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Grading Classroom Talk

In a first-person piece we published yesterday, Kyle Redford contends that teachers should give students a grade for oral expression, just as they do for written expression. While "assigning concrete values to conversation is less tidy and more challenging than assessing written work," she writes, doing so gives students who struggle with writing a chance to demonstrate—and be compensated for—their understanding. In addition, she continues, "much of what students are asked to do once they leave school hinges on their ability to express themselves in conversations. Shouldn't we give them credit for developing and deploying that skill in school?"

By happy coincidence, teacher Ariel Sacks, who wrote a story in our recent Teacher PD Sourcebook), has a new post up on her blog about a tool she recently designed to make it easier for her to tabulate student participation. Sacks says that she's struggled over the years with calculating these kinds of grades. "I have experimented with rubrics for students to fill out for themselves, or ways for them to track their participation grades daily or weekly," she writes. "I've tried ditching it altogether and just grading students for distinct speaking activities."

Her new tool allows students to use a visual continuum to give themselves a score (0-100) in two main categories—contributions and conduct—and average the numbers. Sacks signs off on the grade or makes adjustments as needed. So far, she's happy with the results and has found students' self-evaluations to be "quite honest and accurate."

Do you agree with Redford and Sacks that it's important to give grades for oral expression? Why or why not? Do you give such grades? If so, what kind of measurement tool do you use?

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