Grading Notebooks

You mean I’ve had a wonderful meal and now I have to wash the dishes? Sigh.

Many times I feel that way about grading my student notebooks.  I love the strategy, it helps me organize and ensure I include higher order thinking skills with each topic, but wow. Facing 100+ notebooks at the end of the week, is well, daunting.

I’ve tried many things over the years – grading every page with a “check” rubric, attempting to grade a week at a time, and last year grading a two page spread with a different rubric. About the only thing I haven’t tried is grading them at the end of a unit, which many interactive notebook users do. You can see different rubrics I’ve tried here.

I haven’t really been satisfied with any of it, except the notebooks themselves. So I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of my notebooks, because I believe purpose is important in assessment. My student’s notebooks become personalized textbooks through their notes and student assignments, and in many ways are working portfolios.

So, after much thought and reflection. I plan on trying something new this coming year.

I want their notes to be fairly low risk – after all, it is a skill and practice. It is formative – their questions/connections let me know how they are progressing, but it is not summative. There are supporters for not asssessing anything that is formative, but I teach fairly young children and I think we all like to know that our work “counts”. So I plan on giving a completion grade for their efforts each week and give them feedback on what they are doing well. I’m fairly satisfied with that for the “teacher side” – articles, questions, notes.

The right side, or student side assignments are different though. They do show me two things – each student’s understanding of the topic at that time, and how they are progressing with the types of right hand assignments. These are often new to my students, and initially some kids are not comfortable with them. I was thinking about what a portfolio is, and with a portfolio, a major focus is student selection of their best work.

Next year, I will have students select 1-2 right hand assignments a week for me to grade for content and quality. In my standards, the state defines “understanding” in social studies by “explain, compare, summarize”. I’m thinking of developing rubrics for each of those categories, and use them to assess not only the student’s understanding of the topic, but his or her progression on those skills.

So grading notebooks will look like this for me:

  • check the assignments for completion daily – in a perfect world I would do this with the child as I was circulating, but the ones I don’t I’ll check afterschool – making notes of anyone I need to speak to the next day.  (tip – when you are looking at one or two pages it is easy to have students turn in their notebooks open to that page) I would want to make sure if I didn’t get to visit with a child on Monday, that I would visit with them on Tuesday.
  • Have students select one or two student side assignments for me to check – I think I’ll use Thursday this year, that would allow me to meet with students on Friday. They would mark the page with a post it.

I think this will provide two things for my students – more timely feedback on what they are accomplishing daily, and more quality feedback on specific, self-selected assignments.

Those are my current thoughts, but like everything else about the notebook, you will need to figure out what works best for you and your students!


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