Going "Grade Less" Bumps in the Road Part 2

How are we over a month in the school year? When did September happen? And why does this process seem so much more challenging than it did over the summer?

Last year, I became frustrated with the question "how many points do I need to pass?" and I spent a lot of time reading about grading practices. I even tried it this summer and it was so successful that I felt the need to do it this year as well. But right now, I have to be honest, I am feeling a little uneasy. Summer was so successful and now I feel like I am hitting some major roadblocks. I think I have solutions for all of them but I also feel the need to share some of the challenges I am currently facing.

The first challenge is access to technology. 

Over summer I was lucky to have just enough devices in the classroom, and enough students with phones, that every student could be connected at once. I don't have that this year and while I have tried to make computer labs work and I've tried to embrace "you can finish this at home" that is not working for the majority of my students.

I just sent my AP about 50 text messages in a panic. I know I need to pull students for small group work and give them time in class to work through the reflection process but there are no labs available (which is a good thing because people are using technology to help their students but bad for me because I have them do all reflections online). I just don't have enough devices for my classes this year and I haven't found the best solution to that yet.

In my panic, I realized that there was another way. I felt ready to throw in the towel but while typing the words "I might have to go tech-less, I might have to totally re-think my approach to grading" it hit me: they can make reflection portfolios with pen and paper. Technology makes this process a lot easier for me as a teacher but right now it is presenting a challenge to my students because of how much access they have (or don't have) so when I pull small groups on Friday they will get pen and paper to reflect and will put together a portfolio (file folder) or work to submit as evidence. Just because something is better for me as a teacher doesn't mean it is best for my students and this just might be an example of that.

The second challenge is timing. 

I was really inspired by how a few teachers in my department (specifically Mr Souza and Mr. Murray) spent so much time at the start of the year building relationships by having students present projects on themselves or about others in class. This year I completely changed how I started my year by stealing these ideas from them. But it meant that we didn't start really learning the reflection process until two weeks ago, which now makes me feel as though they are behind. They don't full understand the process yet because it takes a few rounds of reflections for all students to have that "ah-ha!" moment. Next year I need to find a way to incorporate the reflection process into the student presentations activity as well so they begin the reflection process day one.

The third challenge is teaching students to articulate their own learning. 

I want them to move away from "how many points is this worth?" to "what will I learn from this?" I would rather a student question the purpose and meaning behind my assigning work to them then ask me how many points something is worth but when that is all they have known the habit is hard to break. I am thankful to work with so many teachers who teach growth mindset to our students but when they ask "how many points is this worth?" the points mean more than the learning and making the shift away from that is incredible challenging. I realize I need to do more work developing Growth Mindset lessons into my classes, I teach history but I need to take every spare minute I can to help create this cultural shift.

Right now, I feel a little defeated but I keep going back to the survey results from students over summer. I keep looking at their grades and their growth in those few short weeks and I have to keep telling myself that I knew this year would present new challenges and obstacles when trying this method.


  1. Hey lady, you are an amazing teacher, our kiddos are so lucky to have you. One think to remember: they have been trained since about birth to "grade grub". The entire system did it to them. It's not an easy thing to undo, and for sure you can't to it alone. What you're doing everyday shows them a different more meaningful approach. Keep doing it, and give yourself a break :)


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