The first term reporting period is upon us. In the past few weeks, I have reflected on and written about my struggles with assigning letter grades to my students. By putting my concerns and struggles out there for all to read, many of you gave me wonderful support and suggestions. Thank you all so much!
While I do not really want to give out letter grades to my students, and squash much of their self-esteem, I am required to assign letter grades based upon their achievement relating to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO’s) we have been focusing on this term. French is not an easy for inner-city students, many of whom struggle with their first, and often second languages. For many of my students, French is the third language they are learning. So, with the help from many of you, I am approaching reporting and grading differently this year. It is not about ME, the teacher, and what I think about how they have worked this term. The emphasis is on the STUDENTS, the learners, and about how they perceive their own learning. They have each reflected on their learning and will have a large say into what their letter grade will be each term.
Today we completed the first Self-Reflection conferences with some of my students from my two Grade 5 French classes. To be completely honest, I was a bit worried about how it was going to work. A few questions kept running through my head:
- Would the students really take this process seriously?
- Would they all just give themselves A’s?
- Will I have enough time to complete these conferences?
- Will the process really be meaningful?
- What will the parents think?
- What will the other teachers think?
- Will this work?????
- Am I doing the right thing?
I had given each of the students a reflection sheet at the end of last week. This sheet consisted of the PLO’s which we have been focusing on this term (which we have had ongoing discussions about all term), a list of letter grades and their associated meanings (from the Ministry of Education), and a spot for them to write down their reflection – the grade they thought they deserved (based on their achievement on the PLO’s we’ve been focusing on) and why they should be assigned that grade.
Today, I took the classes to the computer lab for our time together. During our 50 minute class, I was able to meet with about half of each class.(the other students played French games I added to our wiki). The students showed me their personal reflection detailing what letter grade they would give themselves for this term and why. Then, we looked at each PLO for the term and discussed whether they were Not Yet Meeting Expectations, Approaching Expectations, Fully Meeting Expectations, or Exceeding Expectations for each PLO. Then, taking this information into consideration, they had the opportunity to reflect upon their letter grade choice and make any changes they felt necessary.
Overall, the process has been very painless. The students have been remarkably honest in their perception of how they are meeting the Prescribed Learning Outcomes we’ve been focusing on this term. Very few students gave themselves A’s for the term. Most students gave themselves C+’ s or B’s for the term, with the odd C thrown in there.
While I would rather even not give any letter grades, I think this is turning out to be the best option for me at this time. The students are reflecting on their learning and understand how they are achieving the Learning Outcomes. Our next step, once all of these initial individual are completed, is to have each child reflect upon what they would like to improve upon and how they are going to make that happen. I think this will be a written reflection that will be included with their report cards that will be mailed home on December 2.
I hope the other conferences go as well as the ones went today. This is powerful learning and reflecting, that will have ongoing impact on their learning throughout the year.
To answer some of the questions that I listed earlier:
- Yes, so far, the students have taken these conferences very seriously. They are really taking ownership over their learning.
- As was mentioned, they did not all give themselves A’s. In fact, out of about 20 conferences completed today, not one students gave themselves an A. Not one.
- I think I will have enough time for the conferences. I figure it will take me about 2 classes to have conferences with all the students in each of the classes. Not bad at all.
- The process has been very meaningful, and, I believe, will only become more meaningful as the students realize the power they have over their own learning.
- Still not sure about the teachers and the parents. Time will tell. I am optimistic that it will all be fine though.
- Given the options, I really do believe I am doing the right thing for my students.
What do you think? Am I doing the right thing? How would you change this process? Do you have any other suggestions or comments?