Friday, August 24, 2012

Three Ways I Grade ISNs

Improving how I grade ISNs is one of my goals for this year.  I think that grading them is important because I want kids to take them seriously.  I have a few different things that I did last year, but I'd like to improve upon them for this year.  I did three different things last year.

#1 Collecting Them

So this is the most typical way that I've heard that people grade ISNs.  Collect them and grade them. I've done this before using a rubric (which I no longer have unfortunately).

I like this way because it really holds the kids accountable for their books being complete.  I feel that the grade is a accurate representation of what they have in their ISN.  The problem, though, is the amount of time it takes to grade them.  It's just not something that I could do that frequently.  I have seen people use a stamp to help with this and I think that's a good idea so I plan to do that this year.  I need to find some more specifics of that idea though because I'm not 100% clear on how it works.

#2 Scavenger Hunt Quiz

This is like the opposite of collecting them because it's so easy to grade.  Before using ISNs, this was the way that I would usually check kid's notebooks. I like this way because it's easy, but I feel like their grade is not quite as representative of everything that is in their notebook.

#3 Open ISN Quizzes

Now this one might be a little stretch on grading their notebook, but I kinda group it in there.  When we are learning a new skill I like to give short 3-5 question pop quizzes every few days or so.  These take place as their do now and I let them use their ISN on the quiz.  They are being assessed not only on how well they know the skill, but on how well they are able to use their notebook as a reference guide.  I like this because ultimately my goal is not that the kids write down everything and have a complete notebook, but that they are actually able to use it.  Since the quizzes are unannounced, I hope that in encourages the kids to keep their notes up to date.

I also like these frequent quizzes because I want kids to stay up to date with their learning.  I don't like it when a kid doesn't realize they are struggling until after they fail the test.  Ideally homework would accomplish this type of self-assessment, but kids just don't take it seriously.  Grade-wise I don't count them for very much at all, but their value lies in keeping me and the students up to date with where they stand on the topic.

For this coming year, I would like to continue using all three of these assessments.  I'd like to come up with a plan though so it's easier for me to make sure I really do it.  At the moment this is what I'm thinking:

  • Weekly: Open ISN Quizzes
    Use these frequently as we are working on new skills
  • Marking Period Halfway Point: Scavenger Hunt Quiz
    I think that I'd like to have this count for less points that the full collect at the end of the MP
  • End of Marking Period: Collect ISNs
    Since this grade will be the most complete assessment of all the work they did, I'd like to have it count for the most points
I have heard a lot of people talking about having the kids grade each other's ISNs, but I just don't think I can get behind this quite yet.  I am sure that it is fantastic, but I feel that if I'm giving a kid an actual grade for something that it is my job to assign that grade.  I guess I just don't entirely trust anyone but myself.  If someone were to ever dispute a grade I feel like I wouldn't have any ground to stand on if I had to say that I had another student grade it or had the kid grade it them self.  I think this is one of those cases where different things work for different people.  I've heard lots of good things, but it's just not for me.

So the part I need to work on though is how to make collecting them as easy as possible on myself.  I'd love to suggestions on this if you've got any!


  1. Love the different types of grading that you do. I also have a rubric that I use once a six weeks for completion/upkeep purposes but I also let my students use it on their weekly "Brain Dump" which is my alternate to saying quiz since it freaks students out.

    1. Do you have it online somewhere? I'd love to check that out

  2. I've stolen so much from you and I haven't really done anything with this except share it with students (and paste it on the first page of their INBs!) - but since you're asking ...

    very simple rubric to let students grade themselves ... it's two to a page but scribd/classconnect is making it look funny (you'll get the idea) ... if I'm going to try notebooks this year, it had to be something that wouldn't soak up a ton of extra time ... besides, I want them reflecting on how they're doing anyway!

    1. Cool, thanks so much for sharing. I like the idea of having kids assess their own notebook and then checking over what they had to say. I also checked out your classconnect folder and I love that "fakebook" page you have there for student info!!

  3. Love this!!!! I am also a ISN user, but I call them journals. I grade using method 2 which is even how my highschool Algebra teacher did it. Anyway, I love method 3! You are absolutely right- the journal is more about are the kids able to use it as a reference guide rather than just did they copy that definition down. Love it. In response to how to grade them when picking them up I did something that worked for me last year. I took 4 different colored stickers and placed one on each of their journals. At the end of the class I would say "I need Pink journals" and they would turn them it. I would only have to take 5 journals home from each class and grade. So much easier than trying to take 40. Yikes!

    Love your blog!!!

    1. Oh I really like this idea A LOT!! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  4. How do you handle the students that just refuse to take notes? I have some now (not doing any mandatory NB) That just refuse to take notes in class. Did you find ISNs helped them actually take notes?

  5. I LOVE your ideas and am so excited to try ISNS this year! For students on IEPS that shouldn't take lots of notes, do you just give them copies of everything? I am concerned it will take them forever to get the info in the book and they will fall behind....

    1. I don't. Right now I teach resources special education classes so it's IEPs for all! But my focus in the notebook is simplifying the notes as much as possible so it's just major information that I'm giving them. Even when I was teaching in class support classes (as the mainstream teacher) I didn't give special notes to any kids in particular. If there was a page with a lot of text, I would print that out for everyone in the class. I don't ever want to spend lots of time having any kid do what a copier can do. I'm also of the mindset that what's good for special education students is most frequently just good teaching for all kids, IEP or not. So a lot of those modified notes that often only the classified kids get will be the notes that everyone gets.

  6. I'm a student and my honors algebra 1 teacher uses interactive notebooks as a fairly large portion of our grade. I currently have a c and i don't know any of the stuff she has taught on due to my inability to write quickly while listening to what she is saying. It has led to me spending hours upon hours on the notebook and still not being able to keep it up. Do you have any tips i can use. I have never really hated anything before but now i hate math with a passion. I used to just get bored easily in math. but now it feels like torture.


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