Reflection before report cards

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc
photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Last Thursday marked the end of the first trimester grading period.  After a few unit assessments, quizzes and special projects, my students are given a report card.  The report card splits into two categories: academic grades and behavior skills.  I tend to give my students their report card a few days before it’s actually sent home.  Once the reports cards are passed out I find that students focus only on the letter grade. Not the personal teacher comments, learning strands, checked boxes, but the letter grade is what gets the focus. Over the past few years I’ve challenged this type of thinking and laser-like focus on grades.  I’m slowly but surely moving my class towards a standards-based grading model, although the district requires teachers to use a traditional A-F model.

Before passing out the report cards this year, I gave my students an opportunity to journal about their math journey so far.  Math journaling has been a larger part of my teaching this school year. Students use math journals in my class to complete different types of math problems and for self-reflection.  I try to have the students journal approximately once every two weeks. During the journal time I turn off the lights in the classroom, turn on some music in the background and allow the students to go anywhere in the room to write up their response to the journal prompt. Some students stay at their desk while others find a hide-out in the corner of the room, on a comfy chair, or underneath a table.  As the year has progressed students are beginning to ask to have additional time to journal.

This year I gave each student their academic file before journaling. Enclosed in the file were all the past unit assessments and quizzes that took place during the first grading period.  Students were asked to analyze their own file and answer the questions below in their math journal.

  • What learning experiences stand out in your mind?
  • What do you feel are your strengths?
  • What would you consider a “growth” area for the next grading period?
  • What is one SMART goal that targets one growth area?
  • Create an illustration that matches any of the prompts above

After the students respond, I’ll review the responses and write short comments back to each student.  This does take some time, but definitely worthwhile.  I generally comment on their strength and ask questions that encourage students to reflect on their progress and growth areas.  This process also gives me an insight into what a particular student thinks and values.  By analyzing their own data, reflecting on progress made, and creating an action plan, I feel students are better prepared to take ownership of their own learning.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

3 thoughts on “Reflection before report cards”

  1. I find this really interesting, Matt. I am a big fan of assessing students beyond grades and I believe reflections are a great way to understand students and to also help them take control of their learning. Thanks for sharing this.


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