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Grading in the New Year

With only a week left in most holiday breaks most teachers are passing by a stack of papers on their way to take care of family needs and dreading digging into the grading in preparation of the start of a new semester or the last weeks of the old. In either case it involves a great deal of work for any classroom teacher. We do often fill our free hours with more work than any sane person would pack up and take home. We also do it every vacation.


The gift of free time means that we can finally catch up and come back in the new year with a clean slate ready to fill our book bags with more work that needs to be graded or receive feedback. I am vowing to do this differently this year and here is my plan.

I have scanned the work and pulled several benchmark lab reports. These reports stood out because each of them had something unique or particularly good in them. One had a stellar conclusion and one had some exceptional error analysis. I will highlight these good pieces in a discussion and then ask the students to look over their work and using a colored pencil or marker, highlight the parts of their lab report that the student thinks really is great in presenting evidence, communicating results or some other aspect of the lab report rubric. The students can pair up and see if a partner agrees with the selected portions and have the pair agree on a grade for the work based on the rubric. I may let the kids revise their lab report or I may recollect them and take another look mostly at the highlighted parts.

The purpose of this plan is to get the kids to take a greater part of the responsibility in thinking about the quality of their work. By using benchmark papers or passages of them I get to show kids what I mean by quality work. By letting the kids highlight what they think is good work I get to focus my evaluation time on the important parts and the students become collaborators. It saves time and helps the students learn about expectations.

I remember giving an assignment to 4th graders and having them look back at me with what could only be near panic. They had no idea what I wanted and they just needed a model. Most of the kids wanted to do great work but my verbal descriptions and even the rubric did not give them enough information to light the way. I got lots of really colorful and “pretty” assignments but few that addressed the concept we were learning. I now archive lots of student work and each assignment has some models that can help give more guidance.

A few articles give some practical advice. One I particularly liked was:
http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3749699

This site is from a post secondary group but it uses and excel spreadsheet and some great tips that can be modified for any 7-12 classroom.
http://www.ncsu.edu/labwrite/instructors/gradinglwr.htm

To help secondary students give better feedback to each other you may want to use some of these ideas and modify them for your level.
http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/student/activity3_3.pdf

Lastly you may want some help with how to structure peer evaluations:
http://www.ehow.com/how_5685768_do-peer-evaluations.html
 
My students have seldom had a chance to look over work that is appropriate for their grade level. Many feel that if they turn in something that looks good it is good. Sadly, often those are the projects or lab reports that the student slaved over and learned very little about the science. This year it will be different. More shared ownership of the process may help. I will keep you posted.

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