Last school year I switched districts and entered a community of teachers who’d been working with Standards-Based Grading (SBG) for quite some time. Previously, I had considered myself a SBG teacher and touted the fact to anyone who’d listen; however, after arriving in my new district I was confused. I knew I wanted my kids to UNDERSTAND Spanish but I didn’t know how to break that down into levels for them when being TPRS/story-based. Before all the comprehension assessments for TPRS/CI that I’d seen were T/F, multiple choice… the normal stuff. I was still grading by percentages which I then had broken into level 1 (49% or lower), level 2 (50%-69%), level 3 (70%-89%), level 4 (90%-100%). However, I’d get frustrated at the questions students would miss and students didn’t know what they HAD to be able to do in order to receive each level. So I asked my students who in the building made SBG understandable for them. Their answer? The advanced math teacher.
The math teacher informed me she chunks her tests into levels. If a student only wants to earn a level 2 and they’re OK with only that level they only answer the questions in the level 2 section. (Now, this does mean if a student only completes level 2 but insufficiently they will receive a 1 and have to retake the assessment). If a student wants a level 3 they need to answer levels 2 & 3. A student desiring level 4 would do all 4 sections. I hashed it out with the math teacher about what this might look like in my class for my input (reading/listening) assessments and here’s what I came up with:
- Level 0 – no attempt made.
- Level 1 – at least attempted the assessment.
- Level 2 – can answer T/F, yes/no statements about what they have read or listened to. For reading assessments, students have to highlight and label where they find the answer for this section only. For listening assessments, students have to justify (i.e., write the correct version) below the statement for this section only.
- Level 3 – can answer who, what, when, where kinds of questions about what they have read or listened to.
- Level 4 – can answer how, why kinds of questions about what they have read or listened to.
So what does that look like?
Here’s an example (which is the first reading assessment in Spanish 1):
Some logistics about how I write these:
- The vocabulary chunks that we had studied/learned for the assessment in the example were: (a) el hombre tiene un problema; (b) la mujer quiere un diamante; (c) él está feliz. I always add other vocabulary (often nouns like el chico/la chica, un animal/una persona, etc.) and I do stress the first and second person forms of the verbs from the beginning.
- Although we have many stories leading up to this, this is the first time students see this exact story. I think it’s essential that the story be brand new to them! This can be a challenge for me because I turn everything into a story – even when I TPR vocabulary in the first few days of a unit.
- I write two versions of this test from the very beginning. I think levels 2+3 are important so these sections cover the same content. So for example, if Version A says “True or False: María is a girl” then the Version B test will have one that says “What is María?”. Another example is if Version A asks “Where does Billy eat his dinner?” then Version B will ask one similar to “True or False: Billy eats dinner on the couch.” My level 4 questions depend on the story. If I can write multiple how and why questions than they are different. If I can only justify one or two on the story then both versions get those questions.
- IF I don’t write two different versions, I’ve employed the following tricks to convince my students they’re different (because wondering eyes ARE a problem in my deskless classroom!): print the test in two different colors, write Versión A on one and Versión B on another, or change the fonts so it looks different.
- Confession: I don’t actually know if the questions I write justify 70% comprehensibility or if levels 2+3 would be considered 80% of the text… but it’s what’s on my syllabus so I put it on there.
- I write questions in English in the beginning to assess if students truly understand the text they’re reading. It a pretty common belief in the TPRS/CI world to do this, but I do begin to move students to Spanish questions with Spanish answers as we progress.
- Listening assessments would be a similar story but students do not have the script in front of them. I do write the listening questions in English and in order by level. That means all level 2 questions are in order, all level 3 in are in order, etc., but if a student wants a level 3 they will have to go between levels 2 and 3 while they listen.
- Students decide which level they want to shoot for. If they want level 4 then they attempt all levels, but if they’re OK with a level 2 then that’s all they do. Once in a while I’ve had a kid only do level 2 questions and miss too many to qualify. This happened 3 times in the first semester between 6 official assessments for 85 kids. Yes these kids get to reassess if this happens to them. I do not have Quarter 2 data because I was on maternity leave.
- My rule is students MUST attempt (and genuinely!) the standard if they want to reassess. I do not allow students to show up and just not do anything. I did not have any problems with this in quarter 1.
Hopefully this helps someone out there!