Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grades - Sigh!

I was asked to explain my grading system for my notebooks and I hate to say that I have not really perfected that one yet.

When I was teaching sixth grade to over 80 students last year the grading was OVERWHELMING. I would stay late on Friday (seriously I couldn't have found a better day?) to grade students work for the week. It would turn into a grading party with some of the the other teachers in my POD doing the same thing. My team leader seemed to have a much better way of handling grading. I've asked her to explain it in her blog (link to the right under blogs I am following - Social Studies).

Here is what I do now. Normally the notebooks are weighted at about 30% of the students grade (here is my plug for a free online grading book that I love. You can access it from home, run off reports, and give parents access to it). I walk around the classroom during the independent part of the lesson and give students grades on a clipboard spread sheet I have going. Now I only have 44 students that I am dealing with so it is much more manageable then last year. If the assignment is heavily guided (meaning they are just copying information off the board) I will give them a done/not done check. Most students get a done check but there are several students who just won't do the work. I collect several done/not dones and give them a cumulative grade (lets say 10 total). If the work is fairly independent I can quickly scan to see if they have met the requirements and give them a check, check minus, or check plus in their book and on my spreadsheet. That gives me some "wiggle" room if needed without putting a hard and fast grade in their book. The students know the basic grade ranges for the checks. The spread sheet allows me to quickly scan down and see who I might need to focus on in class or conference with. It also ensures that I am circulating around the classroom and seeing everyone. If I don't see everyone I have them stack their books open on the desk and at the end of the day I will quickly go through them.

Is this a perfect system? Probably not... but grading is something I struggle with (mostly the time consuming aspect of it). Don't even ask me about grading 44 writing papers. I've gotten better but whew talk about some long weekends. My hats are off to all the high school English teachers out there...don't know how you do it :)

Right Hand Assignments - Ideas from Unusual Places

I attended an excellent workshop on 6+1 writing traits and during it the instructor (Ruth Culham) introduced writing RAFTS.

Here is a good online definition of what RAFTS are:

R.A.F.T.S. are writing prompts that challenge students to assume a Role before writing, to write for an imaginary Audience, to write using a given Format, to write about a certain Topic, and to write with a certain Strong Verb in mind as he/she writes.

As I was looking through the book the instructor had for RAFTS in the content area (see book above which can be purchased through Scholastic) I was taken by the list of formats at the end of the book. While I am sure I should have been playing closer attention to the speaker (who really was excellent) I kept thinking how these formats can be used as right hand assignments for notebooks (from a ships log to a licence plate). Even the RAFT suggestions were great for science and could easily be used as a right hand assignment (great for getting those writing standards in). There is a website called WritingFix that has a prompt builder that you can try out. One, from the book that I would use next year, is "Pretend you are a senior rain drop in a cloud and you have to explain to the new rain drops who have just joined you what just happend to them ." (I'm sure I didn't get it quite right but that was the general gist - that one is in the book above).
Anyway...I thought that was an interesting place to start finding ideas for right hand assignments and thought I would pass on.

End of Year - ABC Books

I wrote in an earlier post about ABC books being a great way to review for a test or end a unit, in my case a year, in the notebook. Pictured above you will find three ways where an ABC book can be used. The first is an example from one of my students notebook, the second is the same concept but adapted for a three ring science binder, the last one is also adapted to a three ring binder but is for social studies (all of these are fourth grade examples).
In all three examples we are using the same grading rubric - each block (or letter) is worth five points - three points for your three facts , one point for your picture, and one for color.
Another friend of mine is doing this project with her fifth graders but decided to make the project longer then ours is currently running. In each of the examples above we gave students the term that went with the letter of the alphabet. She had her children find terms that matched the letter - after she approved the final list the students got started. I actually like that idea - gives more ownership to the students. Since it was an end of year project and not an end of unit or review that would be easier to do. Usually in an end of unit or review you want students to zone in on key terms, so giving them the terms at the start ensures those concepts, events or people will be the focus, however for an end of year situation it is less rigid and gives the students the illusion of choice.

Notebooking in Three Ring Binders

We have two teams of fourth grade teachers in our school. The other science teacher on the team wanted to try the notebooking concept in her three ring binders for the remainder of the year, as opposed to starting a new composition book with her students late in the year. I shared what I was doing and simply modified the handouts and assignments for her three ring binder. It worked out well, however she still had the same problems that exist with the three ring binders that make them unattractive for me, pages getting torn out and lost. On the plus side though students had a lot more room to write/draw.
The pictures above are some of the pages her students did modifying the notebooking concept for a three ring binder.