Holding students accountable for their one learning is a crucial part of creating successful learners. Students should be taught responsibility from a very young age, and should also reflect on their learning throughout the day. You've often seen the scales or rubrics asking students to rate themselves on a particular learning goal or objective. I love using scales when informally assessing students. However, I've also created a Weekly Self-Reflection for students to complete (or teachers if the students are too young) to be sent home each week.
Let me show you why this works for me.
First of all, I found myself drowning in paperwork, especially reading work. Each week, my fifth graders have a myriad of assignments to complete during Literature Group time. When they aren't meeting with me or their Literature Circle, they are working on their "Reading Menu" of activities. These include activities pulled from CCSS, and supplementals from Time for Kids magazine for nonfiction exposure. This menu of activities can't always be completed in one sitting, especially on the days when they are meeting with their Literature Circle. They just don't all have the same amount of time each day to complete assignments. I felt it a challenge to know when to collect work from students, and when to allow them more time as needed. Now, I assign work on Mondays, and it is due each Friday. This way students have time to complete their "seat work" at their own pace, take home as needed, and not feel overwhelmed and rush through a particular assignment. It's also easier for me to collect all of their reading work once a week. Then I can do a quick check to see who happens to have "lost" something, or is missing an assignment.
More on how I collect their work in a minute.
Secondly, Spelling Test/Reflection-all-on-one. Each Friday, before they turn in all of their completed assignments for reading ( I also collect spelling and writing homework for the week on Fridays,) we take our spelling test using the template below. Students partner-check by signing their name next to the heart on the bottom of the page. I tell students that I have the deciding say, but they preview their partner's words and save me a lot of time in the process! Students enjoy knowing their grade before they leave on Friday, but I still keep their Spelling Test until Monday so that I may enter grades on Friday afternoons (or Monday mornings - eek). On the back of the spelling test, I like to create a weekly math quiz as well. These are formative in nature and help me tremendously as I plan for the following week. The quiz is usually no more than four or five questions and is a cinch to grade.
As they finish up their test, they know to silently begin to gather the week's work from their ongoing-work folders inside their desks. This always includes their homework in spelling and writing, menu of activities, and usually a math investigation or writing piece worked on in-class that they need to wrap up for me. I like to sequence the activities on the board for them in a list, which makes it even easier to flip through really quickly to see what is missing.
Before they hand in their work to me, they complete the right side of the page. This is their academic and behavioral self-reflection. When I taught younger grades, I alternated between self-reflections and teacher reflections. This weekly progress report goes home with the students on Monday, is signed by parents, and is returned by Wednesdays. Students know to be honest about what work they are missing and/or did not complete (such as a chapter in their Literature Group book, or missing spelling homework). They also rate themselves behaviorally on a 1-4 scale. I always tell them to aim for a 3 on the scale, and using my classroom management system (similar to clip chart but with fewer colors), they also know if they earned less than a 3. Again, it's great to hold students accountable for their own learning and behavior. Additionally, I have the opportunity to check in with students as we reflect on the week together.
Okay, how to collect. After all of their work is gathered together, I pass out their blue Parent Folders, and they file all of their work into their folder and into their mailboxes as seen below - they don't even hand anything to me. I know what you're thinking, they are "cubbies", but we prefer to use the more upper elementary lingo. Here's the most exciting part- my mailboxes are in alphabetical order! This means that students file their folders, and immediately I know who is missing something (as in, their mailbox is empty). I can now grab their folders out of their mailboxes, take them home to grade over the weekend, and enter grades easier since it's already organized by name.
Of course, there are always students who move or are enrolled after the school year starts, so my mailboxes are never perfectly alphabetized. But they are close.
These mailboxes are paper organizers from an office supply store. They are sold in stacks of eight, so I need four bundles. Then I clip them together using binder clips to keep them in place and label them with their names. These last a few years before I need to replace them.
After I grade all of the work and add in comments on their Weekly Reflection, I file their folders back into their mailboxes on Mondays for the students to get at the end of each Monday, along with the spelling and writing homework for that week, which is also filed in their mailbox. One of my classroom jobs is Mailperson, so they file fliers, graded work, and folders for me as needed.
Here are a couple of examples of what the Parent Folder looks like after I've graded the work. Now it is ready to be entered into my grade book and filed back into their mailbox for students to get at the end of the day.
These folders are sent home, graded with any comments or missing assignments on Mondays. The Weekly Reflection is signed by Wednesday and returned with the folder. Then the process starts all again! It takes a few weeks to train the parents and students, but it really does seem to be a worthwhile way of managing the massive amounts of work that come onto my desk. Plus, it's nice to kick back and grade while watching boobtube, or sitting on the back patio while my boys play in the yard.
If you'd like a copy of the Weekly Reflection to use in your classroom, click on any of the pictures or on the link to my store to download yours!