The Conversation

In a stack of papers called Grading.

  • Nov
  • 11
  • 2008

The Conversations started two weeks ago. Not a single student grabbed hold of my offer; no one has met me during break, lunch, or after school to discuss the trouble. A lot of head shaking and shrugs of shoulders, but no plans of action have been drawn up. I can’t have The Conversation during class. But I simply must have The Conversation with just about every student.

“How can I bring my grade up?” Ugghh… I’d love this part of teaching if I had time to conference with all of my students for even 5 minutes each week. That one-on-one discussion, I’m good at that and I make suggestions, throw in mini-mini-lessons, drop knowledge that really hits home at the problem the student faces as a writer. In a 53-minute session with at least 28 other students in the room, I just can’t do it.

Here’s how I’m helping make The Conversation easier when it comes time:

Using The Categories

In School Loop, all of the major writing assignments fall into the “Writing” category. One of the gradebook reports shows the percentage earned in each category. With this, I can see how students are doing on their writing, something that often hits The Conversation’s core question “How can I bring my grade up?” This is also a pretty good predictor of whether or not a student will pass the course.School Loop shows percentages earned in each category

But Writing is a large category. There are many elements of writing on which a student may be doing well or poorly. I’ve struggled with how to break such a subjective thing as writing into something more objective. Sentence variety: what’s the objective measure of variety being effective or not? It all depends on the essay and the way the writer has developed the ideas. The same applies to just about any other way you choose to measure the success of a piece of writing, but we can at least narrow the field of concern. Instead of declaring the percentage earned on a piece of writing, we can address the different aspects of that piece of writing, giving a grade to each.

Using The Rubric

Each row of the rubric is its own assignment with its own set of pointsWith many steps made in the past (none horribly successful), this year I’m doing it by making each row on the rubric its own grade: Thesis, Support, Variety, and Conventions each go down in the gradebook for a set of points. Add in Style and MLA format, and that’s everything I evaluate on a given piece of writing. The total points add up to whatever the essay is worth, but each row of the rubric carries its own portion of those points. W1 is the first piece of writing assigned, W2 the second, etc. I hope to see progress as the year goes on. I also hope to use this data to direct me in what I should cover in class, what I should be teaching individual students, and what I should focus on for the next piece of writing.

Using The Comparison

Comparing scores on writing between the first two writing assignments, what do you see?This makes it possible for an even more focused response to The Conversation, that troubling “How can I bring my grade up?” question. This lets me target remediation and lets the student see what they keep missing, what they are improving on, and/or what has gotten worse.

What do you notice in comparing the scores on W1 and W2 for this student? What has changed? How would you work with a student based on this information? What questions would you ask? Would The Conversation be the same if you faced a comparison showing 165/200 (82.5%) on W1 and 156/200 (78%) on W2?

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