An enjoyable weekend essay

I knew there had to be a better way, but it took me years to develop a system that made grading manageable, even gasp!

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The answer to my grading woes was found in a deeper understanding of formative assessment. Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited.

On the surface, this definition may seem simple: Assessment practice is formative when it is used to inform instruction. In fact, this kind of routine formative assessment is one of the best tools for personalizing learning since it allows teachers to respond to individual student needs.

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But what I wanted was to extend the benefits of that regular, informal formative assessment to the assessments that have traditionally been summative. In practice, making traditional assessments formative for both teachers and learners was complex.

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But after much trial and error, I developed a system that turns these major assessments into more authentic tools for learning by using the same three elements that make informal formative assessment so effective:. Considering these elements led me to a method of personalizing learning through the use of a portfolio system. Using portfolios in an English class is not a new concept. In my portfolio system, I have combined ideas from a variety of excellent educators, including Bruce Penniman , Penny Kittle , and my own colleagues.

I built this system on the three key elements of formative assessment, as well as an awareness that I needed to keep the acts of both providing feedback and grading work manageable.

Within a unit my students read at least one whole-class text, as well as one independent reading book. Additionally, they write one or two longer pieces about topics related to their lives, such as an op-ed about bullying, or an informational text that gives other teens advice about relationships. Every week students have a few written assignments due.


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Sometimes they are analytical responses to specific passages from a text, usually about a half page long. Sometimes they turn in drafts of their writing assignments.

Every week their work is due on a Thursday night. My job is to provide timely and effective feedback on these items. Over the next three or four days I read and comment on their work—but without grading it. This might sound tedious at first, but I have found that I am able to do this quickly. I work hard to give effective feedback and look for information that informs my instruction. As I read and leave thoughtful comments on their work, I take note of patterns I see. I pay attention to what students are understanding, what they are misunderstanding, and what they are missing altogether, and how these understandings and misunderstandings might vary between different classes.

The patterns I see inform my instruction for the next week. For example, when I see my A block struggling to use evidence from the text I model that for them the next day. As I read and comment, I also make notes about which students I will conference with during class. I make a point to meet with those students who I noticed were struggling the most in their weekly assignments, as well as those that are ready to move ahead. Instead these weekly assignments are opportunities for me to give students timely and effective feedback and get information that will inform my instruction.

Of course, students then need an opportunity to improve their work. Why else would I spend time commenting on it? At the end of the unit, I ask students to select three pieces of work to put into their portfolios. This is the part of the assessment system that provides opportunities for students to improve and takes advantage of the fact that much of their learning happens through the revision process. Up until this point, students have been producing work in a low-stakes environment.

This helps students take risks in their writing, share their nascent thinking, play around with ways to organize their writing, and get feedback that will help them improve instead of a low grade that can sap their motivation. Then they turn in this work as a final portfolio.

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Students get a score on the rubric, which aligns with a letter grade and little to no comments. This allows me to score all of their portfolios over three days, since just scoring and recording a grade is much simpler than scoring, recording, and giving feedback. Essentially, this portfolio is where I find out if students met the learning targets I have set through objectives.

After portfolios are returned, students have three days to do additional revisions and resubmissions. This is where I can hold students accountable for those conventions errors that are the bane of English teachers everywhere. A student might have written a brilliant analysis, but if she has run-on sentences or misused apostrophes, she must revise and resubmit. Additionally, a student who is still struggling to meet expectations in other ways also has another opportunity to revise and learn this skill.

Students can then re-submit their work for one final round of grading to see if they met expectations for both content and conventions. Follow us on Jobbuzz. Indiatimes Classified Network. Sign In. Don't have an account? Register now. Sign In using. Already a user? Sign in to JobBuzz. Please enter your password to proceed further! Please enter a valid email id. Forgot password? Not you? Not using TJ?

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