Rubrics and #Langchat

This week, the #langchat topic was rubrics: the difficulties in creating/finding them, the struggles we have when implementing a (new) rubric, the best ways to create and use a rubric, etc. I missed Thursday’s session, but read through the tweets during Friday morning graduation testing. I came away with lots of good resources and made sure to make it to the Saturday Sequel this morning so that I could get in on the conversation, too.

As we were wrapping up and sharing takeaways, @Nico1e mentioned that she has started blogging her takeaways as a way to help digest what she learned and help it stick in her memory. I thought this was an awesome idea, so here goes.

This year I have happily used Sara-Elizabeth’s new rubric to assess students. I have also used Martina Bex’s Free Write Forms regularly. Truly, these are both excellent resources that I highly recommend. However, as I approach the summer and a planned curriculum overhaul, I’m thinking about what I want – what my students and I need – out of rubrics, so today’s #langchat was excellent. So, while I think I’m probably going to keep these wonderful resources as a base, I might do a little tweaking. Here are my takeaways from this morning’s langchat:

  • I find myself marking “between” categories a lot. It’s possible that this reflects my own lack of confidence in knowing where one proficiency sub-level ends and the next begins (something else I plan to work on this summer). However, as I reflect on this practice, I realize that it might be confusing for students. If and when I do this, I should probably also highlight the things from each category that are pulling me both ways (ie. You use somewhat limited vocabulary here, but you also strung basic sentences together in a logical order).
  • Sometimes, the first assessment in the pile and the last one get graded a little differently. Again, some of this probably comes from my fuzziness on the categories. However, I might also be able to do some rubric tweaking that will help me here.
  • I need an area for student self-reflection, at least for IPA rubrics. Sara-Elizabeth’s rubric has this section, and I have been blown away by students’ self-awareness this year. I also want to implement specific goal-setting. Some students do this naturally in the reflection area, but some do not. This could be on the actual rubric as part of their reflection, or it could be a separate activity either after an assessment or at the beginning of a unit. (Laura Sexton has blogged a few times about a student goal-setting project that I definitely want to try.) Either way, somehow, I need to make kids more accountable for their learning, and what better way to do that than to let them decide what they want to learn and be able to do? I’m also going to be surveying the kids who are signed up for Spanish 2 & 3 for next year about what units I should plan.
  • I need to use the “teacher feedback” area more effectively. I’m thinking about rearranging it a bit so that it has two sections: what went well, and what to try for next time. That way, I’ll be pushed to give meaningful and helpful feedback to students of all abilities – even the ones who are performing at the top of the class and who are amazing me with their abilities.
  • I want to let students practice assessing work so that they can see how the rubric works and what I expect. An additional benefit here is that, if there’s something about the rubric that is confusing kids or making them unsure about where something falls, then it’s probably also an area that needs more concrete language and less gray area for me when I grade, too.

Which brings me to what I’m thinking now: concrete language. The proficiency guidelines are great, but I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that sometimes there is fuzziness. I need to know (and outline) what is non-negotiable for each proficiency level (is there anything?). Tweaking the language here (if indeed I end up doing so) might just be an outgrowth of my own learning – if I’m going to try to make the language more concrete, then I sure had better know exactly what goes where, which is going to require me to get more comfortable with the proficiency level descriptors. It’s really all one big issue and I could talk in circles about it all day until I get it straight, but hopefully you get the idea.

The last takeaway I had from this morning was when Colleen mentioned that she shows grades online as descriptors of how well students are meeting expectations and the program her school uses translates that into a percent grade behind the scenes. What a great idea! I know the program that my school uses has more options than I’m currently using, so I’m definitely going to see if there’s a way I can do something like this! If I could personalize the settings to show proficiency levels as “grades” and kids would never have to see a letter or a number except on report cards…sounds like a great way to encourage a focus on proficiency to me!

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