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by Erica Fischer on Aug 19, 2015

#Langchat is back in session: Start grading off on the right foot this year!

Welcome back to school … and to #langchat! Last week, participants got right down to business, eagerly jumping into a chat about grades. They discussed how to make an imposed grading system work for you. Langchatters also shared their views on what activities deserve a grade and considered ways to assign a number grade to a performance assessment. Lastly, participants shared how they respond to missed days, skipped assignments, and students who don’t turn things in. The first chat of the new year welcomed a mix of new and familiar faces, all of whom helped to start #langchat off with a bang!

Thank you to all of our fabulous participants and to last Thursday’s moderating team: Laura (@SraSpanglish), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Kris (@KrisClimer), John (@CadenaSensei), and Cristy (@msfrenchteach)!

Question 1: If you work with an imposed grading system, how does your personal practice fit?

For some fortunate instructors, making an imposed grading system work isn’t too difficult. @doriecp wrote, “I’m lucky that my imposed grading matches my philosophy. District grading is aligned with [ACTFL] proficiency guidelines.” For others, it can be more challenging to uphold personal grading preferences. @caraluna34 wrote, “As I move more and more to proficiency, the harder it is. The [students] are very grade motivated. [Are they level] motivated? Maybe…” Several participants assign letter or number grades to levels in their preferred rubrics in an attempt to appease stakeholders while offering ample descriptive feedback. @ProfeCochran suggested that instructors “assign traditional grades to [their] rubric [in an effort to] educate all parties involved.” @Senora_Miller wrote, “Until our district switched to [standard-based] grades, I would assign a percentage to my 1-4 standard scores and average them.” @SECottrell added, “[My] new rubric uses + and – [signs] on [novice mid], [novice high,] etc. to help teachers decide where to move the number grade.” Some participants shared examples of progress reports with score conversions. @Sralandes posted an “[editable unit-based] progress chart with letter grade conversion:,” and @RobuPrice shared “an example of how to convert a rubric to a score:”

Question 2: What activities in your class “deserve” a grade?

Langchatters described a variety of grading practices. Some participants grade most everything, but only check off on homework. For example, @magisterb480 grades “[progress] checks, some classwork, quizzes, tests, [and] projects.” He added, “[If] I do assign [homework,] it’s usually just checked for completion.” @mrsbolanos wrote, “I grade all [presentational], interpersonal, [and] interpretive [modes]–points vary depending on [the] task.” Some instructors like to keep students on their toes, uncertain about what will be graded each week. @jullmann1 said, “I usually grade [a] couple [of] activities a week but don’t tell students which ones, that way they do everything.” Others aim to have a specific number of grades in a given time frame, either due to district requirements or by choice. @CadenaSensei wrote, “In practice, I shoot for 12 [to] 15 grades per [nine weeks] (including summatives) to keep other stakeholders satisfied.”

Some participants felt that big growth benchmarks are most deserving of a grade. @ProfeCochran only gives grades for “the ‘trophy’ activities!,” commenting, “Athletes get trophies for winning the championship, not [for] practice.” @SrCrowell also grades “activities that provide evidence of growth.” Along the same lines, @rlgrandis wrote, “Completion grades [are] only [weighted] 5 [percent in my class]. I want to grade [students’] language skills, not whether they had time to complete homework.”

Lastly, some Langchatters observed the importance of redo’s for mastery, expressing their view of learning as an on-going process. @KrisClimer said, “I’m big on feedback. [I grade] lots of things but allow [for redo’s and] reassessments on EVERYTHING [except finals].” @Sralandes agreed that “we need to constantly reassess for mastery,” adding, “Learning doesn’t end with one test.” This observation prompted @French_Quest to change course structure: “That’s part of why I did away with ‘units.’ [Students] saw them as having an ‘end.’” Instead, this instructor commented, “My [students] never saw a letter [or] number all year until [the] final mark on [their] report. They didn’t miss them!”

Question 3: How do you assign a number grade to a performance assessment?

Instructors acknowledged the difficulty of assigning a number or percentage to a performance assessment. @GCSpanish1 wrote, “This fall I’m not putting [percentages] on [students’] work–only feedback, but I know eventually it has to go in grade book as [a percentage].” @ProfeCochran is also aware of this challenge, writing, “[Although] virtually impossible, you have to find your target [and] assign a percentage to it. I like to leave room at the top, too.” @MmeFarab described her rubrics, which incorporate both feedback and traditional grades: “This year I’m using a rubric that gives a traditional rubric [number], a descriptor of [students’] performance at that level, and the [percentage].” Some instructors described their method of translating a proficiency level into a grade. @SraWienhold said, “[My] performance assessments have a proficiency level goal. [For example, novice-high is an A, novice-mid is a B,] etc.” @SECottrell detailed her own system: “[Meeting] expectations is a B; if [a student] wants an A she has to exceed expectations … [So the] expectation is [novice high], [and if the] student scores [novice high] across [all] categories, this is 85 (our B was 80-89) … [If the] student scores [novice high] in 3 categories but [novice mid] in one, this is [an] 82, 83 … [If the] student scores [novice high] in 3 categories but [intermediate low] in one, this is [an] 88.”

Question 4: What do you do about missed days, skipped assignments, and students who don’t turn things in?

In response to mention of missed days, missing assignments, and skipped work, @caraluna34 wrote, “[It’s too] early for me to be thinking about those nightmares.” @CadenaSensei tries to remain calm, writing, “I try really hard not to stress over these things, and not stress [students] with absences over these things either. #justkeepteaching.” Langchatters shared their stance on giving students zeros and voiced their flexibility on deadlines.

Many participants expressed their thoughts on zeros. @mrsbolanos wrote, “I override [a] grade to an [incomplete] until the assessment is made up. No zero.” Similarly, @doriecp said, “I’m a ‘no 0’ kind of teacher. [It’s a] pain to grade, but [students] have unlimited opportunities to redo [work]. I care about proficiency not [a] grade.” @caraluna34 agreed, “Seriously, I put a zero in with what’s missing until it’s made up. I never let [students] get a zero on an assessment or [can-do].” @SECottrell likes to use zeros to scare students (and parents) into action: “I enter as a 0 immediately so [the] parent sees [their student’s] average DIE. Then [the student] must complete [the assignment] within three days, [in] class if necessary.” @bjillmoore suggested ‘catch up’ days: “[To] avoid headaches I factor in an occasional ‘catch up’ day with games or enrichment activities for those who are on target.”

In terms of deadlines on make-up work, @French_Quest wrote in favor of great flexibility, describing his classroom philosophy in the following terms: “Individualized paths. No deadlines. No homework. Missed days [are] no big deal. Everyone hands things in at [their] own pace.” @fabughoush gives “[no] grades for [late or missing homework, but allows] 2 weeks for a missing assessment [make-up].” On the topic of deadlines, @SraSpanglish wrote, “I’ve finally added a ‘within one week’ [make-up] provision (but [students] can always haggle with me!).” @SECottrell recognized that, “Life happens,” adding, “I let students be late on any two assignments for any reason, per quarter.”


If you’re still trying to figure out your grading system for the new school year, Langchatters have lots of thoughts to share! Participants suggested how to make an imposed grading system work for you and generated a discussion about activities that deserve a grade. Instructors also considered ways to assign a number grade to a performance assessment. Finally, participants shared their philosophy on addressing missed days, skipped assignments, and students who don’t turn things in.

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who contributed to the first #langchat of the new school year! #Langchat is officially back in session! We would like to wish everyone a wonderful start to the year, and we look forward to welcoming participants, both old and new. @KrisClimer shared info for those who’d like to get in on the conversation for the first time: “Want to join in on #langchat but not sure how? Check out this post by @CoLeeSensei:” Remember, now you can #langchat both Friday at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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