It took a solid week of answering questions, sharing the vision, and setting expectations, but finally we were able to get to work this past week.
Every day this week (with the exception of our reading day), students entered the room, did a quick write, filled out our class task log with their goal for the day, and worked until the bell rang.
A few students chose to use these days to read. Others worked on a variety of pieces from poetry to article responses, from short stories to memoirs. All of them worked.
Tomorrow is Back to School Night, a time when parents are invited to follow their child’s schedule and visit each classroom for five minutes before zipping through the halls to the next class. I already sent a letter home explaining the changes to my classroom this year, but I’m anticipating plenty of skeptical parents arriving with an arsenal of questions.
In fact, through the grapevine I heard one mom, upon hearing her son’s excitement about not having grading, responded with, “But if you don’t get grades, how do you know how you’re doing?”
To prepare for their questions, I wanted a shield of data. As part of our first week’s reflection, I asked the students how many pages they had written this week and how many they had read. The results were shocking.
Not too long ago, I used to be a 4×4 teacher, meaning students wrote one major writing piece (2-4 pages) per quarter and read one major novel (300 pages) per quarter. I’m embarrassed now to think how little students accomplished in 9 weeks.
This year, I’ve removed grades and added more choice than ever before. Here’s a look at ONE week:
In one week, half my students read 80 or more pages! How many adults can say this?
In the same week, nearly 40% wrote seven pages or more! A whopping 71% wrote at least four pages! I am thrilled to see this much thinking happening in my room!
While I am excited with these initial results, there’s still plenty of room for me to work. For one, I need to dig into the results even further, because ideally the kid who has read the least has perhaps written the most to balance things out. However, it would be unwise to assume as much.
Similarly, I need to have one-on-one conversation with the kids who aren’t thriving in this environment and help work through any obstacles standing in the way of success.
I asked kids how they can be more productive in class or at least maintain their current level of productivity. By far and away the biggest response was to plan ahead what they would be working on, or to brainstorm writing topics outside of class so they would be ready in class. Now we just need to find some tools to make this a reality.
Read more about my journey in my previous posts: