The online grade-book with which I am saddled -- Infinite Campus -- has spaces for both grades and comments. This week, our second back from summer, I wondered:
What if I lean extra hard on the comment box as a feedback repository and only use the grade box for either a symbol indicating a task has been turned in for my review or it is missing? What if comments spotlight both strengths I notice and moves to improve the quality of the work so far? (What if my Twitter training actually helps me satisfy the character constraints in the comment field?)
What if I bounce this idea off my principal, and she sounds supportive?
What if middle schoolers and I dialogue periodically to agree on a grade reflecting as best we can their self-assessments of their work and the growth they see (or lack thereof) via our ongoing feedback loops? Grades still play, after all, particularly when formal progress-report season comes around.
What if I'm pleased by several students rising to the initial comment bait, adding quality pieces to their work (responsible citations, say) or completing incomplete tasks? What if I try this with some kind of new-fangled test rather than a low-stakes summer reading assignment?
What if some of these students aren't yet intrinsically motivated, but going round and round until they grab a gold grade ring?
What if I describe this approach to parents next week at Back to School Night? What if they later come looking for comforting grade symbols and become antsy when they find uncomfortably messy comments?
What if I'm curious to explore the possibilities of these what-ifs?