Grading Categories

Grade categories are a system in which specific assignments count for specific weights. In this blog post, I am going to discuss my philosophies on grade categories and grading policies.

In traditional classrooms, the following categories are typically given:

  • Participation
  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Quizzes
  • Tests/Projects
  • Final Exams

Participation is the category that mentor teachers have told me somewhat implicitly is the place where you can “get” the students who cause you problems throughout the marking period. I tend not to include a participation grade because students learn in different ways. Note that I do not encourage learning styles, as they’ve been shown to not be styles but preferences. This is a myth that I’ve heard about way too many times at professional development workshops.

Classwork and homework only indicate where any body of work is completed; it doesn’t say what kind of actual work is being done. I tend not to categorize work as classwork or homework for this reason, nor do I actually give additional homework. Any work students are required to do at home is work they’ve already started in the classroom.

Before I go into what my grading categories are, I should say that in my district, we use the Teacher’s College Readers and Writers Workshop with the TC provided Units of Study. A common criticism of this curriculum and workshop demonstrations is that there don’t seem to be many grading opportunities. What I’ve worked out is unique to my classroom and works in conjunction with the workshop model.

Instead of location-based grading categories, I’ve broken my class’ work down into more intuitive categories that illustrate the kind of work being done:

  • Cumulative Workshop Assessments (50%)
    • Preparation (20%): This includes work that students do on a day-to-day basis that leads up to a larger writing piece. Final Product (30%): This is the culminating piece of writing that is completed during a unit.
  • Independent Reading Work (30%): This is broken up into three assignments per marking period that reflect the independent reading work students have done. In the past, this was called an Independent Reading Checkpoint. Each checkpoint had a series of questions that had to be answered with textual evidence to prove active independent reading and to monitor student reading growth. However, I am rethinking my approach to this.
  • Vocabulary (15%): We use vocabulary.com for this. The subcategories are tailored toward the website’s interface.
    • Mastery 4%
    • Percent Correct 5%
    • Quiz 6%
  • District Assessments (5%)

Thus, instead of me saying to a parent, “Johnathan isn’t doing his homework,” I can say, “Johnathan is struggling with his vocabulary work, specifically his percent correct, which scores how many questions they get right and how many times it takes him to get a question right.”

I’ve found that grading categories like these are a lot more informative than more traditional titles. However, I do think that we put too much weight on grades to begin with. Ideally, there wouldn’t be grades at all, as single percentages don’t indicate growth. I’ll write more about that in another post though.

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