When I wrote last week about cheating with my no-grades classroom, I talked about how I was using narrative feedback (written and verbal) to communicate with students about their learning and how, for the most part, the revision part was not happening. I was reluctant to use our grading system to quantify student progress but tried a code of 2-1-0 to communicate to students the process of reviewing my feedback, reviewing concepts in preparation for revisions, and resubmitting their work for further feedback.
I decided to make time this week (and weekly from now on) for revision. Brilliant, eh? I had expected students to work through the learning process on their own, and did not adjust my teaching to make time and space for the most important part of learning –reading the feedback and revision.
Here is an overview of what we are now simply calling Revision Day:
- Set a goal for revision. Students look on our SIS system for what is going well (2s) and which areas need revision (1s and 0s). They then go to the assignment or writing piece and read my feedback. For example, if a student has a 1 in the narrative closing standard, he might see this in my narrative feedback: “I see that you have a closing for this narrative that ends the event. To improve this closing, however, you might consider why this event or memory was important to the person, why it has stayed with her, whether it has changed her in some way. Spend a bit of time thinking about that and check in with J. about her memory to see how you can make the closing more reflective.”
- Make a goal for the use of revision time. Students make a checklist on a sticky note or notes so that I can easily see what they are working on, and so that they can name what they need to review and revise.
- Research and review topic, techniques, skills. I have a board in the classroom with posters of techniques students are trying out that I can use to show and reteach certain skills quickly. I have links posted on the blog to powerpoints, websites,mentor texts, and examples.
- Revise.Students work on revisions.
- Confer with teachers. Students call over a teacher to confer about the changes and talk about next steps.
- Submit goal sheets. Students submit their goal sheets to me so that I can re-read their work and update the SIS system.
- Revise again or work on next strategy. I return the goal sheets to students who need further revisions making a time for us to meet or suggest next steps.
We worked through these steps for two Revision Days. The second day went much smoother. Imagine that! Once we worked through the process together, they understood it and used it for deeper learning.
The few days after our Revision Days, I noticed students logging on to their portfolios on the blogs and making revisions on their own. I also had students coming to me with little notes about their revisions, reminding me to move their 1s and 0s to 2s.
This is like grading, right? The numbers might as well be As and Bs. We did a quick debriefing of the process, and I asked students why we have Revision Days at all. Most of them responded as I had hoped, “So that we can actually learn this stuff” or “Because you care about our learning.” Yes, yes — all very nice. However, some were clearly driven by the numbers as I wrote last week: “Those 1s are freaking me out!”
Still, Revision Days made time for me to confer with students, reteach concepts, encourage next steps, and be explicit about the process of learning.
To be clear, these numbers don’t add up to any grade at this point. At the end of the quarter, students bring their evidence and self- assessment to a conference, and we negotiate that required end-of-term grade. The numbers and checklists cannot capture the thinking and understanding demonstrated in their work and in our conversations. The 2 means evidence of the standard, but it cannot capture the nuance of that learning, which I think is better evaluated during a conference where we can talk about intention and impact. The numbers and letters cannot contain the meaningful connections across and beyond these tasks/assignments or students’ wisdom, innovation, compassion, and the way their ideas shape and inform the understanding of their peers.