What Can I Do To Improve My Grade?

It’s May 32, and in walks Enid, who has spent most of the year…not doing much Spanish. Boys, food, mojitos and especially good music and books have ensured that she knows three words of Spanish: quiero mas cerveza. Her question, of course, is Sr, what can I do to improve my grade? I really need to pass this class, also my parents will kill me. Jenn S. brought this up recently in C.I. Fight Club:

Today’s question: Can a kid “improve their grade at the last minute?
Answer: Yes…but it’s almost impossible.

You need to have clear performance expectations starting on Day 1. Mine– which are in my course outline, along with criteria– are that, by the end of the course (for Level 1), students will be able to

a. ask and answer simple questions, and describe things, in simple sentences.
b. write a 125-word paragraph describing a picture (or on a given topic) in 5 min.
c. write a 600-word story in 50 min.
d. read basic Spanish stories and demonstrate comprehension thereof
e. listen to aural Spanish and write down what is being said (eg a 10-sentence story)

During the year, we do reading, writing and listening assessments (see this), so the kids have a “sort of” idea about their grade. Every 10 days or so I add up their most recent marks, and they get a provisional grade.

I also tell them, you could– in theory– do nothing all year, and then crush the final. This is 99.9% unlikely to happen, though…please do not show up on May 32nd and ask for extra work to pull your grade up. That’s extra unpaid work for me.

However, I base my grade 100% on the final.

So, if Enid walks in and says “can I raise my grade,” I say, “Sure. The standards are in your course outline.” Enid just has to sit down and do the reading, writing and listening quizzes, and I’ll mark them (word count + grammar mark) and that will be her grade. 5 min of casual Spanish chat will show us Enid’s oral proficiency.

Now…what if she says “is there anything else I can do?” Here, there are two answers:

  1. Yes, pay me. $750 gets you a pass; $1000 gets you an A, small unmarked bills only, no Bitcoin.
  2. No. I taught, and provided you with specific activities to do to acquire Spanish. You either didn’t show up, or you didn’t pay attention.


If I get grief from parents or admins– which I don’t, because along the way I have phoned & emailed them about Baninder or Suzie not doing much– I show them my gradebook, which will generally have either zeros or INCs. Parents may argue, but when a kid hasn’t actually…done anything, the kid hasn’t got much of a leg to stand on.

The point is, at the end of the course, I am measuring performance (and to a certain extent proficiency). What counts is what you can do with no prep and no support. What doesn’t count: attendance, “attitude,” homework, binder organisation, note completion, role-play memorization, bla bla bla.

Your grade ultimately is not what you have done, but what you can now do.

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