Sometimes our biggest challenges aren’t teaching concepts or content, but teaching kids to rethink what’s common sense to them.
For example: when students hit “submit” and send their written work off into cyberspace to be graded by me, it gets crossed off their things-to-do list. They stop caring about the assignment, move on to worrying about their weekend plans and sports games, and wait (not-so) patiently for a grade with some feedback on what to do next time.
Lisa and Amy have commented before on the importance of feedback over grades. Give the students feedback that they can act upon rather than a grade that’s fixed and gone. My own struggle here has always been incentivizing students to act upon feedback and remind them that … yes … if you are able to improve your piece, you’ll receive a higher grade.
Enter…. my ghost grade policy.
Once every major writing project, students are able to submit work by an early deadline to receive additional feedback and what I call a “ghost” grade. A ghost grade is a rough draft grade the way a rough draft of writing is a rough draft of writing. It’s a guaranteed minimum final grade, and the only direction it can go is up.
My students enjoy seeing their ghost grades for three reasons, and they wrote to me about how much they enjoyed getting ghost grades. First, it’s validation of the work they have already completed. Second, it gives them a preview of that anxiety-inducing moment when they see their final grades. Third, it puts the ball back in their courts. Want to see a higher final grade? It’s time to get back to work in writing and revising.
On my end, I struggle with grading and feedback to all students twice on a single project. If I commit to ghost grades, I am also committing to reading and reviewing work quickly — as in, submit your work by Friday, feedback by Monday. I have experimented with modifying ghost grades — for example, if you want a ghost grade, you must also come and see me during the extra help schedule block.
Ghost grades, like student work, are a work in progress and subject to revision.
How do you help students see the value of the revision process? Do you have suggestions for how I can revise my ghost grades to work well for me and for my students?
Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in New York and a 2016 recipient of the NCTE Gallo Grant. Follow her on twitter at @HMX_MsE.