SBG: Looking Ahead to Next Year

Standards-Based Grading

Another school year is wrapping up, and I’m already reflecting on how to get better for next year. This was my 2nd year to implement Standards-Based Grading, and I tried some new things. For one, I didn’t put grades on the concept quizzes I handed back in class. This was intended to reduce classroom status issues that result from students inevitably comparing grades on each other’s papers. However, one challenge arose with this new technique. My students had trouble determining their current understanding of each topic. Many of them wanted a grade in order to know how they were doing.

My purpose for using SBG is to promote growth mindset and constant pursuit of learning. Therefore, I do whatever I can to avoid talk about grades and instead try to focus on how to improve and deepen understanding. However, with all of the student feedback, I decided that I have to find a way to show their progress in a way that promotes the message I want while still allowing the kids to know where they are.

In my last post, I wrote about using Personal Growth Reports in order to respond to student progress. I’m excited about the results and potential for using that approach once or twice a grading period throughout the year. But, I also want a more instant, ongoing student growth report that allows students to constantly pursue learning and find direction for improvement.

Thankfully, Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce found an answer. They created, along with some tips from Alice Keeler and David Griswold, a Gamified Google Sheet to allow students to constantly see where they are and how they can grow. Here are the links to their work.

This is incredible, and I think it can have great results with my students. Therefore, I slightly tweaked the aesthetics a bit to create my own version. Check it out here. Also, watch Kyle’s tutorial video below for an overview of some of the features.


Since Jon and Kyle did such an awesome job, there really wasn’t much to do. I just wanted to customize it a bit to meet my minimalist preferences. So, the first thing I did was hide some columns and rows to form a very simple student template.

Blank Template

As you can see, I only have columns for current progress, feedback, and links to tutorial videos, extra practice and challenges. My goal is for the students to easily determine where they currently are and find next steps for improvement.

I really like this sheet because as I enter the students’ progress and feedback comments into the master, it automatically appears on the student sheet and updates when changes are made. Another great feature is the fact that all of the links on the student page will update based on master changes. Just go to the master sheet and edit the links for each concept.

Link Edits

However, my favorite customization is the actual gamification feature on the student template. Instead of badges, I decided to use celebrity pictures (Creative Commons). So, each time a student reaches the next “Growth Level,” a new celebrity appears on his or her sheet. I think this will be fun because my students have enjoyed celebrity-related activities in the past, and I think there will be intrigue with the mystery of which celebrity is next in line.

But, the most important part about the gamification is the route to achieving new growth levels. I originally was going to base the system solely on the number of concepts mastered. Basically, if you reach the highest level of progress (10 in my class), then you receive a concept mastery point, and a new celebrity appears. However, I realized that this puts too much emphasis on performance and not enough on work ethic and perseverance. Carol S. Dweck has written about this, and I want to make sure to hold true to the growth mindset values I talk about with the kids.

Therefore, instead of concepts mastered, I changed the title to “Growth Level.”

Growth Level Highlight

I decided that a student will not only earn a growth point when he or she masters a concept, but I’ll also award a point every time the student improves his or her progress level on a concept. For example, if a student makes a 6 on his or her first assessment but later re-assesses and receives a 7 or above, then that student will receive a growth point. I’m really excited about this because it encourages perseverance. Now, a student who never masters a concept can theoretically receive more points than the student who gets each concept right away. It’s all about growth and development!

Here’s where I’ll input the growth points in the sheet.

Growth Point Input

Another feature that I’ll emphasize much more next year is the submit work link.

Submit Work Highlight

This idea came from Matthew Switzer a few months ago. I set up a link to a Google Form where students can submit something they create in order to demonstrate learning of a concept. It can be a video, Desmos graph, worksheet, or whatever they can come up with. I think it’s important to emphasize this more because it opens up the door for more students to succeed. Some kids need different avenues besides quizzes in order to show what they’ve learned. In addition, the form encourages and rewards creativity which is something I want all of my students to aspire towards.

Finally, the coolest part about this amazing tool is the fact that you can share a link to each student page.

Student URLs

The students can then go to their individual link at any point during the year, see progress, receive feedback, and get direction for next steps.

A New Syllabus:

Besides the gamified sheet, I’m also going to change how I prepare students and parents for SBG and other strategies I use. I started by creating a syllabus with Google Docs.


I know it’s not the most glamorous thing, but I want the students and parents to have a resource to go to in order to learn more about why I use SBG, inquiry-based learning and other methods. The document has links to many helpful items that hopefully answer a lot of questions surrounding the system. I’d really like your feedback on the wording and content in order to make it as clear as possible.

In addition to the syllabus, I made another Google Doc to describe, in detail, my grading system and assessment practices.

Again, I’d appreciate your feedback on how to make this better!

15 thoughts on “SBG: Looking Ahead to Next Year

  1. Awesome write up! I really like the addition of the celebrity reveals and growth level! It gets better with every iteration of changes! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dane – your student sheets are really slick looking. Love the idea of a “growth” level and I’ll be honest, my badges aren’t super awesome (yet) 🙂

    Looks like I’ll need to steal some ideas to add to my sheet! Nice post!

  3. Great ideas! It’s even motivated me to start re-making my syllabus for next year (and yes, I’m shamelessly stealing much from yours!)

    I noticed that you don’t have any “discipline” section on your syllabus–is that because you don’t feel the need for it at your school, or because you don’t think the syllabus is the place for that?

    Also, I really like how you include “demonstrating learning in nontraditional ways”. I’ve offered that before but have trouble getting the idea to catch on with students–they’re kinda on a one-track mind with the quizzes. Do you do something in class to promote that?

    Thanks again for sharing so much!

    1. Haha thank you! Feel free to use whatever you want.

      Honestly, I didn’t even think to put a discipline section, but I won’t add one in because I’ve had issues in the past with kids taking advantage of announced discipline systems. So, I’m planning to tell them, in person, a little about what I expect and then let my actions show what I expect. I think my main rule next year will be to “build others up.”

      Also, the nontraditional learning piece will be new for me next year. The idea came from a teacher named Matthew Switzer (, and I really liked it. I haven’t implemented it yet though. I can see it going the way you described, but I hope that if I continue to mention and encourage it throughout the year (and emphasize the fact that conversations show me almost as much about demonstrated learning as quizzes), then the kids will respond. Also, if kids do turn in something non-traditional, I think it will help to show my classes the examples and mention that a real student in my class did it. That might make it sink in a little bit more. All of that is in a perfect world though haha. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and adjust.

      Thanks for the comments! I really appreciate it!

  4. Hi Dane–

    I really love what you are doing, but may have missed the obvious here: how exactly are students accessing their page since you wouldn’t want them to have access to the master or others students’ info? Are they given a link or a folder?

    1. Hey Desiree,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m happy to help.

      The students will each have an individual link to their specific page whenever you run the script. The links will appear in the “Student URL” column on the master page. Click here to see a picture highlighting the location.

      However, in order for the links to work, you have to publish the Google Sheet. David Griswold wrote a nice breakdown of how to do this in the “Directions” tab. Click here to see his step-by-step explanation.

      The challenge I’m envisioning is getting every student to type in the link correctly. I’ll probably use a link shortener site ( to help with this, but I’m hoping to find a time-saving way to convert so many links.

      Let me know if that helps!

  5. Hello Dane,

    I just wanted to thank you for being so thorough and thoughtful about your SBG implementation and resources. I’m implementing it for the first time this year, at a new school, with new colleagues, a new curriculum, and new students and parents! So, I’m pretty much copying all of your resources exactly because I am a bit overwhelmed with the start of the year and all the newness. But, I’ve been making leaps to SBG slowly over the last few years.

    I hope you don’t mind that I’m straight up copying your system, and I will happily give whatever feedback I can and ask questions along the way.

    One thought I had about changing your grading info is integrating the rubric posted by mathymcmatherson here: but, it’d be mostly to help contribute to the growth mindset of students and give me some more guidelines on how I’m judging mastery. Just a thought, but I’m probably still just going to stick with your system.

    ANyway, thank you!


    1. Annie,

      Thank you for the kind words! I really appreciate it! You are more than welcome to take anything from here. Most of what I have is just a compilation of what others have done way better than me.

      Thank you for providing the link. I really like the detailed breakdown of how to judge mastery. It could definitely be helpful for students and parents who aren’t used to the system.

      Let me know how it goes! Looking forward to hearing about it!

  6. Hi Dane,

    I love all the resources you have shared in this site. This is my go to spot for all of my preps. I have a follow up question about this post. How did the gamification of student feedback work out throughout the year. Would you use it again? Did you make any adjustments? Did the students buy in? I would like to implement this in my classroom as well, but I would like to know your updated thoughts. Thanks!

    1. Hey Lesa,

      Thank you for the kind words and the comment! I really appreciate it. I’m glad the site has been useful!

      I’m happy you asked about this because I found that the gamification actually created more work than benefit. The kids thought it was neat, but they already have access to their grades through our district’s grading program called Skyward. So, they wouldn’t even think to go look at their gamification link but instead just looked at their grades through Skyward (makes sense because all of their classes are on there instead of just one).

      So, after about one nine week grading period, I decided to give up on it. Oh, also, one problem I had was when kids either transferred into my class or just switched to another period. There wasn’t an easy way to set them up with a new/updated gamification link.

      Overall, I really like the idea and think it can be successful, but I think it needs a different platform besides Google Sheets to work.

      Hope that helps!

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