How To Beat The School Grade Blues


Everyone knows that the purpose of grades is to provide feedback on how well a student achieved the learning objectives for a class - but it is not always that simple for kids with learning differences!

The reality of just how much grades can suck hit me when my son was in late primary school. He pulled off a piece of work that was a huge leap forward for him - a 10x improvement on what he had managed previously. While his teacher gave him some nice written feedback, he was given a D grade. Her reason - it would not be fair to the other kids to give him a higher grade.

As you all know, dyslexia is a very specific processing disability, NOT a thinking disability!

My smart dyslexic son knew exactly what that D meant - D for dumb, yes you did great work, huge step up, but you are still D for Dumb.

Talk about motivating! 😕

Grading at school can be a disempowering reality that most of us with dyslexic kids have to deal with.

Grading in its conventional form can result in children stopping taking risks, stopping thinking outside the square. They become focused on the risk of failure instead of embracing their personal learning journey.

The idea behind grades, that is, getting feedback, is excellent - you know how you are doing, where you need to improve, and where you are doing well. It gives you a marker to grow from.

The part that can suck for a struggling learner is the comparison part - how are you doing compared to your peers.

Shouldn't we be celebrating and rewarding progress regardless of its pace?

In our household, we no longer place emphasis on grades.

For each assignment task we help our kids with, we look at their past performance and pick one skill to work on. Then we set a goal related to the acquisition of that skill.

By doing this, we are breaking down tasks and building a toolbox of academic skills one assignment at a time. If we hit the goal of skill improvement, that is worth a high five 🖐 and our kids know there is no shame in the mark, whatever that may be.

Some examples of the sorts of skills we target are:

  • Dissecting the question and developing a list of sub-questions that the kids have to answer on their own.

  • Using Youtube for research.

  • Learning how to use Cite This For Me ( to create a bibliography.

  • Using speech to text on their computer to capture text.

  • Using Grammarly to edit their own work.

When your child has lagging academic skills, it can be too much to master all the elements of assignment and essay writing at once. Being overwhelmed can just leave them feeling negative about their abilities.

Our system keeps our kids moving forward, continually achieving positive results, and not getting stressed about their grades.

And always remember, there is no finish line! Life is about continuously learning new skills and growing. This is the most important lesson for our kids to take on board!

Go. Thrive. Succeed.

Gillian MitchellComment