are not the only guilty culprits who give in to number obsessions, districts do it too. They prepare the students for the NJASK, and the HSPA, and now everything being done in our classrooms relates directly to our new standardized test mandate: PARCC. Will our students be proficient?  Advanced proficient? We hope for those two labels to dominate our paperwork, but what do those labels–and their corresponding numbers–actually mean?  Can you tell me?

 

All Stakeholders Have an Accurate Understanding of What Students Know and Are Able to Do

Grades should be indicators of what students know and are able to do.  But sometimes teachers’ personal biases, test curving, extra credit policies, etc. infiltrate the scoring process and grades become skewed. (See Why Grades Fail Our Students). So, how are grades really relaying reliable information if they are influenced by factors other than student performance? It’s not to say that standards-based grading will completely rid the system of this misrepresentation of scores, but it will help level the playing field.

 

Regulation of the Reporting Process

At some educational institutions an “A” can fall within the range of a 100% to a 90%.  In others, an “A” may equate to a 100% to a 92% (I have worked at districts with both of these grading systems–these numbers are not arbitrary). With standards-based grading, letters and their corresponding numbers no longer exist when it comes to reporting student achievement and outcomes. Instead, each standard has its own label that indicates a level of mastery which shows what students know and are able to do.  For example a report card may look like the same ones you and I received in grammar school.  A skill is listed and various columns appear next to it with “S” for satisfactory, or “N” for needs improvement.  The column that is checked shows the student’s level of achievement for that skill at that moment in time. A standards-based report card is reminiscent of this.

 

——————————————————————————————————————–

RL.9-10.6: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

 

Beyond Mastery

Mastery

Approaching Mastery   ✓

No Mastery Yet

 

Comments: Formative assessments showed steady growth toward mastery, but ultimately the summative assessment(s) proved that the standard has not yet been mastered.

 

——————————————————————————————————————–

 

Of course the 4 levels of mastery must be outlined.  Those schools implementing the CCSS should make sure that each piece of criteria has its own indicators of mastery.  Those indicators should be uniform as well.

 

Meaningful Learning

With standards-based grading, the goal is no longer to get an “A” but instead, to master standards.  This may sound the same, but it’s not.  An “A” is nebulous when you really think about it. What do you need to do in order to get that “A”? (Answer most multiple choice questions correctly? What does that show?) What does the “A” really mean? (The student turned in a project on time?) With standards, the outcomes are clear.  For instance, let’s go back to our report card example: RL.9-10.6: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature. The skill is to analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience. Either students cannot analyze a point of view or cultural experience (No Mastery Yet), or they recognize that there are different point of view and they know how to analyze, but students cannot fully apply the skill to a point of view or cultural experience (Approaching Mastery), or they can analyze a point of view or cultural experience (Mastery), or maybe they can even go beyond analyzing a point of view and cultural experience, by evaluating others’ answers (Beyond Mastery). It is clear what is expected of students in order to master each standard.  I suppose you could connect a grade to each level of mastery, D, C, B, and A, respective to the above example, but without the indicators those letters mean nothing.

 

We may be nervous about the ever-mounting changes in education, but remember, not all reform is negative.  Some ideas have a lot of validity.  As for doing away with grades, it doesn’t mean we are getting rid of assessments, it just means we are genuinely examining evaluation and how to represent it through a different lens.  And that lens has the potential to make the way we view reporting student outcomes much more coherent and transparent.

 

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Uncategorized

The Seven Year Itch

Currently, I am at the (almost) end of my 6th year of teaching, and alas it is that time of year again–no, not final exam reviews or field trips–it’s time to start next year’s PDP.  I have been doing some serious reflecting, and I have decided that for year seven, things need to change.  I really need to work on my lesson planning.  I know, I know…I am just as surprised as you are!  I mean, the best part about teaching (as opposed to student teaching, or being a teacher-in-training) is that you are no longer required to write long-form lesson plans. (Woohoo!  Freedom!  Joy!) But here’s the problem.  I have spent so much time simplifying my plans that I have been much less consistent, and even a bit lazy…(i.e. “okay all, we are finished with everything for today, so you may talk quietly or read until the bell.”)…and that is SO NOT ME!  (I believe in–and [normally] strive for–bell-to-bell instruction.)

 

So now, in preparation for year 7 of my teaching journey, I am going back to a long(er) lesson plan form. Here is an example of my set up:

 

Date: Tuesday 5-19-14

 

Goal: Closely read and summarize the memoir of Eric Babbitt. (RI.8.2, RI.8.4, RI.8.6, RI.8.10)

Lesson Phase and Objective

Lesson Phase Details and Corresponding Standards

Important Vocabulary

Timeframe

Differentiation and

Accommodations/

Modifications

Success Starter

Objective: compare and contrast (L4) your life with the lives of those teenagers you see in the video

Video Clip: Teen Cancer Patients: How are the stories of these teenagers similar and different from your life? http://www.youtube.

com/watch?v=y1Lablc6NQg   (RI.8.3)

Academic: compare, contrast

Content: cancer, terminal illness

12 min (vid)

2 min (write)

3 min (discuss)

Differentiation:

closed captions, graphic organizer, use of native language

Transition

Objective: relate (L2) others’ reality to our own; determine (L3) the impact of life-changing experiences

How can being terminally ill change you? (RI.8.1)

Academic: relate, determine

Content: terminally ill, cancer, impact, ‘life-changing experience’

2 min

Differentiation:

native language, direct questions (vary by student)

Activity

Objective: perform (L3) close reading using the memoir of Eric Babbitt

Close Reading Strategies:

-chunk text (RI.8.10)

-highlight vocabulary (RI.8.4)

-determine vocab meaning in context (RI.8.4)

-determine important big ideas; author’s purpose (RI.8.6)

Academic: Close reading, chunk, context, main ideas

Content: recurring, sink in, daily grind, flashbacks, ordeal, oblivious, anesthetized, hanging on a thread, fragile, took a toll, forks in the road

20 min

Differentiation:

anchor chart, native language, erasable highlighters,

Accommodation:

Smart Board Model (FM, DK)

Reflection

Objective: summarize (L5) Eric Babbitt’s non-fiction memoir

Summarize Eric’s memoir.  Be sure to include the big ideas. (RI.8.2)

Academic: summarize, main ideas, details

Content: recurring, sink in, daily grind, flashbacks, ordeal, oblivious, anesthetized, hanging on a thread, fragile, took a toll, forks in the road

10 min

Differentiation:

summary anchor chart, model,

Accommodation:

graphic organizer (FM, DK)

 

Let’s explore the benefits:

  • I can clearly see my timeline for the lesson; it is easy to follow and easy to read
  • Transitions are clear and make sense
  • Levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and standards are attached to objectives and activities, respectively, and they convey depth and connection
  • Each phase has an objective so I know exactly what students need to be able to do at any point during the lesson
  • I have a background as to what vocabulary needs to be explained and I can adjust my lesson according to it and even frontload that information if needed
  • I can clearly see the differentiation in the lesson, and also the accommodations and who they are for
  • This makes it so much easier to set up my agenda (with timeframes!)
  • This form allows me to think out exactly how I want the lesson to go and affords me the opportunity to really think through my decisions

 

Let’s explore the challenges

  • The dang boxes are sometimes too small
  • It’s long
  • It takes a bit more time than one box per day


Because the benefits outweigh the challenges, I am going to stick with this template; at least until my planning, lessons, consistency, etc. improves. I need something that will help me think through my lessons from start to finish. I encourage you to think about your planning, too, and how it can help you become a better, more prepared, and more consistent teacher.  If you, like me are struggling with planning, take the template you see here and add or remove boxes at will.  For instance, I am considering adding a box for questions that I will ask my students during the course of the lesson. Make it work for you.  But mostly, don’t be afraid to make a change if it is needed.  Changes in our practice should occur often, not just at our seven year itch.  

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Offering Students Effective Feedback

BRACE YOURSELVES. TEACHER MISTAKE LEARNING EXPERIENCE IN 5…4…3…2…

A few years ago, one of my policies was that everything my students did in class “would be handed in for a grade”. Well, as you can imagine that got overwhelming pretty fast. By the end of October I was ready to give up. (I stuck it out for the rest of the semester for the sake of consistency, but it wasn’t pretty–for me. If I learned anything from that year it was how to be an efficient grader.) I see now that such a policy was a response to students’ “laziness” instead of a viable teaching/learning strategy. So I never did it again. Instead, I started giving feedback.

The importance of feedback (and formative assessment) cannot be denied. I find that I prefer to offer my students feedback as opposed to grading everything they do, and, in turn, I find that my students really appreciate it. Throughout this year, I have “given out” less grades and more feedback, and my students have benefited from it. At first they all wanted to know, “what is my grade?”.  I told them that their work on such formative assignments were practice for the summative assessment and that practice isn’t graded.  They didn’t buy it at first, but once they realized that I was giving them information that could help them improve, they warmed up to the idea. It’s still a work in progress–the first marking period I didn’t have many grades in the book and our mandatory school assessments made their grades plummet–I spent an inordinate amount of time feeling guilty that my best student didn’t make the honor roll because of my class–but I worked it out as the year progressed. I also learned some important rules about feedback.  I have condensed them into an acronym (because that is what we do in education) to make it a bit easier to remember.

Think CUTS for Clear, Useful, Timely, and Specific:

Clear

  • Choose the best mode possible according to the student
    • written or oral
    • Avoid using vocabulary and syntax at a student’s frustration level
  • Focus: what is the content of your feedback?
    • Task-focused: includes correct v. incorrect, quality of the work, criteria referenced, need for information, neatness, format.
    • Process-focused: includes information about how student approaches the task, the relationship between what a student did and the quality of their performance, offering alternative strategies
  • Use a rubric or scale and make connections distinct
  • Be objective
    • Reduce “I” statements
    • Offer suggestions and considerations

 

Useful

  • Feedback should be info that connects to what students already know and takes them from that point to the next level and so on.
  • Decide on Type: individual or small/large/whole group
  • Give feedback on the most important targets
    • Constructive and helpful
    • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Ask questions to help students synthesize info

 

Timely

  • Return assignments with feedback ASAP
    • Students must still be mindful of the topic
    • Students must still feel the drive to work toward the learning objective or goal
  • Offer immediate oral responses if you can.

 

Specific

  • To the task, process, assignment, individual
    • Suggest how to improve the task and process
  • Use details when describing why something is effective or why something needs improvement
    • Always consider “because”
  • Use specific language that relates to the learning target.


Remember, there are many ways to give feedback, and I am talking about one specific way: through practice assignments such as rough drafts, or skills practice.  You need to find what works for you, but I think (and hope) this is a good starting point.  Happy Feedback-ing!   

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