Grade less, Assess more.


Haunting grades?!

BOO! Are grades haunting your students?! Well, this week our professional learning group for mathematics had a lengthy discussion about the idea of a “gradeless” classroom. At first, many of the pre-service educators shot their hands up in protest or with intense questions. In fact, many of the concerns were actually about fear of parental retaliation! So this post I want to look at: (1) What is this gradeless classroom all about? (2) What does it look like? and (3) Is it right for my classroom?


screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-11-38-34-amA gradeless classroom DOES NOT mean that students don’t receive grades. It does NOT mean that the teacher does nothing. It DOES NOT mean that students and parents are in the dark. What it DOES mean is: greater transparency

According to our class discussions, we agreed that a gradeless classroom switches the focus from letter or number grades to learning and feedback. The idea is that students receive meaningful feedback from their teacher, their peers, and themselves (assessment AS learning anyone!?). As a result of this, we expect students concentrate less about getting a grade and more about how to use their feedback.



Source: Interactive Achievement – Sally l’Anson –

The gradeless classroom highlights the extreme usefulness and importance of feedback systems before any concrete grade is given. We can use assessment for learning and assessment as learning to achieve our improvement towards meeting the success criteria or curriculum expectations.

This looks like constant formative feedback, but with time to act on the feedback to actually create learning! In “Making It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment“, Troy Hicks emphasizes that we must move from a fixated student product to having multiple opportunities to reflect and move forward in learning. The key word here is multiple – if we only have students review their work once, are they really learning or are they simply correcting their work?

Students also need to become evaluative of their own work. If we give students the opportunity to give themselves a grade, they are most likely going to choose a letter/number without reason. However, if we are constantly practicing self-assessment then we offer students the opportunity to reflect on where they are, where they want to go, and how they can get there! “Evaluate” is next to the top of Bloom’s taxonomy for learning and it is imperative to learning for students to do so. Edugains is a great Ontario resource to help re-structure your opportunities for self-assessment in the classroom.


Source: The collective wisdom of authors published in the September 2012 issue of Educational Leadership: “Feedback for Learning.” (Volume 70, Issue 1).


In my opinion, there is always a place in education to increase formative and useful feedback processes and switch the focus off of the actual grades. That being said, explicitly stating that your classroom is “gradeless” can seem difficult, especially if you have not prepared your students to use or give feedback. Many educators also worry about the parental reaction to saying their child will be in a gradeless classroom. This can be magnified here in Ontario where we have students from cultures that value grades/performance over the learning process. However, our professor Shelly Vohra has explained that after educating parents on the process, they are almost all usually on board. This means that as an educator, if we are prepared and can support our reasoning for our methods, we can feel confident with implementing them.

I hope this feature has helped you understand the potential benefits of going gradeless or at the least, implementing better feedback systems in your classroom! Please let me know if you have any concerns or if you have tried this in your classroom! What has worked? What was difficult? What should others know about?!

– A


Teachers Throw Out Grades – FB Page

#TTOG – Twitter Feed

Going Gradeless (Edutopia)

Ditching Grades


Reading Motivation

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with some fellow pre-service teachers to create a monograph on an issue in literacy. After some time in schools, a couple of our teachers noted a lack of reading motivation in their students. We decided to dive deeper into the situation regarding reading motivation in Ontario, the benefits of increasing reading motivation, and a possible link between reading motivation and comprehension. Here is a summary of our research:


Part of my role as a pre-service teacher is attempting to develop useful learning tools. The next step in this research project was to create a digital learning object in relation to the literacy issue. As I looked to increase reading motivation I found several educators that highlighted the effectiveness of curating a classroom library that created a culture of excitement about reading. I looked to find a tool that did just that – and I think I did!


The tool I found was called Classroom Organizer by Booksource. It is an online tool that curates the books in a classroom library while allowing students to check books in an out. There are many other features too, including individual student accounts, book ratings, book reviews, and detailed student reports. This program seemed like an excellent way to create an excitement around reading and serve as a key part of an educator’s reading motivation strategy.


I used ThingLink to create a digital learning object that aims to familiarize students with the online tool. The following is the final teacher’s guide for my digital learning object. It includes tutorial videos, an assessment for the learning object, and an assessment for overall reading motivation in the classroom. I have also inserted the live learning object.

If you find this tool useful or think you may want to try the learning object in your classroom, please let me know! I am excited to receive any feedback as I look to grow as an educator!

– A

Visualizing Technology in Math

This past week in our professional learning group discussed the importance of visualizations in mathematics and also looked at the role of technology in the mathematics classroom. For this post I would like to touch upon the importance of visualizations and diagrams and also the ways in which we can responsibly use technology in the math classroom.


Visualizations are an important way to approach math instruction and are important for students to access as strategies to solve problems. Jo Boaler has a lot of great information about using visualizations in the math classroom and notes that it is well known that visual math improves performance. Through our class discussions, we also touched on the importance of using visual solutions as a way to fully understand the math processes instead of simply memorizing a formula. When we encourage visualizations we can reduce the memorization needed by increasing the key information our students understand.


In teacher’s college, there is a high emphasis on facilitating 21st century learning skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Many times, we discuss the use of technology to achieve these goals and demonstrate our skills. However, I believe many pre-service teachers (and perhaps in-service teachers) are still confused about the EFFECTIVE use of technology in the classroom.

Continue reading

Rich Ta$ks


Last week, we focused on making mistakes in the math classroom and how we can design learning to allow for these mistakes. This week, our professional learning group looked to build on this knowledge by exploring at rich tasks. As a group we defined what a rich task was:


Rich Tasks  – Andrew Morris (2016)

The OAME also offers an alternative, but similar, explanation of rich tasks which is adapted from NCTM‘s Mathematics Assessment: Myths, Models, Good Questions, and Practical Suggestions. This week, I am also responsible for hosting a webinar that explores facilitating financial literacy through math. What could more appropriate for teaching financial literacy concepts than the use of rich tasks?! As a former banker and a self-directed investor, I feel very passionate about educating our students about the importance of making sound financial decisions and how the money world works around them.


An elementary Ontario curriculum that outlines the expectations for financial literacy does not exist, BUT there is the Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence which highlights the areas for financial literacy in each of the existing curriculums. This document is an excellent starting place to find entry points to incorporate financial literacy into unit plans. I do agree that a solid financial base comes from the combination of explicit and implicit financial teachings. My hope is that educators will continue to keep financial literacy as a core part of their teaching in all subjects, especially during math. At the end of my post, I will add a list of resources that I have used during my webinar as well as some other blog posts that look at financial literacy strategies.


This rich task was adapted from from Kyle Pearce on This is an amazing resource – please check it out! The final slide I made outlines the ideas behind this financial literacy rich task:

This task has clear connections to number sense and numeration in the Ontario Mathematics curriculum for multiple grade levels depending on the solutions given.

(Ex. Grade 8 – Quantity Relationships –  express repeated multiplication using exponential notation pg. 111 // Grade 6 – Quantity Relationships – solve problems that arise from real-life situations and that relate to the magnitude of whole numbers up to 1 000 000 pg. 88)

This task is differentiated by being open routed – different grade levels can be expected to solve using age/developmentally appropriate strategies. It connects to financial literacy big ideas of compounding interest and savings. It uses many of the process expectations, including reasoning, communication, problem solving, and selecting computational tools and strategies. It is also engaging and relevant to the students’ lives. It is therefore a RICH TASK.

It is clear to see that we can develop rich tasks to approach financial literacy in the classroom. I am so excited to enter my placement and watch my students explore mathematical concepts through the useful financial literacy lens. What other resources do you use? What kind of rich tasks have you explored your students?

– A

RESOURCES (will update)

Elementary Financial Literacy – Brian Page (Edutopia, 2014)

  • A blog post breaking down more resources

Big Ideas in Financial Literacy (Money As You Learn)

  • My favourite resource that breaks down some big ideas and their age-appropriate levels

Practical Money Skills Canada

Financial Literacy Resources by Grade (Edugains)