Thursday, March 16, 2017

#SOL17 I Hate Grades 16/31

2017 is the tenth year of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers, The goal is to write and post a "slice of life" story every day during the month of March. My seventh graders are also participating in a slimmed down version of the challenge, writing 10 slices during the month.

Slice of Life: I HATE Grades

Confession: this is my ninth year teaching but only my 1st year giving grades. When I moved from teaching third grade to teaching seventh, I left behind the world of narrative report cards and entered the world of middle school. And grades. Single, individual letters that distract from everything else about a child and their interests, skills, and accomplishments.

Today is parent-teacher conference day. And after teaching a half-day of school this morning, we are knee-deep into eight hours of meeting and conferring with parents about their children ... and their grades.

I designed a little half-page handout to give out, both to jog my own memory as well as to give parents something to look back on after 30-plus minutes of back-to-back 5-minute conferences with each of their child's many teachers.

The first third is an organized list of what we've done this quarter, broken down into the major categories or reading, writing, spelling and grammar, and drama. Book titles, major project explanations, and such. The middle third is a small table that contains THE grade, spelling and grammar quizzes, and a note about any late work. The bottom third has student-selected reading goals and evaluations from the quarter, the names of significant papers or projects, and a brief note about the child in general (often work or study skill related). (First quarter I was a bit more ambitious, breaking my written comment into "Biggest strength" and "Area for growth.")

My goal is to minimize the letter and instead spend time on everything else that matters. On the books your child read that they hadn't before. On the stories and poems and essays they wrote that they had never thought up before. On the insights they shared with the class and the personal connections they made. On the way they tried out a new presentation format for a project and pushed themself to try something different.

On the person they are and the person they are in the process of becoming.

THAT is what I plan to be talking about.

(Click here to read my previous Slice of Life Challenge posts.)


  1. Interesting structure! We're doing conferences today as well, but ours are student-led, which means the kiddos are responsible for sharing their learning!

  2. I share your struggle with "the grade" and love that you are choosing to focus more on the learner, the reader, the writer, the child!

  3. Hey! I'm so glad I am just finding your blog and connecting with you, thank you for sharing my stories the past few days!
    I think what you are doing with your grades is so smart. It really is about something bigger than that one grade, isn't it? Your doc sounds awesome! Best wishes for a long day!

  4. Your plan sounds perfect! I am right there with you about grades. A few years ago, we had Rick Wormeli as an inservice speaker. He talked about standards based grading. What he said was so, so better than the A, B, C, D, F grading we do now. Good luck with conferences! Hope you have spring break soon to make up for the long days.

  5. Agreed...I too hate putting a letter, number, or sign to represent months of learning and growing. It is artificial and compares students to some artificial standard that is not themselves....real learning and descriptions of learning would talk about and compare growth.

  6. When we did conferences like this I always told my kids to make sure their parents came to see me because I would have something nice to say about them--many of them challenged me to see what I could come up with. After that, I would talk about what we did in class and what was coming up. I seldom focused on the grade---even if the parent wanted to

  7. I hate grades, as well. This year, my 7th grade ELA students are coming up with their own grade, after finding evidence for reading, writing, and grammar. My journey (along with other teachers' journeys) are here: :D


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