I hate grading. Like really hate it. I hate piles of paper. I hate assigning grades to students. I hate measuring how good they are at Spanish. It seems so pointless. We all learned out first language without any grades attached and it really chaps my hide that grades are a part of our system. But…if I want to keep my sweet gig at my sweet school with my sweet students, I better grade them.
So, since we revamped our grading philosophy this year, I’m taking a long hard look at the assessments I make, the grades I give and the information that’s communicated by their grade. And I’m looking to simplify every way I can! Because ain’t no teacher got extra time just languishing about!
I’ve been using my magic cards for years but this year I made some significant changes and I must say, they are new and improved! So much so, they deserve their own post, so read on, dear reader.
Enough chit chat, let’s get to business.
Basic idea: There’s an index card dedicated to each kid. The teacher uses the cards to randomly call on students AND to evaluate their listening, speaking and reading skills on the spot. Zero time spent grading papers. Tell me more!
To prep: Pass out an index card to every student. I strongly suggest you buy colored index cards and assign one color to each class so that if you drop the entire stack, it’s easy to sort the classes…it happens! I like bigger ones so there’s plenty of room for data. And man, do administrators love data! And you need a way to organize them: coupon organizers work great! I got mine at the Dollar Tree like 11 years ago but if you’re the click and shop type, Amazon’s got you covered!
Instruct your kiddos to write their name on the top of the card, and in the top left corner write S and circle it. In the top right, write L and circle it and on the bottom left write R and circle it. Then they students pass the cards in. That’s practically zero prep…and you saved yourself like 2 hours of writing them all yourself. So, since you just saved yourself all that time, go take a nap. You deserve it.
And of course, since we’re in the business of loading our little darlings up with comprehensible input, knock yourself out and narrate this in your target language!
To use: Draw a card, assess them (more on that below) and write their grade on the card next to the corresponding skill. (Speaking grades next to the S, Listening grades next to L and you guessed it, Reading grades next to R!)
A = Excellently responding or translating perfectly or nearly perfectly.
B = Almost! Pretty good! They needed a bit of help, but they got there.
C = Not quite, not really, needed more help to get there or didn’t understand/ couldn’t translate but tried, got part of it.
D = I haven’t given any D’s yet…I mean, they have to be really off in left field…but I suppose if you want to give a D for a kiddo who is showing that they really don’t understand, have no clue, and not comprehending anything you say, yep, that would be a D.
X= When you call on a kid and they’re off in La La Land… and they need to hear the question again. I don’t factor this into their grade, but I do like to keep track of how many times I called a kid and they we not with us. After I repeat the question, they earn their letter score next to the X.
Then, every 6 weeks (because our report cards go out every 6 weeks!) enter the grades into the grade book. I enter 3 separate grades: Oral Participation Grade, Listening Participation Grade and Reading Participation Grade. I make it worth 10 points and just eyeball it. If they’ve got all As- I give them 9.5 or 10. If they’ve got mostly A’s and a B, it’s a 9.2, all Bs is a 8.5, Mostly Bs with a C is a 8 or so… It’s not very scientific. Just look at their grades for that skill and give them the average. Then draw a line below it and start again for the next grading period. Note: these are not the ONLY grades they get in the grade book! They’ve also got some listening and reading quizzes and some quick writes too!
Here are some examples below….see the lines? That’s dividing the 1st 6 week grading period from the 2nd grading period.
This kiddo below hasn’t been assessed in listening yet this grading period… I’ll be sure to pull his card up sometime before grades are due again.
So what kinds of things are they doing to demonstrate these skills?
Speaking Participation Grades I don’t think it’s fair for my brand new Spanish 1 babies to have speaking grades at the beginning of the year! But since we decided as a department that we would give Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing grades…I needed a way to assess their speaking in a low stress way. In my 1’s, we’ve been doing the basic questions and I ask a few questions every class: ¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo te llamas? ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? ¿Qué tiempo hace? And then give them TWO grades, one for listening (did they understand my question) and another for responding. Easy peasy and low stress! We do this so often that kids don’t even bat an eye, they’re used to it and it doesn’t stress them out. No more speaking tests in Level 1! Hallelujah!!! Use them during story telling. Use them to talk about their weekends. Use them for shooting the breeze.
Listening Participation Grades: In addition to the listening grades mentioned above, I use them for quick translations. During story listening or story telling or Special Person Interviews or when I’m just chatting with the class, I’ll pull a card and ask “What are we talking about?” or “What did we just learn about…” They respond in English and they get a listening grade. Who knew grading could be so easy!
Reading Participation Grades: When we’re reading a story together on the screen (maybe after we just Wrote and Discussed something) I’ll ask them to read and translate with their partner, then I’ll call cards and ask them to translate a sentence. Give them a quick grade, then ask the next kid to translate the next sentence. (I like to give them the chance to work it though with their buddy first and have the chance to ask about any unfamiliar words first before I call for the grade). I also use these cards to ask kids about the novel they’re reading when we debrief after Free Reading I ask them about their books and give them a grade based on how well they’re understanding what they’re reading. In my level 4 class I give them the option: they can answer in English for a Reading Grade or they can answer in Spanish and earn Reading AND Speaking grades.
A few final thoughts and a confession: Shhhhhhh! I don’t really draw the cards randomly…as I’m asking questions I’m shuffling and looking at the cards. I’m looking to see who doesn’t have a Speaking grade (or Reading or whatever we’re doing) and I’m thinking about a question that I’m pretty sure that kid can get an A on. (Hey, that’s differentiation! And I don’t like to embarrass my little darlings… I want them to feel like Spanish Rock Stars!) And if I don’t have a grade for a particular skill for that kid during the 6 week grading period, no problem. I just exempt that grade and make sure I call on him more in the next 6 weeks.
And that’s all folks!