August 17, 2012 by ray_emily
First off – day #1 of year #6 is officially over and done!
A colleague just texted me this: “I seriously feel like I’ve been beat up.”
I laughed, but (of course) I completely relate. It was an excellent first day, and I feel good about how it unfolded. (Silent ball was, as usual, an instant hit, that fostered some excellent conversations.) The thing is, man, to be so vigilantly alert and awake and aware of the needs of all those little ones – it takes it out of me. I am not surprised by this first-day reminder that teaching demands vast amounts of energy – but to be living and breathing it once again definitely necessitated a too-long after-school nap.
Anyhow, I spent some time today rolling out my method of assessing and reassessing. Given that it’s on my mind, and that I’ve recently updated all the relevant materials, I figured I’d give you the rundown, too. I’m going to do so in two phases: (1) Today, I’ll share all of the documents and forms, to give you a sense of how this plays out in my classroom. (2) Later on (soonish), I will explore some of the messier stuff. For instance, why the heck haven’t I gotten all-the-way on board with SBG, when I’m obviously most of the way there? (Despite having an involved assessment system, my gradebook is totally old-school. Like, there is a column for tests and a column for homework: boring, ick.) I’ll also tell you about my struggles with this system, and its shortcomings – although some of them will likely be apparent to you. There are so many ways that I want to improve, in this arena.
The (optional) reassessment process begins immediately after kids have learned stuff, taken a unit test, and receive their graded tests (usually the next day).
Here is how we roll…
#1. Kids complete cover page.
As soon graded tests are returned, kids get to work determining how they did with each skill. In my class, 85% or above is considered mastery (and the skill is highlighted in green); between 70% and 84% is close (highlight in yellow); and anything below 70% – sorry, kiddo: you’re not yet there. (Highlight in pink.)
Some kids are happy with their performance, and other kids – not so much. So, let’s say that Susie Student falls into the latter category, and wants to give it another go…
#2. Susie downloads (from my class website) and completes (with a parent) the ‘at-home reflection.’
My original intent was to have students launch the reassessment process by doing some sort of one-on-one conference with me. I tossed that idea because (really) there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and (sigh) I am not super-human. (If only.)
Although my initial reason for vetoing the student-teacher conference was lame, my solution to the problem has been—to my delight—TOTALLY BETTER and WAY MORE AWESOME than what I’d originally envisioned.
Check it out, in this document:
C’mon, it is pretty good, right? Essentially, Susie goes home, pulls her test from her backpack, and says, “Hey, mom/dad/guardian: Let’s discuss what I’m proud of, here, and also the areas where I need to improve. Let’s look at my mistakes. You ask questions, I talk. While I talk, you take notes—okay?”
This step in the reassessment process fosters meaningful conversation about the student’s performance, but also actively engages parents in the learning and reflecting. In short: total win-win. This might even be a win-win-win situation, because I also get exactly what I want (kids freely reflecting on their learning, verbally), but I don’t need to invest any additional time. The little surprise bonus is that I end up with clear, written documentation of the whole shabang.
[Any ideas or suggestions for how these reflection questions could be improved upon? I feel like I could dig much deeper – maybe by tying in mathematical ‘habits’? Need to think on that one…]
#3. Susie completes corrections.
I use this template, which I like pretty well. (Stole and adapted this sheet ages ago. Can’t remember who it came from.)
At the start of the year, my kids need a lot of guidance on explaining what they did incorrectly, and what they should have done. (Alas, “IDK” is not an acceptable answer.)
#4. Susie completes the “retake request form” (via google forms, also on my website).
I really, really love this form—which has made the whole reassessing thing manageable and feasible, for me. My initial plan was to have students send an email request, a la Sam Shah, The thing is—and I’ve already mentioned it, in this very post—they are such little bitty babies! (Eleven years old!) I am pretty sure that they would flounder without the clearly defined structure and guidance. (Does anyone disagree? I’m interested in how other folks are doing reassessment in middle school. Most of the stuff I’ve read is high school focused, although I could/should dig deeper into the blogosphere, I think.)
As you can see, the retake request outlines all the steps that kids must go through in order to reassess. It also enables kids to communicate to me that they understand and were able to successfully complete all necessary steps.
Requests to reassess appear in a handy dandy spreadsheet, so I know exactly who is reassessing which skill, how many times they’ve reassessed in the past, and when they’d like to do the reassessing.
During my planning period, I use this spreadsheet to pull together and print customized tests, which include new questions on whatever skills each student has requested.
#5. Susie reassesses after school.
When Susie is all finished, we use the test cover page (see #1) to track how many points her score has increased for each skill. We add that amount to the overall grade.
That’s all for now! More about my weird SBG hang-ups, next time. Stay tuned.
PS – Wow, some geeky, giddy excitement about using Scribd for the first time to embed. So easy! Who knew? (Oh, wait: You totally knew.)