I want you to think back for a moment. If possible think back to a class where you received a test back that you failed. How did you feel? Hopeless? Feel like giving up? I hate that feeling, and I try at all costs to have my students spared from that feeling. It is my hope that when a student doesn't do well on as assessment their feeling is how can I fix this?
When I collect students' work it is graded green (you know what you're doing), yellow (you're close to being able to do the skills I require for this assignment), or red (you need work in many of the skills required). This is how I handle ALL of my grading. No numbers, no letters, only colors. I'll write more about converting this to letter/number grades in another post.
When I'm grading a classes' assignments, I look at the number of students who are yellow and red and decide if we need to spend more time practicing this skill. This is a lot of work. For the most part, I'm not sure what I be teaching tomorrow until I see what my students can do today. But here is what I've noticed, students who get yellow or red no longer crumble up their paper and throw it away. They turn to their neighbor to see if they're green and ask for help. Score!!
The traffic light grading system gives students hope. I don't tell students they "failed" an assignment. I tell them they are "not yet proficient". Not yet. Give them hope.
A plus for me is that I know my students much better. I know that little Jimmy struggles with this and little Suzy is really good at that. I had the opportunity to have this knowledge about my students in the past, but I would have to look closely at the grade book. It just happens now because when grading I'm not looking for how many they got wrong/right, I'm looking for what skills they got wrong/right. It sticks with me when little Jimmy gets yellow on an assignment and when I assess that skill again, he gets green it make my job worth while.