Hello, I am your grade book and I wanted to congratulate you on another year in service to me. Oh, I know, I know. You thought you were working on behalf of the kids. Hah, hah! That’s funny! We all know that you can’t serve two masters. Serve me!
Let’s take for example that pesky Javiar Lugo! He is just so bad. He sits so far in the back. How can he learn anything? I think he’s lazy. So, what if he can’t read in French because he just got here from Mexico four years ago and he can barely read in English or even Spanish? We’ve got to hold him to the standards!
What do you think that little box in my wonderful world of grade book boxes (boxes for everything!) that is labeled “Reading 1” means? With the cool initials “R1”? That is a reading grade, my friend, and you have to fill it with a grade for Javiar just like all the other kids! We’re holding Javiar to standards!
No child left behind is my motto! That means every kid held to the same standards all the time.
Differentiation? Hah! Everyone knows that I am in charge. Differentiation is just a word that people use to make it look like there is still a human element in education. Forget that!
And I hate the way Javiar always sits in the back. Twice this year he has begged you to be allowed to sit in the back. What is up with that? And you let him! You have your seating chart!
What’s that you say? Javiar is painfully shy, awkward in his fifteen-year old body, and only seems happy when he is sitting way in the back listening to stories?
Hmmm. Let me see here. Let me look at my glorious self and see what kind of grades Javiar has for his listening quizzes on stories…. Oh, wow! Javiar has two 9’s out of 10! But on his jGR grade he only has a 5 of 10 because the interpersonal element is not there. And there is a 0 on a reading test! Hmmm.
What’s that you say? He is fluent in Spanish? And so he can understand you really really well when you speak French? That doesn’t matter! Javiar must learn how to read. A zero is a zero, my friend!
You say he wasn’t ever able to read in his first language in Mexico? Hmmm. Well, that’s too bad. But my CI curriculum involves lots of reading in level 1. It’s just the way it’s done.
And you say he only arrived in the U.S. six months ago? Too bad. I have my curriculum. Maybe we can get someone in the building to help him read better. Aren’t there people who do that?
Let’s review this – he has four grades so far: one 5/10 on the Class Communication rubric and 2 9’s but there’s now another 0 on the reading test, so two 0s on reading. Hmmm. Well, let me calculate with my lightning speed… that’s an F! Javiar needs to learn how to read!
This is an emergency! We need to get that extra staffing on this. We need to get those ELA people at the other end of the building to teach him how to read in English. We will force him to learn how to read those novels!
What’s that you say? The ELA people are not very good at that? What are you talking about? We spend vast amounts of money in this district on teaching reading to kids from other countries who can’t read! Everything depends on our pouring those dollars into reading!
What’s that you say? Reading is a result of lots of practice, and can’t be rushed? Why would you say that? Who? Stephen Krashen? Never heard of him! We are on a plan here in our building on reading. We have a plan! We will force these kids to read!
What? They have no books in their house? Why, everybody has books in their house! They need to get rid of their TV sets and get books instead!
What? Javiar’s mother is still in Mexico and dad is working three jobs? Well, he should get a library in his house anyway! What? Javiar himself is working? He can’t – he’s only fifteen! He needs to go to school!
What? Dad likes to spend the few hours a week he can with his son watching Mexican league soccer? That’s ridiculous! Make him go to the library! What? That library on Federal Avenue next to the strip club was closed down?
Look! Javiar needs to learn how to read! It’s an emergency! Otherwise, he is going to flunk your class and not be a productive citizen, which is the very mission of our school, which I, in all my grade book glory, serve, and really well, I might add! I’m trying to help you with this reading problem!
What? Now you are admitting to me that Javiar has a smartphone? Well, there’s the problem! What? And he works twenty-five hours a week after school to pay for it and be able to eat? Well, that’s easy, we’ll just take that phone away from him. Then his reading scores will go up! Now we’re getting somewhere! Done! We’ll take his phone from him today! Damn technology!
What? I’m technology? Oh, but I’m different. I’m a grade book. I pretty much run your life and the lives of your students if they want to succeed in life. And, let’s get back to the point – you need to teach that kid to read, or somebody does.
What? What do you mean it’s going to take a long time? What’s that you say? He needs to hear English a lot before he can read it? He needs to be brought along at his own natural pace in reading and the longer he reads and stays in the country, maybe re-uniting his family, the better he’ll read? Just by reading naturally and not forcing it? That’s ridiculous. What do you think the 2000 ELA teachers in this district are for? You forget. We are the educators! We will educate you!
What did you say? Javiar wrote a note on the reading test? What did it say? Oh, it said …Mr. Slavic, I try so hard but I can’t do it!…. right there on the reading test? He wrote that on the reading test? Well, there you have it! He is asking for help. I will inform the administration and they will contact the five different people responsible for reading intervention and we will fix this!
What? You have another idea? Drop the grade? Did you say drop the grade? I can’t do that. I am your grade book and I won’t allow it! Javiar has to have that reading grade in there! We will force him to read!
What? You’re not going to listen to me? You’re going to not grade Javiar on reading all year? That is blasphemy! You can’t do that! What kind of commie liberal are you, letting that kid off the hook when every other kid in the class has to have their reading grades count?
What? There are others with reading issues, mainly due to their being new Americans or living in poverty? Screw that! How many? Three? I’ll inform the principal! We’ll get them in one of our programs! What, our programs are not interesting to the kids? Well I never!
What? You’re not only going to ignore Javiar’s reading grade all year but you’re going to let him sit in the back and just put his arms over his head and listen to French with that goofy look on his face, even laughing from time to time in class? You can’t do that!
Wait, I feel a calculation coming on. Let me figure this out. If you don’t count the reading grade he gets a B. If you do he gets an F.
Give him the F! He is lazy. I have spoken.
52 thoughts on “This is Your Grade Book Speaking”
We need a like button.
This was the first thing I looked for after reading this post.
Agreed…and would like your post too =)
We all know that the only way we can get kids to learn to do the shitty stuff in this world, like learning another language or reading or figuring the square footage of a given area or whatever, is by grading them. Punished and/or rewarded. Your grade book is just an objective tool for you to dish out rewards and punishments in a fair way. Otherwise, what would they do with this time spent with responsible and educated adults!
(for those who don’t know my opinion on this, I continue the sarcasm in Ben’s post, as I also see grading as a truly crappy reality of our schools, one that brutally injures intrinsic motivation to do things in life that are just dandy in their own right, if kids are just given the space and time to develop those interests, with plenty of guidance and example of course. Alfie Kohn’s analysis of rewards and punishments will soon be dispersed throughout our collective consciousness, and grades will be seen as the carrot/stick combo that they are. End rant.)
Yeah but Jim I just posted on how I no longer do FVR in favor of SSR with a test on Friday. It’s funny, if we could just find a place to teach them that wasn’t a SCHOOL, we would see vastly different responses to our overtures to just have fun with the language.
Ben, fine point, I just read your post on SSR (sounds really good!). The sad thing is that it DOES work so well. Alfie points basically that you cannot be the only person in your school doing the no rewards thing. It really has to be a systemic change for a school, and even then the external pressures would be so strong that it might crush the attempt at intrinsic motivation building. I guess I’d have to agree with you, the SCHOOL is what hurts, because schools are graded too, and punished/rewarded according to their jumping through very similar hoops that our students are forced to jump through.
I do really like the SSR change Ben. Let us know how it goes.
Since we moved from the UK to Spain a couple years ago, my daughter has been the star at school because she is bilingual, fluently speaking, writing and reading in both English and Spanish. Now her Spanish grammar is getting better.
She is 10 years old, she came back from school yesterday with tears in her eyes telling me “call me a failure”. She had a test on irregular verbs in English (only a list of verbs, no sentences) and got a 5 (C grade US equiv.).
Her teacher wrote a note for her at the bottom “you should know better, you are the “expert”, the rest of your peers did it “.
Late last night she was writing series of tens trying of memorize that nasty list of verbs. I gave her a book, switched her hearing aids off and sent her to bed. She said “they will think I am fake”. My heart just broke.
That number on the book even makes kids mistrust their own nature.
Pilar, this is very sad to read! I hope you can help your daughter by explaining that in that class, they are only analyzing isolated pieces of English, not using it to communicate. She uses English to communicate as do people in real life outside of school. That is the purpose of languages, so she is way ahead. She is real; the class is asking for fake.
That is indeed very upsetting, not to mention demoralizing for your daughter! This teacher (if you can call her that) has no idea how detrimental her careless comment can be to a child. I know that in Europe they don’t really believe in handling students with kid gloves (which we sometimes do in this country, oftentimes to the other extreme) but there is a fine line here. Maybe you should let your daughter read some of the comments on here. If she is anything like my own kids, they might not believe it when it comes out of your mouth.
Luckily, your daughter has you to champion for her. Most kids are not that lucky and they loose their love for language before it ever had a chance to grab hold.
In my school, a few of us started SSR– sustained silent reDing–in English classes and in my Social Justice 12 class) for “credit” and I then ditched the credit. The kids can read anything except school-related books (so they don’t use SSR to do hwk) and they can’t do sudoku, x-words etc. Initially, I get resistance (“I hate reading”). But once they start, they LOVE it. We do 15 min/class and I tell you it’s work to get them to stop. Most read books; some magazines; the variety is amazing (from sports novels to teen romance to car repair manuals to newspapers).
I got MORE reading when I ditched the credit. And there is no real need to “police” the reading. All I tell them is, bring “something interesting” to clSs, and they do. One gr11 kid last ear went from reading Captain Underpants to starting Harry Potter. The rest of the dept is slowly moving to SSR that’s no credit. Krashen is bang on the money: if you let kids choose reading, they will pick good stuff and enjoy it. I also make a point of ALWAYS asking kids I’ve had in English the year before “so what are you reading?” when I see them in the halls.
I don’t do FVR in Spanish cos as Ben noted, I get way more focused reps and learning from stories and other teacher-directed activities. But if I ever get to having level 3 kids I will try FVR
Tangent on the rants: When a kid never gets a good handle on reading in first language (as is very likely the case in this sad scenario) and all of the other factors mentioned exist–including being thrust into an environment of total submersion in English–it is amazing that he eventually acquires even superficial, non-academic oral/aural English. In addition, given these factors, it is next to impossible for a kid to demonstrate adequate literacy to thrive in school. Impossible.
Imagine trying to adequately identify a possible real learning disability in a child with this kind of history and profile. Most districts either ignore the possibility or over identify by testing only in English. No sarcasm here.
OK – yes, it was a very funny-sarcastic post. BUT….what made it even funnier (for me) is that as I was logging on to the PLC (during my prep right now), I was thinking, “Oh gosh — just ONE read of Ben’s blog, and THEN I will set up my grade book program and enter grades” !!!! (my procrastination hit me right in the face – and echoed WHY I am procrastinating on this topic!!!
If I could get my kids to stop allowing a number in a book to rule their lives, I would consider myself a successful teacher.
Carol, do you think this is something naturally inherent in young people (kids and teens), or something they have learned? Nature vs Nurture?
I ask because I often wonder this, and when I present views opposed to the traditional model to colleagues, they usually lean toward the nature side. ‘We have to give them very specific goals or they won’t do anything’ is the kind of response I hear.
I live near a woman who homeschooled her children, in a network of other homeschooling children. I think I talked about this before here. The oldest daughter did not want to read, for years, until she was like 8 or something. The mother did not push her, and let it come naturally. Now the girl is in college (having never attended a HS) and the last time I did a book swap with this girl (woman now) I got Chomsky and Tom Robbins books, among other quite challenging material. So, case in point, or fluke?
No fluke. We have a school in Denver and this idea is national (can’t remember the name but it is like “unschooling” where kids traumatized by school are sent to these schools and are allowed to literally do what they want, for years if necessary, until the natural inclination to read or learn comes back. It DOES come back in the vast majority of cases. Very real stuff.
Hey Carol, I just realized the “number in the book” you were talking about referred to the grade in the gradebook, not the page number the students were going to stop at (because that’s all that was assigned). So, that explains my previous comment.
Have you ever seen the acid indigestion commercial where the lady tries to eat a hotdog and the thing starts smacking her in the face? Reading Ben’s rant, I kind of saw the grade book walking around like a big Gumby doing the same thing to me and the kids.
Hahahahaaa: I AM GUMBY DAMMIT!
Gumby the Gradebook. I like it.
Oh God, thank you all. It was all so timely.
I sent this article to Krashen and he responded:
…amazing but very very plausible. I’m surprised in fact that this is not reported more often, not just in language but in the rest of the curriculum. And it will get MUCH worse with the common core….
If you are new and thinking about how you are going to do CI and set up your grade book, do it radically. The change in teaching is radical and the way you assess should be too. Grade in favor of the kids. Don’t try to trick them. Don’t base it on how much they study or do homework or projects. Give them the respect of grading what they do in class and appreciate that how they interact with you – this is most true in their language classes – totally determines if they learn and so should be the biggest determining factor in their grade. I think so anyway. I grade off of Quick Quizzes and jGR and that is all. That may be too extreme for many, but I know deep down that I don’t keep a grade book to impress parents. Just saying here that if you try to teach differently but grade in the same way you did before you embraced comprehension based instruction, it would be like trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole. Most importantly, align your instruction and assessment with the proficiency guidelines and the Three Modes.
I agree fervently with this. Sounds like I pretty much use the same system as Ben. Radical, for sure. And SIMPLE! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of simplicity in grading. We have to save our best energy for being present with our students so that we can engage in the highest quality interactions. From an outsider’s perspective it might look like “not much is happening” in a CI classroom due to the lack of paperwork books and all the other baggage that we used to lug around. But there is a lot going on. Interacting is hard work, despite the appearance of “casual and fun” chatting. It doesn’t necessarily feel hard while you do it; it can on some days and on other days it feels truly like you are just having fun. It’s just like life, ebbing and flowing and we do our best each day and then let go and try again the next day. But make no mistake, we are expending a lot of energy in this process and that is where the energy needs to go. When we are not in class we need to recharge. And have a life. So…don’t waste precious energy on the bookkeeping and all that. Like one of my teachers says “activate where necessary; relax where possible.” I say activate in the classroom and relax on the grading. Just my 2 cents.
Just last week the electric went out for almost 2 hours so we told a ghost story in Spanish about a turtle. After we wanted to use a whiteboard but it wouldn’t stand up in the chair. Finally I got a little use out of my textbooks and propped up the whiteboard and it stayed. The kids thought this funny that is how we use textbooks in my class. That’s the most I have used textbooks all year.
The thing is that I think it is easier to buy into the ideas behind CI than to buy into the “scrap the old grade book format” idea with those lame ass percentage distributions that mean nothing.
It is not easy to let go of. But generations of kids have proven it, saying in their bored looks and shoddy involvement: “Judge me and I will not try, because you are judging me. Stop judging me and I will consider doing it differently.”
Grading in a truly simple way is what is best for us and what is best for our students. Do you know how much buy in I get on the first day when I say to them in English, “Hey kids, this class is going to be a bit different because there are no tests, no homework, no notes or notebooks and no make up work and no projects unless you want to do them, and all you have to do is come to class and try and you will get an A or a B.”
Now THAT gets buy in! And the result of that simplicity is happier kids with more time for their other classes and their lives, their work, their basketball and for me busting enrollments, more time for me and time to read this blog during my planning periods.
That’s what I tell them. No hwk, 2 easy projects, no studying for tests, and if you are tuned in, I guarantee a pass and most likely at least a B. Works. Also, I tell them, “learning a language is easy and natural: pay attention and it will happen.”
So no notebook?!? Crap, I just told mine to buy one!! Wow, that will be an adjustment for me too. Do they keep a spiralbound notebook for writing or simple folder for any stories, news articles, songs, etc. you give them? My disorganized kids will LOVE when I tell them no notebook! I’m worried about my honors and organized kids though.
Wow! I have A LOT of reprogramming (mostly on my part) to do!
Erica, There are no hard and fast rules about notebooks. Do what resonates for you. I’m sure others will chime in with what they do. I actually do use notebooks: those bound black & white composition books. They live on a shelf unless we are doing a dictation or freewrite or quick quiz. Honestly the main reason I use them is so I know that everything will be in there and there are no loose papers floating around. I am organizationally challenged, especially with loose random pieces of paper.
Also, as much as I try, I don’t always record things immediately, so with the notebooks I can go back and record quizzes, or even just remember what we did when. It is kind of like a little portfolio, and at random points in the year I encourage kids to look back in their notebooks just for fun…many of them notice progress over the year (or in the case of my French students, over the 2 years that I have them). Or they will start reminiscing…”ohh remember the story about Josh’s turtle?! ”
They are cumbersome so I don’t lug them around; I try to read through them periodically, make encouraging comments, observations etc. For the quick quizzes I sometimes use half or quarter sheets of paper from the recycling bin. These just get recycled. If the quiz was particularly fun or there was something unusually cool that they might want to keep I have them paste it in the notebook with a glue stick.
I also have folders for each student…these also live on the shelf. These don’t get used a lot, because I try to minimize the use of handouts, but they can keep copies of class stories here, or the sheets I use for “Essential Sentence” assessment (see the link to this on the right side of the page). Students who are into having papers and such really like the folders. Others, not so much. Again, a “system” in progress that I use mostly to keep the papers out of my space!
Oh yeah, I also have an extra notebook for each class. This one is used by a student doing one of the students jobs–so on PQA days, a student writes the quiz questions here (in English). ON story days, a students writes the story (in English, although some of the fast processors choose to write in L2). I want to remember this year, to have the quiz writer write down the structures at the top of the page. This will help me with my “curriculum mapping” 🙂 Again, if for whatever reason we end up using a scrap of paper, it just gets pasted in there so everything is in one place. With the exception of the person doing the student job, nobody has a notebook in front of them during class.
I don’t do note-taking, but the class notebook could certainly be used by those students who feel like they need to write everything down (this would be done on their own time, not during my class) or for absent students to feel like they are catching up. This can often put the student at ease.
This is just one take on the notebook scene!
Great stuff from jen and you will see that each of us does things differently. Nothing is set in stone for sure because real teaching is about the individual teacher. It’s in the same vein that all sculptors in the world don’t sculpt the same thing out of the same material. The area we live and work in, the materials available, our own experience and talents all differ and we are so lucky that this is true – otherwise, if we all did the same thing, it would be so sad for humanity and an insult to the Dude who made us all.
So my deal was I was teaching in a privileged white middle school about eight years ago in suburban Denver and I was learning about TPRS and one day it hit me that the notebooks didn’t help them learn. It helped them in school, but what has school got to do with learning? I was in a period then where each day I would go to work with one overriding question in my mind and that was “Will this help them learn French?”
The notebooks looked pretty official but over time I noticed that they just cluttered the room. I couldn’t see making the kids lug them around bc we used them so infrequently. It seemed stupid so I let them keep them per class on some shelves in the room but there were 150 of them and they got all mixed up. For what? John Piazza and I are on this declutter tear and a simple and clean and functional Scandanavian classroom is what I have always wanted because I defend my right to be mentally healthy even though I am a teacher.
So I experimented with no notebooks and even the anal four percenters seemed to take pleasure in it, once they let themselves get that the notebooks weren’t needed and that to learn French they didn’t have write everything down.
(A permanent side bar of my work as a teacher has always been to get the four percenters to relax a little and realize that success in life is not about doing everything right. I think it is a deep sickness in our society and I probably see my own young self in them and project it out and try to heal my own wounded teenage self. I know how much I hurt then at Culver Military Academy in high school when I was trying to be a high ranking officer and compete to be the best runner in Indiana and get into the best college and I remember how sad I was inside that I couldn’t just relax and maybe even laugh once and yadda yadda….)
They got it when I said that they can’t walk around France with a white board and marker or notebook or even a computer translator, that their minds were the things that housed the language and that they couldn’t take the trappings of school with them when they went in to do a surgery or argue a case or fix a wall or plant a garden or train for a race or whatever.
My Latino kids now in urban Denver carry around their backbacks everywhere. They take them to the bathroom. They try to sit in class with them on their backs but it makes them hunch over so they can’t lean back and smile and just listen. When we need a free write they have those backpacks full of paper and books that they don’t care about so there is plenty of paper and when we need it we just find paper.
That’s just how I do it though. We are all different.
By the way Erica and welcome to the group I loved this comment in that email you sent me about your new version of dGR – let’s call it eGR – it’s so typical of the kinds of battles we fight in schools that keep us from really teaching:
…do you think this would work to post in the room? I took Diane’s rubric and jGR and meshed the two somewhat. I teach high school but believe me my kids need specifics. If I don’t give specifics they will wiggle their way out of it with support from the lovely ASSt. principal. =) ….
hahaaaa…omg! “the lovely ASSt. principal” !!!! despite my chronological age, i cannot manage to separate from my middle school self that delights in this kind of humor! rock on erica 😀 😀 😀
And thank you Ben for this post. I am always rethinking everything and trying to declutter. Boy is this no notebook world attractive. Heck, i might try it. Why not? The “simple clean and functional Scandinavian classroom” sounds amazing!
How do you deal with ASSt. principals and the like who ass-k for portfolios and documentation and student work and stuff like that? oh and our newest thing we have to do , “the digital portfolio!” I am on deck this fall for this brandy spankin’ new feature in our school, called “extreme super deluxe evaluation.” Ok i just made up that title, but for real, I am going to be scrutinized this fall with admins showing up in my classes. Based on my 25 yrs here and only like 2 times my dept head has ever seen me teach, i am very skeptical and will be pleasantly surprised if someone actually sets foot in my classroom. Ever since I switched to CI teaching I have invited ppl in but nobody comes to my party 🙁 Anyway, there are write ups and I have to go before some sort of panel of evaluators (frankly most of which will have never seen me in action).
Oops, sorry to have gotten off track, but just wondering how you mesh the contemporary Scandinavian design elements with the antique / Early American requirements?
Hey Jen!!! I came to your party!!! hahaha and what a FINE party it was! 🙂
Seriously …..It helped me so much in my teaching to see someone else teaching with CI. I think it is important, now that we are starting up local/regional peer coaching groups to meet every once in a while, to go and VISIT and OBSERVE a peer!!!! Call in sick if you have to! It really is such a healing process to watch another CI teacher and reflect on what they do — when someone visits you, let him/her teach YOUR class and have your students give them feedback!!! (Skip did this with me the year before last – my first year with TPRS – and it helped me tremendously!!!)
So, with that said, anyone near southern Maine, you are more than welcome to come and observe me …….Please DO!!!
@Jen: for those observations by Admins….go to Bryce Hedstrom’s website – he has a great checklist for observations by Admins that he adapted from Susie Gross’. It’s a great way to open up a dialog about how you teach.
And now some of us have to come up with SLOs and assessments to prove that our students are making progress. 50% of my evaluation
I’m prolly overposting today 😉
My kids have binders where they write down the day’s vocab and where they keep the reading handouts. The binders also have in them story illustrations, p-of-v retells, quizzes etc. I have one bin per block and the binders can stay in class. (Michelle Metcalfe’s awesome idea). Kids love it.
When their 80%-of-the-year final came up, I told them “the only real studying you can do now is to go back and just reread every story. If it feels easy and you get it, you’re helping yourself reinforce what you know.” That was the only time all year when the binders went anywhere.
Last year was my first year at this school and getting used to their strict rules was a challenge in itself. Although he was impressed with how I could get even “special ed” kids to talk Spanish the ASSt. principal micromanaged my classroom and made me look like an idiot to my kids all year long. I was forced to write kids up and then when I did he would treat me like an idiot for writing them up. The trouble-maker students knew they could get away with anything so they were so disrespectful. My kids who wanted to learn were mad at me because they thought I didn’t have a backbone. Finally when the principal got involved ….in April…things changed a little. Thankfully he is very supportive and if it weren’t for his support I would not have returned and who knows if I would even be teaching anymore.
Through all that though I quickly learned I needed a new classroom management set-up. Last year was also only my second year teaching TPRS method. The first year I taught it with students who I had already had so I didn’t have any discipline probs so I assumed it would be the same at the new school…haha…. Hence the reason I read Ben’s books this summer and joined this PLC community. I knew if I was going to continue teaching Spanish the right way it should be taught I needed to actually learn the right way to teach it.
Just in the first few days of joining this site I have learned a lot through everyone. Thank you for the responses about notebooks. Since I already told my students to get notebooks I might use them as a portfolio? I’m still not sure. What you wrote, Ben, is so true! If my students go to Spain (or even the Mexican restaurant down the street) they won’t be able to flip through their notebooks to find what they need to say next so why get them used to dong it now? I also love the idea of having a notebook only for those students with jobs to use.
Great ideas! Thank you! Thank you!
A teacher friend is convinced that the act of physically writing stuff down is a mnemonic aid and I am inclined to agree. Also, with the Internet and electronic docs, so much stuff is in one ear out the other, so I refuse to let kids do vocab on computers or phones. The act of writing is one rep!
Erica, this is amazing to me: “The first year I taught it with students who I had already had so I didn’t have any discipline probs…” I switched to an entirely CI form of instruction last school year, and zip, I had some troubles with my oldest 2 classes for a while. I teach 4 (or now, 5) grade levels in a row. With the 7th grade, it was hard for months. They didn’t like the Interpersonal Communication skills rubric for 25% of their grade, either, but that helped me out a lot. I learned a lot last year but I do not think it’ll ever be so difficult again.
I never had any issues from those students even when I taught “book” Spanish the previous year. They were just a great bunch of kids. At the beginning of the year I told them about the new way I was going to teach and they were relieved it wasn’t going to be as much work as the previous year. Keep in mind I still didn’t have a full grasp how to successfully teach it. I just tried to copy what I saw Blaine Ray do during his workshop. I didn’t know about jGR up until a couple of days ago so was it a successful CI form of instruction? No, but the students had a lot of fun everyday with the TPR and the stories. Because I had such a great student response (stupidly) I didn’t change anything I did last year when I started at the new school. I just used Blaine Ray’s rules and I assumed the student response would be the same. It was a huge mistake and then added with the micromanagement of the asst. principal it was a train wreck.
So when I say I didn’t have discipline probs I meant no opposition to the new way I was teaching and no students cussing me out. Haha. Not jGR discipline issues. I’m honestly afraid he is going to do the same thing and say I can’t use them either. We’ll see….
I like what Chris wrote here:
“That’s what I tell them. No hwk, 2 easy projects, no studying for tests, and if you are tuned in, I guarantee a pass and most likely at least a B. Works. Also, I tell them, “learning a language is easy and natural: pay attention and it will happen.” ”
Try that – AND also…(I learned this from one of my profs in teacher training. he was a principal!) Establish a “us versus them” approach with your kids…..when going over the rules….i.e. no cell phones – “hey guys, it’s the SCHOOL rule. Please make my life easier so I can make all of our lives easier in this room. If I have to stop class for one person, it’s ruining it for ALL” then you’re also adding in the peer pressure. Read Bryce Hedstrom’s info regarding Classroom Management and PAT activities (preferred activity time). I also ran a “contest” last year between all of my blocks — whichever class stayed in SPanish the longest (and I had a student timer who would keep track on their cell phone – everyone wanted this job so they could have their phone out!!!) and wrote each class’ time on the board daily. The winner got a pizza party! Block 1 won, so I brought in breakfast from Panera! It worked!!!
Good luck this year!!! and remember: we are ALL here to help you!!! Don’t be afraid to cry, vent, rant!!! we’ve all been there, done that!
^ like, esp the “we” part. There is clearly SOME use for Adminz ;-). Our policy for phones: if a kid uses one in class, it must be given to teacher, who gives it to office, where it can only be picked up after 3:15 by parents. Holy cow does that policy ever work 🙂
However, I don’t use extrinsic motivators and inter-class comps. Follow the rules in order to get stuff? Not in my class. We have higher reasons– like acquiring language, and being functionally social human beings– to behave.
Erica – what do you teach? if you teach Spanish, then use Señor Wooly’s classroom rules video as an icebreaker the first day or two — it’s a humorous way to make the points you want to make!
MB…I LOVE the contest between the classes!! Students always like to be labeled the “best” class. I have my students all year for Spanish 1/2 combo so I will probably use that in the Spring. Play it up and tell them to practice talking to each other outside of class.
(Side note) Speaking of which how much do you have students communicating with each other? or at all?
Thank you so much for the suggestions and I’ll have to check on the Señor Wooly video. I’ve used the Baño song which students looooove.
The first two days I modeled the rules and today I explained them in great detail. I’ve actually labeled my class “Conversaciones con profe McCurry” so I stopped after each one and gave examples of why each one was important and compared each one with having a conversation with someone they respected or thought was good-looking. You should have seen them with the “sit up…” rule. I had them close their eyes and visualize the most gorgeous person sit down in front of them and then I asked “If this person started talking to you how would you sit to show them you were interested in them?” They (well, most) shifted in their sits and sat up. It was beautiful. Made me want to punch myself for not finding Ben Slavic sooner. I may be jumping to conclusions but I honestly feel like most of them are eager to learn in this way. For the ones who I could tell were not on board I stated, not directly to them, “If you don’t feel up to this type of learning, it’s ok, You can always join the French class. I’ve heard they sit and do workbook pages all class.” A little bitchy I know but it worked!
I also told my students much like Chris did, no tests (except the required benchmark we have to give), 2 projects, and no homework, don’t get lower than 3 on the jGR and you will pass this class.
Can I just say…. I *HATE* grades!!!! Progress reports close next Friday, and I do not yet have any grades in the gradebook. This is only Week 3, and we have had assemblies, etc. I am still trying to get to know the kids, and I hate to give them grades when they haven’t really LEARNED anything yet! we are just getting into the real “learning” now — it was establishing norms for the first few weeks! arghhhh! I better start giving exit quizzes everyday now! 🙁
I feel the same way. Thankfully, I have a few more weeks before a report is expected.
I would just like to share that last Friday ended my maternity leave replacement, teaching two sections of Honors French 3, two sections of Honors French 4 (whatever “honors” means) and one section of AP, for about 6 weeks. I had a blast, and about 85% of the kids did, too, based on the free-response course evaluation I had them do. One class even pooled money together without my knowing it and bought me a $30 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card which completely surprised me, especially since I was just a sub. In a card, they thanked me for making the class enjoyable and lively and said this was not goodbye, but au revoir. All of the classes (except the AP class, played the game SO WELL). I had each class give me feedback near the end on blank paper, listing things they liked and things they did not like. A couple kids said they learned more French in these six weeks than they did the whole year with their regular teacher. SEVERAL other kids wrote that they enjoyed the fact that we stay in French for the whole period (Which is a reminder about how disappointed kids must feel when they walk into their first language class and hear a bunch of L1). We did CWB the first week, then did lots of stories and some reading for the rest of the time.
So, thanks to you all for my successful 6 week maternity leave replacement, which was actually so fun it felt too short. My success is due to you all.
But my real reason for posting here, before my good news got the better of me above, is to share how I handled my grading at the end of this maternity leave replacement. Maybe it will prove useful for anyone out there who still has grades to turn in.
My grades for my six weeks of service were due last Friday. I gave about 5 quizzes to each class (excpet for the 7-person AP class, which I just chatted with in French everyday). However, on Friday during my planning period I realized I only recorded quiz grades on my paper roster for one class. And I don’t know what I did with the quizzes from the other classes.
1. I entered the five quiz grades I had for the one class, which were all 90% or 100%.
2. I made up five quiz grades for my other four classes and gave everyone 100% on every single quiz, which is probably about what everyone got on the quizes I couldn’t find.
3. I made up an “Interpersonal Communication Average” grade (jGR) and gave everyone 100% because they all played the game so well (I never actually recorded jGR grades).
I had all of my grading done in about one hour. The only time consuming part was creating a spreadsheet to turn in to the principal, since I wasn’t in the school’s digital gradebook.
Why waste time grading? Just estimate! I become more and more convicted about how utterly meaningless grades are. I have so many better things to do with my life than tally up a kid’s points and compute final averages. Things like leave school at the end of the day to savor moments with my friends and family, or play my piano, or spend time outside away from the moldy air spewed around the school building. In other words, live life so that when I walk into school the next day I’m ready to be an unfrazzled adult who gives them the love they need with longer than a 2 second fuse because I wasn’t spending the previous night piddling around with their grades.
Of course I guess we still need (?) to record real jGR, quiz, and other grades, for kids who refuse to play the game. But otherwise, can we just be done with grading? Even “real” grades for Comprehensible Input-friendly assignments. Can someone tell me who in the world all these grades are benefiting?
Greg, that is so awesome!!!!! Especially this: “A couple kids said they learned more French in these six weeks than they did the whole year with their regular teacher.”
My kids have been spoiled by TCI and certainly take it for granted. They’ll get to the the high school and realize how good they had it.
I plan to do something similar for grades. I haven’t entered a single grade all semester. No time for testing. I don’t even have to do quickquizzes anymore, since my buy-in is so good. I may have them self-evaluate on jGR as their final grade for half the course and average that with a 100% for the other half. Grades in a TCI classroom don’t make sense, since we understand the kid’s will acquire at different rates, they all have different affective filters, and shortcomings are largely the teacher’s fault for not providing the CI. I will try to include a descriptive comment for each student about their level of comprehension, speech emergence, and attention.
Thanks, Eric! It was certainly a HUGE confidence builder in my view of my effectiveness in teaching with CI. The kids ate it up! (But like you said above, I’m sure that part of this positive reception of CI teaching was the whole sequence of grammar courses they had prior to my arrival -and the fact that I was only there for 6 weeks so they didn’t have too much a chance to get bored)
Also, way to go with having so much buy-in you were able to do away with quick quizzes! I’m hoping to continue doing less and less quizzes next year.
Good points about how grading doesn’t make sense for a teacher using CI instruction…three points that I think would make a great “defense” for anyone with a higher-up questioning a lack of grades in the book: everyone has a different acquisition speed, that speed is further affected by different levels of affective filter interference, and acquisition also depends largely on quality of teacher-provided input, not student effort.
The superintendent of the district I’m working in next year wants to move to more descriptive report cards. Incidentally, when I met with him for my contract appointment he asked me about how I like to teach a language. I told him I like to use comprehensible input and he immediately and enthusiastically replied “Krashen!” Granted, he used to be a language teacher, but since even a lot of language teachers I’ve met don’t know about Krashen I was shocked that the superintendent mentioned him. It’s interesting to me that someone who is enthusiastic about Krashen is trying to move a district toward descriptive report cards. Coincidence?
Great to hear you had such a motivating experience for your subbing gig, Greg. Question: based on what you described with your grading, it sounds like all your students earned an A. Is that right? If so, did you feel any heat from above for giving all As?
Thanks, Sean -it was definitely a surprisingly enjoyable start to my summer! To answer your question, I haven’t heard anything from the principal since turning my grades in to him a week ago. I am wondering what he thought when he saw the grades though, since I literally gave every single kid an A on every single assignment, except for one class out of 5 who’s quizzes I had handy when putting in my grades. But even that class was nothing but A’s except for a few 80% and 90% quiz grades.
I think I will email the principal to thank him for my experience at the school, and in the email throw in a short blurb about CI instruction and how very high achievement is the norm in quality language teaching, with an example being the quiz grades I turned in to him.
Pretty cool, Greg. Sounds like a very positive experience for the students. I should call in a sub for the last month of the year next year. I’m sure my kids would love the break from hearing my voice 🙂 and perk up to a fresh teacher. (Though I doubt I could find anyone like you, Greg.)
Amen to this. We must be soul brother/sister. This is pretty much what I do in all instances of required data, including the dreaded curriculum map. I just fill in the boxes in about 20 mins. and totally agree that we need to recharge the battery so we can spend the energy where it’s most needed…being present for the students and being open to the sharing that happens each day, basically having the energy available to hold space for whatever is going on. Kids need that more than anything.
“live life so that when I walk into school the next day I’m ready to be an unfrazzled adult who gives them the love they need with longer than a 2 second fuse because I wasn’t spending the previous night piddling around with their grades.”
Thank you Greg.
Yes jen, from the comments I’ve read from you on data and school culture, I think we must be soul brother/sister! I’m glad someone else understands that any time remaining outside the classroom is best spent recharging the battery!
…I don’t even have to do Quick Quizzes anymore, since my buy-in is so good….
Eric this is such a fine thing. It really is the answer to all the questions about grading and assessment.
And Greg I am so proud of you. You have done in one year what it took me eight to get to.
live life so that when I walk into school the next day I’m ready to be an unfrazzled adult who gives them the love they need with longer than a 2 second fuse because I wasn’t spending the previous night piddling around with their grades
-Greg Stout, 2014
THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.