Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grades

Toa of Boy wants grades. He wants the chance to be able to earn some A's on his schoolwork.

I'm not a grading kind of homeschooling mom. Most of the stuff we do isn't easily quantifiable for a score. I like it that way.

But Toa of Boy wants grades. And a report card. These things are important to him.

The Jedi has wisely stated that if they are that important, I should try to incorporate a system of grades into our schooling.

Math has unit reviews that I can use as tests. But, I don't want his grades to just be based on a handful of test scores. Yet, I also don't feel that he should be marked down for making mistakes on his daily work. If he can do his daily work perfectly on the first try, its obviously too easy for him, and I should be giving him something more challenging.

I'm in a similar boat for spelling, only worse. His spelling program includes a review test for every 40 lessons. For us, that's one test in 10 weeks. That one grade can't possibly reflect 10 weeks worth of work.

I have no idea how to "grade" him on reading. Or language arts. Or our cool history projects. 

And, for the record, he wants an A, B, C, D, F letter system grade, complete with pluses and minuses. None of this "Outstanding, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement" type of system.

I blame Arthur for this whole idea.

But, I can also see how Toa of Boy, who loves to earn Awana jewels, would love to earn good grades with his school work.

And, since this is so important to him, I want the grade book to be somewhere accessible to him, and I want the system to be one he can understand. So that, whenever he wants to, he can sit down and look at his grades and know where he stands.

Lastly, I want his attitude to be reflected in these grades somewhere. I want questions of, "Do I have to?" and "Awwwww, man!" and general whining and griping to count against him. Ok, spelling might not be his favorite subject, and I don't expect him to be happy about it, but I want to get through a lesson without the bellyaching. And without having to threaten to tell his father about it if he doesn't straighten up.

So, that's where I stand. I looked around for some free downloadable grade book, but I didn't see anything that immediately struck my fancy. Plus, I really need to resolve what exactly I'm going to be basing these grades on first.

Help, please??

Since I was ruminating on these topic all through the day, I asked Sweetling if she would be interested in grades.

She gave me a blank Sweetling stare and said, "I don't see how that could possibly work with the sort of schooling we do."

"Neither do I," I concurred, "but Toa wants some, so I'm trying to work a system out. I just want to know if that would be something that would be important to you, and if you would like to have a grading system for your schoolwork as well."

After a moment of reflection, Sweetling replied, "While it is nice to have some feedback and to know how I'm doing with my schoolwork, I just don't think it's practical, especially for your teaching style. I think I will opt out for this year at least." (Which I think means she's going to wait and see if this notion flops or flies this year.)

Wise, wise Sweetling.

3 comments:

Mark Hilinski said...

Xuan,
as a middle school English teacher, I feel your pain. Grading reports is difficult. I use a rubrick for projects. The assignment comes with a description of what I expect from them. I create a rubrick listing those expectations and assign points to each item. My students get a copy of the rubick so they know what's expected of them. You'd think the work I receive back would all be "A+" quality. Sadly it's not. Some kids go the extra mile, some do just enough to get by, and some just dont care. Here's an experiment: The next project you do create a rubrick and give it to your son. It should break down the project into components and will show him exactly what he needs to do to get an "A", a "B" etc. Make sure you tell him it's merely a "guide". Don't stifle his creativity(like you'd ever do that) Use the rubrick to grade his project and see how it works or if it works. (your daughter may be right)
Don't see grades as an enemy. I don't know how far you plan to home school your kids. I had several students that were home schooled until I got them as 7th graders. I had a roommate in college who was home schooled all the way through high school. He was a fantastic artist. In the future,IF they switch to traditional school, grades are what will mark their progress,and having exposure to them can't hurt. It may ease the transition. I have immense respect and admiration for parents who choose to home school their children. It's difficult enough just being a parent sometimes.

Mrs Random said...

Mark,

I've seen rubricks (just what is the plural of that?) before with writing assignments and have even used them, without the grade, when I taught 6th grade comp at a co-op a couple of years ago. That's an EXCELLENT idea, and I'll scribble out some benchmarks a rubrick for our history projects.

Thanks so much for your help!

Missy Miller said...

Okay. I'm not a homeschooling mom. But I am a former homeschooler, so that's gotta count for something, right? ;)

As your post pointed out many a time, a purely traditional grading system is not only near impossible here, but I think actively detrimental to your home's education--sometimes, the children know not what they ask for.

However, I am completely with the Jedi on this one-if grades are important to Toa, grades he should have. But they have to be meaningful . What if you instituted a hybrid system? Something like this:
Traditional Letter Grades--
I think grades fail when they reflect only the end result while ignoring the process. In my mind, the process a child goes through should count for just as much as the finished product. This is more work on everyone's part, but if his language arts assignment is to read x book and analyze it, the grade should not just be based on a book report at the end. Instead, what about having him keep a binder? Did reading captain underpants inspire him to draw his own comic? Put it in the binder. Did he make a brainstorming web while trying to figure out the common themes? Binder that noise. Give him a list of challenging prompts that can't be answered with a "yes" or "no." "Who would you say is the "bad guy" in this story? Why? Can you think of a way in which he might be one of the good guys instead?" If you don't want him to have that much writing yet, have him answer verbally or even videotape it as a mock literary interview. Then Binder. Did he spend 20 minutes trying to act out one of the fight scenes? Make a note of it in the binder. Then, when it's time to grade, you can grade the binder as a whole based upon breadth of engagement, effort and attitude, as well as the actual end work (like a book report).

If he needs interim grades, what about giving him grades on a daily basis at the end of each school day? You did your spelling homework the first time I told you to and without complaint, so you get an A+ for attitude. But you flew through the pages without paying attention to the directions, and your writing is a sloppy mess because you put so little care into it. That's a C for focus. But, you only misspelled one word, so that's an A for tangibles. Those average out to an A- for the day in spelling.

Instead of quarterly report cards, you could give weekly ones with each day's grades averaged.

Now, the risk is of course in the reductive nature of grades. So, what if you added an aspirational component that took some of the focus off those itty bitty As and Bs? You said he loves earning Awana Jewels. What if you came up with cool video game esque achievements he could work towards? Things like:
Master of Disguise: Role-played scenes as five different literary protagonists
I'm Aces, toots: Achieved all A's in attitude for a single day.
No, really, Im ALL Aces, toots: Achieved all A's in attitude for an entire week.
Stealthy Like a Fox: Completed homework without mommy's assistance or reminders.
They call me Webster: Learned 8 new words and their spellings in a single week.
Numbers on the Brain: Designed a word problem that illustrates a math concept
etc, etc

His weekly report cards could have a column showing any achievements attained that week, and you could let him keep a big poster in his room where his permanent achievement stickers go. I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here. :) I'd be happy to chat more about it!