This past weekend, I felt like rubrics and assessment criteria were the only friends I hung out with.  In fact, when I was done creating the rubrics I mentioned yesterday, I felt like all I was doing was categorizing observable behaviors into numerical categories for the sheer purpose of assessment.  And so when it came time to actually introduce these kid-friendly rubrics to the kids, I suddenly felt dumbfounded again.

I’ve mentioned how this group is squirrelly, and sometimes, it seems like they’re simply trying to do the exact opposite of what I asked.  Of course, all teachers know that’s not the case. In fact, when you really start to think, it becomes clear that all students want to succeed and that all students really are aiming to please.

Not only that, they’re looking to learn.

And so I went out on a limb and decided, what the hey, I’ll let them choose one of the four rubrics; I’ll let them decide their own fate.  I mean, who knows better about the level that is appropriate for them than the children themselves, right? Turns out that limb was the right one to go on, because, for the most part, they chose “just right.”

Immediately prior, I framed the conversation just as I would frame a conversation about choosing just-right books.

“You don’t want a rubric that’s too hard,” I said, “but you also don’t want one that’s too easy where you know everything.  You need one that’s just right.”

Talk about personalization.

Just minutes later, I walked around and watched my kids… get this… actually READING through the rubrics.  In fact, one student, in particular, told me, “Level A was WAY too easy, but I didn’t know anything from Level C.  I knew some of the stuff on Level B, so it seemed just right.”

The best part of all of it, though?  No one was ashamed to be on Level A, which they all knew was the least difficult out of all of them.  What does this prove?  I’m not quite sure, but I think, if nothing else, it’s at least one example of the power of giving students choice in their learning.  And as a self-proclaimed control freak, I know that I start to feel powerless when I have no choices.  I can only imagine that kids start to feel the same after a while.  In fact, in my experience, some children are so used to being devoid of choice in the classroom, that they forget they have a voice at all.

It is my hope that this rubric activity was just the first step towards creating a classroom culture where standards and assessment are valued, but student individuality, choice, and identity are respected and heard.  I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be an excellent way to marry rigorous academic curriculum with individual interests and needs, while still maintaining the structure that the Common Core provides. I also see this to be the first iteration of a great way to frame the curriculum to support students, while still allowing them to find themselves within the frame in order to shape the curriculum.  But most of all, I hope this creates a positive disposition towards the learning process in our students, that they not only find that structure and shape it accordingly, but that they feel good about doing it, too.

When we are able to choose, we’re empowered, and when we feel empowered, we feel optimistic to succeed.

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