Grades for a new student

Judy sent us a question a few days ago.  She asked, “Can you give a child a grade if they have only been your class for two weeks?”

That’s a great question!  When a new child comes into your class it can take a while to really get to know them. It certainly takes time to understand their learning style, personality and abilities.  Two weeks isn’t long enough to learn all of that, but it is enough time to start assessing what they know.

When I was teaching in the United States my school district required us to produce a report card if the student had been there more that 13 days.  So if the student had been in my class 2 calendar weeks, but only 10 school days I didn’t have to complete a report card.  With that being said, here are a few of my thoughts:

I would always give my standard reading and phonics assessments right away (within the first 2-3 days of receiving a new student.)  I would test their phonics (with a basic phonics screener), sight word knowledge, and fluency.  That would give me a good basic reading score.  Will it be as thorough and detailed as the grade given to a student who has been in your class all year?  Certainly not!  Is it a good, accurate starting point? Yes!

Math.  I would go back and give the end of the quarter assessment from the last quarter to get a basic idea of what they could do.  So if they came in the middle of the second quarter I would give them the quarter one assessment.  I would also give a timed math facts test to see how fluent they were with their math facts.  Once again it’s not ideal and it’s not going to give a perfect representation of their knowledge, but it’s a good start.

Writing.  If you are working on a writing piece in class those two weeks have them complete the assignment and give a score based on the one assignment.  If not, dictate a few sentences and have them write them down.  Then give them a simple assignment that they can complete and grade that.  It could be as simple as having them write about their family.  (Then you get a writing sample and get to know them a little bit.  Win-win!)

Social studies and science.  As far as these topics were concerned I would give a grade based on the assignments completed during those first two weeks.  If we didn’t complete anything in those 14 days I wouldn’t give them a grade for those subjects.

I think the bottom line is yes, you can give a grade to a student who has been in your class two weeks.  Just remember that it isn’t as in depth and as thorough as your grades for the rest of your students.  With those extra assessments it will feel a little hectic for you and the new student.  Just remember to encourage the student to do their best and you do the same!  I hope that’s helpful!

Any other teachers out there that have any input?  What have you done when you get a brand new student and have to generate a grade for the student?

What’s the secret?

Last weekend I went to the lantern festival in Chiang Mai Thailand.  It was easily one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced!


We took the train up to Chiang Mai and caught a truck/taxi to our hotel.  There were a few other people in the back of the truck with us and my husband and I started chatting with a man named Ben.  We learned that he is a teacher in Vietnam and was there for the same festival we were.  After talking about the festival for a while the conversation turned to teaching.  He learned that I’ve been teaching for about 6 years.  He’s been teaching for 2 months and was feeling a bit overwhelmed in a few areas especially classroom management.  He asked, “So…How do you keep your class under control?”  That’s a question almost every teacher has wondered at one point.  It’s the foundation for a positive learning and teaching experience.  I took a whole class at ASU on the subject.  I have spent 6 years fine tuning my personal style.  Ben wanted to know how to keep his class under control, but our ride was about to wrap up.  I quickly thought about what I could tell him in the last 3 minutes of our shared ride.  I sifted through everything I could have said and I came up with the following answer:

“You have got to be clear with what you expect, set a clear consequence, and be consistent.  You have got to help them learn that you mean what you say by following up every.single.time.  Decide what the consequence will be if they don’t follow directions and make sure that you never let it slide. “

He listened intently then asked, “Even with kids as little as 5 and 6?”

Especially with kids that little!”

He processed that and asked a few more questions, but that was the bulk of our conversation.  I’ve thought back on that conversation, wondering if I should have given him a different answer.  You know what?  If I could redo that conversation with Ben I would tell him the same thing.

As I mentioned, I spend a semester studying classroom management.  There are loads of other useful and helpful things one can do.  Dozens upon dozens of different tools and tricks.  Ben and I could have easily talked for hours about various strategies to implement, but when it comes down to it I told himthe most essential part.  This situation reminded me how important it is to: set an expectation, outline a consequence and follow through consistently.  There you have it.  Regardless of your students’ age, nationality, language, school, or country the same principles apply!