Let me start by saying that I wasn't too intrigued by Chapter 4 of Learn Like A Pirate at first. The subtitle is Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. Yeah, I know about the difference, so let's just hurry on through this chapter so I can get to the next.
BUT, boy am I glad that I didn't just thumb through these pages.
Paul makes a bold statement "When students focus on grades rather than learning, extrinsic motivation drives their performance. In addition, their emotional well-being is often tied to those grades. Well-meaning parents then perpetuate the belief that grades matter above all else, because that was their school experience."
Friends! That just slapped us right in our faces!!! When we, as teachers and parents, praise or scold children for their letter/number grades, we are contributing to this HUGE problem of creating students who only care about the final result, not the journey or process! Students look to us for guidance and we're just reinforcing that A is better than C and 100 is the top of the tops. How in the world is Bobby or Katie going to feel when they get a D or 70???? The pits I tell ya, the pits!
Week 4 of LLAP book study has left me with some looming questions. Questions, I wish I could just sit down and discuss with Paul, himself.
He tells us to downplay grades (external motivation) and shift priority to personal improvement (internal motivation). His class DOES receive report cards, but Paul doesn't grade his students' work or projects and only gives a hand-full of tests/quizzes.
Okay Mr. Solarz, how in the world do you manage to get around those pesky requirements of having a certain number of grades in our grade book each quarter?
How do you "prove" to your administration that the grades on those report cards are truly indicative of your students' performance?
Let's move on: Paul offers us some great advice in how to provide A+ (disregard the grade association here) feedback to our students since giving numerical grades is going to drastically decrease.
1) Praise them! Let them know how proud you are of them for all their successes AND those mistakes. Even when they make mistakes, they took a risk and that's awesome!
2) Speak to students in a present or future tense. This allows them to see the feedback as constructive and they're able to change it next time.
Additionally, there are great tips on improving student behavior through Paul's 3-step management system (Warning, Behavior Point, Work-It-Out). I love how each step involves some sort of conferring with students, not just a dolling out of infractions and flipping of cards. I love the Work-It-Out think sheet idea!
How could I implement a Work-It-Out think sheet in Kindergarten? What might one look like?
It's so important to remember that "no mistake in class should cause tears" (thanks for that reminder, Paul).
As I continued reading, I found that even the statements about improving results and retention, independent thinking, and critical peer feedback were completely appropriate and applicable to younger learners. Tweak and adjust to fit their developmental levels and watch them become self-driven learners who know that the task is never truly finished and opportunities for improvement are just around the corner.