Tag Archives: grades

2558942_b3849281

A tale of two students

I firmly believe that marks do not belong in a primary classroom. I am convinced that well written and informative comments will aid all learners far more than any A to E grades. It breaks my heart to have to put grades on my student’s reports and this is why.

Imagine this. You are eleven years old and so far school life has been fairly easy. You learned to read and write with ease. Maths makes sense and the life of a primary classroom suits you. Assessment tasks and projects are fun, something to get your teeth into so to speak. You know what needs to be done to achieve your school goals, to please your teachers and life is good. Let’s call you student A, after all in a traditional classroom that is the kind of mark you are used to getting. In many ways you are the Ferrari of students.

Contrast this with student D, somehow school just does not quite make sense to this student. Learning to read was quite hard and you still have to think about decoding the meaning of words when reading. Writing too does not come naturally, sometimes your sentences just don’t quite make sense. It can be hard to get the grammar right when you have to spend time worrying about spelling too. Maths is tricky and sometimes despite your best intentions you just don’t get it. Assessment tasks and projects mean hard work and as for tests, well the less said about them the better. In many ways they are the Volkswagen Beetle of students.

I know that I have oversimplified two types of students but they are both in my classroom. What happens to them if I assign A to E grades on work they complete in my classroom? I am convinced that my student A learns to do just what is needed to succeed, no more and no less. And as for student D well they learn to give up, to take the easy route and to task avoid. They learn to fail.

As their teacher I need to be many things. I need to encourage and extend student A. I must ensure they aim high, that they don’t always take the easy road. that they are challenged and that they grow as a learner and a person. I must ensure they drive their Ferrari well, that they do not always rely on its superior capabilities to get them through life, that they challenge it and drive hard. For I know that to truly succeed in secondary school they will need to take risks, to work hard and to aim high.

I must challenge and extend student D too, although in different ways. I need to make them see that they can succeed. I must help them understand that they can learn, that just because they may be a Beetle that with effort and determination they can succeed in the game of school life. Yes school is hard for them but I must not let them give up. I must not let them learn to fail.

That is why I do not do grades. Why I believe they have no place in the primary classroom. Now don’t get me started on prizes!

These bloggers also run classrooms without grades, do you?

Pernille Ripp – Blogging through the fourth dimension - Pernille has many great posts about her views on grading, this is a good one to start with.

 Joe Bower – For the love of learning. Joe also has many great posts, start with this one.

Haley – A minus Haley  has written eloquently about her decisions to give up grading,

1335488_24491270

To grade or not to grade?

My class are in the midst of finishing various class tasks, taking end of year diagnostic tests, finishing off projects and the odd test too. The usual end of year routine for many schools. However we no longer grade any work in year 5, instead my co-teacher and I write extensive comments, designed to assist the student to reflect on their learning, to feel proud of their hard work and to always aim for improvement. To my mind whether a student is the brightest or slowest in the class they should always be aiming to improve.

So what is the talk in my room?
Mrs Miller when do we get our maths test back, I want to get my grade” My reply,”that was a diagnostic stage three test, no-one was expected to get everything correct and anyway its purpose is for me to help the year six teachers work out what areas of maths you are weak in“.

Mrs Miller what mark did I get for my writing task“. My reply “I have not given you a grade for a writing task all year and I don’t intend to start now, you need to read my comment“.

Mrs Miller how many mistakes did I make in the big spelling test” My reply “why do you care? I am only interested in if you can spell in your writing, not if you can memorise words for a spelling test”.

All this and more from a group of students who have had no grades given to them all year, apart from the usual weekly spelling tests and one ‘diagnostic’ maths test. I am continuously amazed at their desire for grades or for some of them, a positive need for grades. Why should this be, when they are only eleven? Is it because some of them are competitive and eager to win? Or that some of them have parental pressure to succeed? Perhaps some of them are hoping for a prize at the end of year?

Last year I was not ready to quit grading despite my unease about it. This year I am. This year I have decided to do something different. I have decided to ask them to help me decide on their final grades. During the next few weeks they will be filling folders with their work and I will be holding conferences with them. During this time I will ask them to assist me in creating their grades. I have been reading the work of Alfie Kohn especially his paper ‘The case against grades‘ as well as a bloggers I regularly follow Pernille Ripp from America and Canadian educator Joe Bower . I have decided that if they can do it so can I.

Interestingly to grade or not to grade was a major topic at this weeks TeachMeet Hills. I suspect I may not be alone in feeling that to spend all year not giving grades and then to spoil it all at the last minute by creating one just to fill a report box is wrong.