I took a look at my gradebook at the end of last year. My tasks were all jumbled together and still classified in the traditional 4 language skills: reading, writing, listening. I had evolved to using descriptors instead of numbers, but nothing else had changed. I couldn’t easily tell you how proficient a student was in any particular skill – in part because the information wasn’t easy to find. It certainly did not reflect my journey down the proficiency path.
So this fall my colleague Connie and I decided that if we were implementing proficiency then we also needed to fully make the jump to modes. And if we were going to use modes of communication in class, our gradebook had to change as well. At the start of the year I put my new gradebook together with 4 separate pages: Interpersonal, Presentational, Interpretive and “Out Of Class Prep” (our take on what work at home really is). Doing this led to some revelations about my practice, some surprises and, ultimately, necessary changes.
Interpersonal – We set these tasks as anything requiring a possible negotiation of meaning between two (or more) students. Wow – if you had asked me BEFORE this I would have told you that this was the major part of my classes. That interpersonal exchanges were weighted the heaviest in my ‘gradebook’ and that this is what my class is built on. That my class was ‘full’ of evaluated interpersonal activities. And then I saw…not. While my students have a great deal of time to talk and interact, I found that I was completely lacking in feedback for these times. Absolutely none. Apparently the only Interpersonal up to this point that I have had is a summative oral. It was humbling to notice my lack of feedback. What I have learned from this is that I need to find ways for more formative feedback during interpersonal work time in class. And I also need to see if I can work in interpersonal written work (completely non-existent) as well.
Presentational – For us this meant any ‘one-way’ writing or speaking that required no negotiation of meaning. I learned that I have a lot of this one-way work in my classes – which I should. I learned that this is the main area where I provide feedback – and they get a lot of it. I liked that this ‘mode’ also made me reconsider the value in presentational speaking. Traditionally I have associated it with the ‘before the class’ speech (for example) but I added Flipgrid to allow them the chance to speak with me (and get feedback as well). What I learned from this is that there is more than one way to be in this mode – and I needed to find more variety in the opportunities that I offered.
Interpretive – For me this mode encompasses anything that requires them to show understanding. (I may not exactly line up with what ACTFL considers this task to be). This means it is, for me, anything from reading a piece and filling in a table/answering questions about it to listening to something at home or in class and completing a task based on that. And yes, gasp, for me this can even includes traditional workbook ‘listening’ exercises too. And of course there are still ‘summative’ evaluations too… What I learned is that this is my major go-to especially in my novices and that I did more of this than I thought. It also meant that I needed to add a ‘comprehension’ section to many of my created stories (many of which I just used to figure they would ‘get’) so that they could see that they did understand. I’ve also added more ‘at home’ opportunities to practice listening.
Out of Class – This used to be a huge component of my gradebook. The traditional ‘homework’ section. But when you switch to modes most of this is not needed. I learned that although they were prepping work outside of class time – even if they were, for example, coming up with 3 truths and a lie about what they did after school (for classmates to guess) it was indeed presentational writing. What I learned is that preparation is preparation in a particular mode. I had very few things in this category…which is a good thing.
And finally this move required me to shift how I ‘weight’ things in my gradebook. For me this is especially important for my novices. It means that, for them, more value is placed on Interpretive (35% now) than Interpersonal (now 30%) and Presentational (30%). Out of class is minimal but still key so it holds at 5%. As they move up in proficiency Interpretive will give way to more emphasis on Interpersonal work (once I add more feedback!)
Moving to modes has been a great way to really take stock of how I help students learn – and where I am supporting, or not, in the process. And ultimately this will make my classes a richer and more meaningful experience for students and myself.