On the first day of school, we talk for just a little bit about how students will eventually receive a letter grade for chemistry, not too much because this is what everyone else does and we want to move on to bigger and better things just as soon as we possibly can. Usually, there are some sideways looks and maybe even a few questions, but what I have noticed is that while there is nodding, the reality doesn't actually set in until there are actual marks involved.
On Friday, we finished up our Mass and Change Lab, talked about the Conservation of Mass and turned in our lab notebooks. Pretty routing and straightforward.
Today, the notebooks were handed back. Along with the notebook is a sheet that I have typed out comments about each target that is assessed. They look something like this...*Lab Notebook Feedback Sample
There is always (even near the end of the year) that minute or so where kids are turning the paper over, looking for their grades. So I let them flounder for a while, mumbling among themselves, until finally someone speaks up and asks what everyone wants to know. "How did I do on this?"
Most of the time, I come back with something along the lines of, "well, how do you think you did?" This is often met with blank stares while they try to absorb what I am trying to say. I didn't give them a grade, and they have no idea how to handle that. Today, I had them talk to their lab partners about their comments. What are some things you did well? What do you need to work on? If you were to give yourself a grade, what do you think it would be?
I try to get them to see that it's not just about a number, but about what you can do to truly learn about something. Some try to make sense of it, some just humor me.
Then, I pointed to the wall where I have posted the targets we are covering at this particular time. Remember these green sheets we keep pointing to? Let's talk a little bit more about those. So today, I reintroduced my new and improved grading system. There were a lot of wary looking kids sitting out there. And then I handed out their grade sheets.
See, we use PowerSchool as our grading program, and I know there must be a way, but, for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get it off of percents. So if I put in 2 points as possible and you get a 1, it shows you have a 50%. Even after promising not to, some of them freaked out, although, thankfully, none of them cried.
While there wasn't much in the way of excitement about the new system, at least there wasn't any outright hostility. I think just getting over the initial shock and getting used to the idea will be smoother than past years.
I know that I like it much better than what I did last year. Getting rid of the 3 and 4 levels makes this so much easier. Where last year, I would have hem-hawed around and made a judgement call, this year, I can simply say, "not perfect" and give it a 1.
And then.....I introduced capstones. Now that is a different story. There was quite a bit to say about those...
*This is a critique for another day, but there are a few things I would change about this. I find myself only picking out the things a student did wrong. My goal this year is to also leave specific comments about what was done correctly as well. For whatever reason, I find this much more difficult. But I love typing it out. Copy/paste is soooooo handy sometimes.