Monthly Archives: February 2015

“The Student Didn’t Study”

Since my last blogpost, I handed back my assessments with no grades. Students tried to decode the wonderful stamps at the top with no luck. What happened? The world didn’t end and students read the feedback. They corrected their mistakes and I scored them. It was great.

In my quest for constant improvement, the goal is to give kids complete control of their learning.  Students should feel empowered to want to learn, taking on the responsibility for self guidance. I gave an assessment to my 7th graders this week and something happened. I put a question on the assessment in which students were asked to identify an outlier of a set of data (if there was one) and then answer this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.54.51 PM

If you don’t know much about statistics, an outlier is a number that is set apart from the rest. In this particular set of data, there were numerous assessment scores and one score was 43%, a very low score compared to the rest of the scores.

I looked over all my student’s responses and nothing stuck out. That is until a colleague pointed something out to me. I then realized what I was looking at. Every student had written a variation of a similar response to the statement. Not a few, not most but all.  Here are two such examples:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 6.03.07 PM  Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 6.02.14 PM

Why are those important? If students viewed their teacher as the way they learned, they could easily have said, “the teacher didn’t explain the material well enough” or “the class didn’t understand it.” The student could have put the blame on someone else but every one of these students put the responsibility on the individual. Some students said, “The student wasn’t responsible” or “The student …”

I was thrilled. Was it really that mindshift I was hoping of? Was this an indication that students looked at themselves as the pivotal aspect of their education? I sure hope this was an indication. You see, the students feel it is their responsibility. They have the ownership over their education. Not me. Why should I get in the way? I present the material and let them have it.

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without his teacher.

~Elbert Hubbard

Frogs, Strawberries, and Bees. Oh My!

It was a strange day today. I can honestly say that never would I ever think I’d be putting the stamp of a strawberry or a cat at the top of a student’s assessment but today it happened. I left school with my student tests looking like this:


Yes. You are seeing that correctly. There is no grade but only a snail and an owl. I can see it now. “Mom, look what I got on my math test!!! I got a snail-owl” Honestly , I am still quite uncomfortable with this idea of not putting a grade at the top of a paper but, to be honest, it was fun putting random stamps at the top. So how did the day transpire? Let me explain.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I am always trying to make my classroom a better place. I love trying new things. I am currently in the process of making the shift to standards-based grading. On all assessments, I give plenty of feedback. I ask questions, indicate points of improvement that can be made and often hope students read that feedback to improve their learning. I also grade using a rubric. All of my questions have different point values in which students earn points based on what they can show/prove to me. I’m a stickler when it comes to grading. I want quality work. I am definitely almost there with standards-based grading, however, when I grade a math assessment I do the same thing I’ve always done. I write the number of points a student misses next to the question. For example, if a student makes a minor error I put a “-1” next to the problem along with the feedback. In addition at the top of the page you will see the total number of points missed and the total points earned. A “-4” and a “26/30” would be at the top. This has been my largest obstacle. How will this look with standards-based grading (SBG)? What do I put at the top? How do I grade each question?

Last week, after a quiz, my colleague and I were talking about SBG and as class was over a student, who received an A on her quiz, was packing up. My colleague asked this student, “What you do think about the feedback Mr. Humphreys puts on your assessments.” The student replies, “What feedback?”  There you have it. Blatant as can be. She was so focused on the grades and point values that she never really saw the feedback. All of this time I spent putting feedback on assessments only to find out that it is completely ignored because of letter grade? What?

How can it be?

Today I was grading tests from another class and in walks another colleague. She teaches science and has fully implemented SBG. While I am grading, she plops down a jar of stamps. These aren’t teacher stamps that say, “Good job” or “A+.” Nope. Nothing like that. These are kindergarten stamps in the shapes of happy animals like a smiling turtle or a happy elephant. No joke. These are stamps made for kids that have a maximum age of 4. She says to me, “You can’t put any point values on your tests. None. Just feedback and only a stamp.” Of course I wined and pouted. I liked my point value system. I mean I WAS using a rubric. So off I go. I didn’t put a single number or point(s) missed and went through each test grading it like normal and leaving feedback as I always do. I finished “grading” them so now it was time for these stamps but I had a brilliant idea.

I was going to code these stamps. A strawberry was going to be an “A.” An owl was going to be a “B” and so on. I had a perfect system in place so I knew what the grade was. In walks my colleague and she says, “How’s it going?” I of course said, “Great!” to which she replies, “You aren’t coding them are you?” Darn it!? What?

” My plot has been foiled. “

So she spent the next few minutes putting multiple stamps at the top of each test so there would be no coding. Of course the students are going to try and figure out what these strange stamps mean by comparing to each other had I actually gotten away with my scheme.

So tomorrow I will hand back the tests only with feedback and the lovely stamps at the top so students can reassess and make corrections. No grades, no distractions…only feedback and students worrying about the standards, not the grade. Stay tuned on what happens after tomorrow (and I secretly have to admit I liked the stamps).

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