After going to Rick Wormeli’s conference on SBG, and after reading Tina’s post on Goal Setting, I was challenged to give my students the ability to grow on their own. In previous years I had participation points, but Rick convinced me of the “fluffiness” of those, so I’ve done away with them this year. However, I was convinced that students need to keep track of their practice habits and their own grade (without having to go online). So I created the practice log. See my Chemistry Practice log below:
Seemingly unrelated event: I got my first smartphone for my birthday at the start of the year. I use it to take pictures of students’ practice logs every 2 weeks so that I have a point of discussion with the students and (if necessary) with their parents. I try to tell them a few times a week “everyone take out your practice log and fill it in with anything you’ve done lately!” Students could lie and say they’re doing stuff when they’re not, but since it’s not for a grade, I don’t think that’s too big of a worry. Furthermore, it would be readily evident if they weren’t doing the thing they said they were doing (“So where’s this worksheet you claim to have completed?”) and it’s more for the students’ benefit (“You have been studying these types of things, let’s look at a more effective use of your time.”).
Since I’m (almost) following the nice and neat format of one standard a week, it’s a rhythm that, I think, students appreciate. It’s easy to know where we’re supposed to be and what you can be working on at this moment. Here are some examples of students’ practice logs 7 weeks in.
As you can see, some students are better about keeping up with their grades and practice than others. The “Pretest” and the “Checkup” are multiple choice quizzes that don’t affect a student’s grade. I leave my iPad on at the front of the classroom and they scan their little quarter-sheet of bubbles using GradeCam. Then the quizzes are 1, 2, or 3 (no, 2/3 isn’t 66%… one day I’ll blog about it), and I take the most recent grade. So their grade for each standard is at the very bottom of that column.
The hope is that this empowers students to take more control of their learning, but I can definitely get better at this. One thing I can do is talk with students individually more about their practice sheets. Or I could reference it in e-mails or phone-calls home. I do neither of these things. But the structure is there and the students are getting used to it–I just need to reach out now.
How do you empower students to take control of their own learning?
 These participation points were me giving a grade for effort alone. It obscures the grade that is supposed to represent how much knowledge & understanding the student possesses at any given time, which is one ideal of SBG.