Something’s fishy…#ThrowOutGradesChallenge

Eventually at the end of this post I am going to share a video of a fishbowl discussion.  I have been using a fishbowl style discussion in my class for several years.   There are many different “definitions” of fishbowl discussions, in our class it done with kids constantly moving in and out of the bowl.  If you don’t know what a fishbowl discussion in here is a sample of how we do it:

We started the year with a 5 Themes of Geography project.  Nothing fancy, apply the fives themes to where you live and share what you learned with the class.  For this first project the kids picked how they would like to present, I did give some options, but they were free to make anything they wanted in order to share what they learned with the class.  We don’t talk about grades or points in my class.  We do talk about what quality work looks like.  It is different for each kid and for each product they are making(shhh…), but of course there are some constants that we discuss as a full class.  When the kids share they share because they are proud of what they have made and want to share (ok, so maybe not every kid in the first weeks of school, eventually…).  

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Mark Barnes on his “Throw Out Grades Challenge.”  He asked folks to do the following:

  1. Make a decision: Pick at least one assignment/project/unit to eliminate traditional number and letter grades (optionally, you can eliminate grades for the entire semester or year).
  2. Create a conversation about learning: Replace your traditional grades with a verbal conversation about learning and/or written feedback, using an objective system like SE2R.
  3. Grab your smartphone or tablet:Create and publish a video of you either writing feedback or participating in a conversation about learning with a student. Important: be sure to say in the video that you are taking the Throw Out Grades Challenge.

Now to be clear upfront, I have to give kids grades.  There is no other option.  So yes we don’t talk about grades, points, and slowly kids forget all about them…but I do have to give a grade in the all might powerschool in the end.    But I figured I would take Mark up on the second part of his challenge to record our discussion the day after we shared.  There were some questions on the board to guide the discussion, some classes used them and others ignored them.  

It was our very first day doing a fishbowl.  On our first time I do not introduce all the normal guidelines.  There is zero pressure for everyone to come to the center.  It was a half day schedule, and by the end of each class at least 50-75% of the kids had entered the bowl.  After a few classes I had everyone who did not enter the bow just come to teh center and sit for a few seconds to see that it’s not that scary in the middle.  

I let the kids take the conversation where ever they wanted and only butted in a few times 🙂  I normally would not post a video of something that might not be the best example of a class activity, but thought it was important to post this one.  If you look around on the internet there are some very polished videos of fishbowl discussions.  The kids have obviously been prepped, the teacher has done it many times, the kids are comfy with talking in front of the class.  But what does it look like the very first time?  

There is some minor editing in our video, I cut out some of the big transitions and included clips from two different classes but nothing that would alter spirit of the class.  So here you go…our first fishbowl discussion of the year reflecting on our first projects on the year:

***Before you watch one tech note… The custodians decided that my circle discussion table no longer fit in my room and removed it.  As of today, it still cannot be found.  I used a new table which sent awful  vibrations to the mic and created a sound that was amazingly difficult to edit out.  I did test it before hand, but without anyone sitting at the table.  So I do apologize for the weird sound effect throughout the video.  There is a lesson in there somewhere…***

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