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Keeping Current or Becoming a Lifelong Learner!

November 18, 2011

Initially the title of today’s post was to be Effective Grading Practices. Then I realized that my focus wasn’t just grading but the absolute necessity for all educators to continually examine and reexamine their teaching practice. Just because a practice seemed to work for me in the past or just because my teachers taught this way when I was a student is not enough evidence to support any of our teaching practices. It is our professional responsibility to read current literature, current research, and continually challenge our professional beliefs….not just for our professional growth but for the well-being of our students.

This blog post is based on the most recent issue of Educational Leadership (November 2011),  a publication of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). I have often advised new teachers, to read this journal. I find it a rich resource for educators. A preview of the current issue is available online for non-members.

The theme for this month’s issue is a timely and important topic, Effective Grading Practices. I highly recommend this issue for both new and experienced teachers. You might want to share it with your colleagues.  I was so excited when it arrived in my mailbox and have thoroughly enjoyed the many perspectives that are shared. The articles included explore topics such as:

  • Grading Reform
  • The Case Against Grades
  • Reporting Student Learning
  • Homework
  • Redos and Retakes
  • Student Friendly Tests
  • And much more

The authors are highly respected authorities on grading and assessment. They are also some of my favorite authors: Susan Brookhart, Thomas Guskey, Rick Wormeli, Alfie Kohn, Robert Marzano, Ken O’Connor, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Ian Pumpian, Cathy Vatterott, Douglas Reeves and Carol Ann Tomlinson. I highly recommend this issue for all educators to read.

I especially enjoyed the article, Making Homework Central to Learning by Cathy Vatterott (60-64). Do you fully understand the purpose of the homework you assign? Is it time to re-evaluate the way you use homework in your classroom?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the homework I assign?
  • If you are assigning a certain number of minutes of homework each evening, what is your goal?
  • Do you want to be the teacher who always gives homework to demonstrate that your classroom has high expectations?
  • Do you want that reputation as the “Homework King/Queen” of your school?
  • Is homework for a grade?
  • Is homework for practice?
  • Can students receive sufficient practice with a smaller amount of work?
  • Are you differentiating your assignments?
  • Should parents help with homework?
  • How much help should parents give?
  • What if the parent or caregiver works in the evenings and can’t always help?
  • Am I giving homework to teach responsibility or to teach the content?
  • Should I give feedback on all homework?
  • How do the parents feel about homework?
  • Is homework causing stress for students and parents?

Determine your philosophy and decide how it connects to your school’s philosophy? It is imperative that you evaluate your practice and determine the goals and purpose of all homework you assign.

In Chapter 3 of our book from From Surviving to Thriving: Mastering the Art of the Elementary Classroom, we suggest providing opportunities to partner with parents by assigning family homework that connects to real life situations.

Family homework provides real life situations for students to apply concepts and skills they are learning at school. These types of assignments are designed to be integrated into a family’s weekly routine. It involves parents in their children’s education. Create a monthly calendar of family homework assignments that connect to current class curriculum.

Remember that reflection and learning are ongoing activities for Master Teachers!

Have a good week.




Ideas  for Family Homework

  • Math-Plan a food budget or have students measure the ingredients for a recipe.
  • Social Studies – Research your family tree, and create a diagram to share with the class or research the history of your neighborhood and local area or volunteer together at a local organization.
  • Science-Make a recycle plan for your home and keep records of your progress.
  • Literacy-Read and discuss the newspaper together (hardcopy or online) or have students read or retell a story.
  • These ideas and other family projects can be found in our book, From SURVIVING to THRIVING: Mastering the Art of the Elementary Classroom.

Resources for Family Homework

More Online Reading

Check out these ASCD resources (available to non-members) for you professional development needs.

Lesson Resource of the Week

Did you know Nov. 13-19 is Geography Awareness Week?

National Geographic Education – Geography Awareness Week Program (Downloads, Activities, Lesson Plans)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Adrienne Nerad permalink
    November 21, 2011 7:40 am

    Linda, thank you for sharing these resources. I would also like to add tow articles to read that deal with grading students with special needs.

    rading Students with Disabilities by Munk and Bursuck

    Teaching All Students – Meeting all Students Where They Are – Grading Students with Disabilities

  2. Lisa P. permalink
    November 18, 2011 3:03 pm

    Interesting that you choose to highlight the current issue of Ed. Leadership. When it arrived, I put it aside as I knew it would be one I would want to read. I keep it in my car for when I have an extra few minutes. It will travel with me at Thanksgiving time. Like you, I was impressed with the authors–a lot of names I recognized. I look forward to receiving the blog updates. WIll read. Lisa


  1. Follow-Up on the Issue of Homework | From Surviving to Thriving

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