Considering how impersonal the year felt, the responses from this end-of-year survey support an early prediction many of us had that learning and growth/development would take place this year after all, though certainly different from what we’ve expected in the past. To be clear, “learning loss” is a myth, and you should stop anyone trying to talk about that dead in their tracks. You simply cannot lose what you never had in the first place. It was a talking point used to get kids into schools ASAP, and nothing more. If students, or even just their learning were truly the priority, the conversation would be about improving living conditions for families at the societal level, as well as fully-funding our public schools.
Anyway, let’s start with the first question on my mind: grading. I’ve settled on the system after experience with a LOT of different ones, but what about students? The open-ended responses explaining what kind of grading students preferred are quite genuine. Scroll through the slideshow to see:
Of course, I was super curious about the quarter of students who wanted individual assignments to be graded like in every other class, so I went digging to get some insight. Three of these students were in the Top 6, 4, and even 1st of their class, meaning they do well academically. Clearly, these are students familiar with “the school game” by now, and play it well, so why would they prefer change at all?! This is not unlike Latin teachers who have “successful” programs with top-performers in small upper-level courses, perhaps measured by AP scores or some other standard that fails to recognize how many students were excluded and left in the dust back in Latin 1. Just like I’ve seen with other aspects of comprehension-based teaching, though, the top students in a traditional program are still at the top of their classes. One claim I see all the time is that with a comprehension-based approach and holistic grading, “certain students don’t do well” as these academic elites are portrayed as victims. That’s just false. It more likely reflects the teacher being uncomfortable with change, probably misinterpreting something, like thinking teaching with CI means making kids speak Latin, or that CI only means silly stories. That could introduce new obstacles, rather than remove existing ones.
Aside from the top students, the rest who preferred a more traditional approach to grading were missing an average of 30% of the total assignments, the highest being 50%! This could be a case of students not yet understanding how the traditional system fails them. Hell, most teachers don’t quite understand that either! Or if they do, they have to find solutions, like establishing retesting systems that cause more work for everyone. I wonder what the same students would say if they saw the two grades side-by-side. A quick calculation showed that these students’ grades would be between 6 and 32 points lower, resulting in three course failures. Of course, there’s no reason for me to think that students know the difference. Therefore, I’ll show this chart next year when we do the first self-assessment to help them understand:
I also asked what helped students learn Latin the most, drawing from my core practices:
From the student perspective, establishing meaning with English and sheltering vocabulary both stood out among the rest, with tiered versions of texts and English comprehension checks shortly behind. I’m glad these practices are both research-supported, as well as student-approved. I also wanted to know about specific activities. It’s a good thing we didn’t do too much writing of Latin, and I’m not surprised that Discipulus Illustris was a fail. Everyone wanted to be invisible this year. It just wasn’t a good year for interviews. In the past, though, that activity has persisted throughout the year, so I’ll keep it for sure:
I must say that stories are far more of a hit than I thought when I reflect on the process, and this really confirms my plan for getting back to roots. It’s also nice to see that my approach to sneaking into Roman content worked well. That is, the few times we explored the Romans for a couple days was enough to get students more familiar with the distant past without boring them to death. That experience was about middle of the road along with Write & Discuss (Type & Talk)—which is indispensable for me as a teacher so that ain’t changing—and a couple team games that weren’t the most fun over Zoom. I’d say that “neutral” is a success, here, though. It’s great that MovieTalk was up there, too. We watched all the clips I have prepared Latin for this year. I might have to add new clips and write up new stories to keep it fresh, as well as increase how often we do that activity.