Grading Smarter NOT Harder Book Club

I am so excited to be joining Jen at Teaching, Life and Everything In Between for a book club/blog hop!  We all read Grading Smarter Not Harder.  Each teacher/blogger involved is reading a chapter and posting about it.  We would love for you to follow along!

I chose to read and blog about Chapter 1- Grading

The chapter started off with a topic I have actually been thinking about lately- using non-academic variables when determining grades.  This has been a hotbed of discussion since we are supposed to count homework grades as a part of students report card grades.  According to the author, you shouldn't penalize a student for negative behavior (nor reward them with academic grades for positive behaviors) such as not completing homework.  This whole chapter centered around the author's decision not to punish students with a 0 for a missed test or assignment.  

Basically, the author's stance is that recording 0s or taking off percentage points for missed work.  Through a variety of stories, she shares her thinking about why it is counter-intuitive to knock off points when work is turned in late or not completed. According to the author, recording a 0 would indicate that students were unable to master the standard or academics involved in the products.  However, recording a 0 for missed work doesn't account for a lack of mastery.

Something worth noting, the author taught upper grades.  Most of her examples were high school classes and many of the situations didn't apply to me.  If students miss school on the day of a test, they simply take it when they come back.

The four CARE conditions are Care, Aims, Reduction and Empowerment.  Care refers to how much the person 'cares' about the punitive consequences. Aims refers to the overall purpose of the expectation.  Reduction is the odds of which giving a punitive action will reduce or stop the offending behavior.  Empowerment is the persons ability to meet the expected behavior.    Put simply, ask yourself.  Will giving a 0 make a difference to the student, accurately record students mastery of the assignment, reduce the students late or missed assignments and does the student have the ability to meet the expectation.

Although a powerful case could be made for any of these conditions, I finally settled on Empowerment as the most powerful.  At my school, we have a lot of students who display what we call 'learned helplessness'.  These students are lacking empowerment and belief in themselves.  

One of the steps I will take to incorporate the four conditions in my classroom is to change the way I manage incomplete homework.  I teach 2nd grade.  Students have a very manageable amount of homework.  They have to read for 20 minutes a day.  Twice a week they have to do a written response to their reading.  They also have a math sheet that has 2 problems per day to complete.  The math problems are review problems.  I still consistently have students who do not do homework.  In 2nd grade, I believe that students are gaining independence and beginning to take responsibility for their own homework but that they will also require support and reminders from parents.  Part of the homework sheet has a place for parents to sign off and a place they can ask questions.  The homework packet is passed out on Mondays and taken up on Fridays.  At the end of the 9 weeks, we are required to give an overall percentage grade for the homework.  I have dutifully been recording who did the homework, who did partial homework and who did none of it.  I've also made a notation if an adult did the homework for them.  

Starting this week, I'm going to institute a homework club.  I eat lunch with my students.  Next week, I will collect the homework and take it to lunch each day.  I will help students with the math portion.  We will work on the writing.  We aren't allowed to take student's recess and we read everyday anyway so it will be difficult to make up for the missed reading time.

Time?  Hello?  I barely have time to complete the things that have to be done during the day.  Now I'm going to find time to work on homework and other missed assignments?  Also, when do you just call it done?  I have a student who doesn't complete class work.  He is unfocused.  He makes excuses.  He plays.  He talks.  He just doesn't do it.  It isn't for a lack of ability.  I can't wait forever for the work and there are only so many hours in the day.  

The author suggests having students fill out a form when they miss a test or neglect to turn an assignment in.  The form looked great for upper grades, but didn't quite fit the primary age group.

SO... I made YOU one!

That's right!  This resource will allow you to document work that would have gotten a 0 and turn it in to a meaningful conversation.  You can also track students missing assignments are keep track of what was turned in!

So tell me.. how do you handle missed and late assignments?  What do you do to encourage students to get the work in?

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