Teaching Reflections

Stamp Sheets Part 1: Pros & Cons

Do you use stamp sheets? I began using a form of stamp sheets three years ago, and this is my second year using stamp sheets consistently.  While there are many reasons I LOVE my stamp sheets, they also drive me a little crazy.  In this post, I want to share a little bit about what I love and don’t love about using stamp sheets.

Unit 1 Stamp Sheet - adapted from JCPS world language documents
Unit 1 Stamp Sheet – adapted from JCPS world language documents


I love how stamp sheets clearly communicate learning goals and organize my units. Just as Kara said in the post linked above, stamp sheets make me plan out my goals for each unit ahead of time. The I can statements guide my lesson plans, and communicate very clearly to students and parents my learning expectations. If a student is out and I don’t have a worksheet they can just do at home (which is often), I can tell them which goal we practiced and point them to vocabulary resources online to work on that goal independently. I also like to show stamp sheets to parents to show them what their child is learning how to do in Spanish class, and maybe even challenge a parent to complete a few of our goals – often, they’re impressed at how much they remember from their high school or college Spanish courses!

I love how stamp sheets give me an opportunity to listen to each student speak, and give individual feedback. Stamp sheets are a great “check in” for student learning. Quiet students often hide in the crowd of a big class, and having these mini-assessments built in gives me a reason to hear from all students, even the quiet ones. I don’t always notice who is struggling, until I hear them attempt their stamp sheet goals, and I’ve been blown away on several occasions by quiet students who never volunteer in class, but speak beautifully when it’s time for them to do stamps.

Stamps are a relatively low-pressure speaking assignment. I do take stamps for a grade, so there is some pressure to “get them done,” but I also consider them part of the learning process, and a teachable moment. So I give feedback, I coach, I prompt, we practice and I let them try and re-do.

That being said…I’m at the end of a unit and finishing stamp sheets is driving me crazy.  Here are a few things I don’t love about stamp sheets:

Memorize and forget. This makes me nuts! Most of my students *know* their stamps when they do them for me, but there are always a few who have clearly memorized a statement and will forget it a minute later. How do I teach for long-term retention? I love how mini-goals are explicit and manageable, but by giving a checklist of mini-goals, am I promoting “memorize and forget”?

Finishing stamp sheets takes forever. I do my best to limit the number of goals on my stamp sheets, and yet, they still take so much time to do! In the post linked above, Kara says,

A. If you observe a student doing the goal during class, stamp it.
B. Give everyone a written or spoken quiz at the end of class or on a specific day. You can cover one stamp or several.
C. Students self-assess themselves. Keep one specific stamp design out that they can use.
D. Pick a few students every day to show what they can do.

She makes it sound so easy, but I haven’t figured out how to balance it! Here’s my unit two stamp sheet:

2014-09-23 15.51.50


16 goals, five classes of 32 students each, equals 2560 mini goals to listen to. If each goal takes ten seconds (some students are fast, some are slow, some need multiple tries), that’s 426 minutes of class, or two whole days of class doing nothing but stamps. For one unit. I try to do stations, and have stamps as a station, where I can listen to individuals and have the rest of the class be productively occupied, or give written work, where again, I can listen to individuals while the rest of the class is occupied, but I’m finding it really difficult to find ways to balance individual assessment and feedback (which is so important!) with simultaneously instructing and managing 31 other students.

What to do? I’d like to write more on stamp sheets later this week – I have a few thoughts on ways to modify how I use them – but I would also love to hear from other stamp-sheet using teachers. What stamp sheet strategies work for you?

14 thoughts on “Stamp Sheets Part 1: Pros & Cons”

  1. Hi Andrea! You are so correct that they can take forever to complete all. I never worried about hearing all of them. Even if I had 20 goals/stamps on the sheet, my gradebook usually said I stamped about half of them. I really tried to use them for student self-reflection (let them stamp their own). They were still valuable to my students, even if I wasn’t the one that checked all of them.
    About the memorize and forget, this is true about any daily formative assessment situation. A few times I would do this: Cut up the circles that we had learned and put them in a bucket. At a station they would draw 3 randomly, and show they could do them. Sometimes I “graded”, sometimes I didn’t. It’s about the practice and repitition. Also I try to give mini performance-assessments/projects during a unit that covers several goals. These are where I focus my grading and feedback attention, not the stamps.

    1. Hey Kara! I´m so delayed in responding to you, but thank you for the comment! I´ve been thinking (and reading blogs) a LOT since I wrote this post, and I´ve realized that it´s ok not to stamp them all – I still get the benefits of communicating my goals to them by writing the stamp sheet, and encouraging them to reflect on their learning. I think I´ll take your and Sra. Speedy´s advice and use it primarily for self-assessment this next unit, and do my “official” assessment on the test or performance assessment.

  2. I used to get stressed out as well. I’ve shortened my stamp pages to half sheets and let the students use it as a self-assessment. I use a separate checklist for my own assessments where I keep track. The students own the stamp sheet and we talk about when they should and shouldn’t stamp – my elementary school kiddos take it very seriously. 😀

    1. Thank you! I read your post on stamp sheets – it was helpful to get another perspective! I think I just need to relax and assess what I can, let them self-assess some, and stop worrying if we check off every single goal – if I write the summative assessment right, then I assess them on all their goals anyway.

    1. Did you read the post linked at the top of the article? That is what started me on stamp sheets. Jefferson County has a lot of great resources here to get you started: https://onedrive.live.com/?cid=28f7c805d5a3213d&id=28F7C805D5A3213D%21154&authkey=!

      (If that link doesn’t work, search “Jefferson County Foreign Language Documents” – you should be able to find it).

      I usually write my own goals now. My department follows Realidades, but I like to glean out the communicative functions in each chapter. I don’t want them to conjugate ar verbs – I want them to be able to say what they do for fun. I don’t want them to just memorize a list of food vocabulary – I want them to be able to say what they like/dislike, ask questions about preferences, give advice about what one should eat. I’ve found less is more, especially if you have big classes – 8 or 10 each unit can take a long time to finish with 32 students in a class! Here is the stamp sheet for my current chapter, Realidades 3b: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xp3an42v5m24e0z/stamp%20sheet%20realidades%203b.docx?dl=0

      I haven’t given it to students yet – I might next week, or I might assess the goals in other ways. Either way, writing the “I can” statements helps keep me focused on the bigger picture goals. If I do give it to students, the big ovals in the middle will count double, and require more language production.

      Feel free to email me if you want to talk more – andreanicole1 (at) gmail – or send me a tweet – @andrearoja Good luck!

  3. I love this idea!! I’ve have been doing various stamp-for-participation sheets, but I really like that this is actual communication goals tied into a participation grade. I am able to access Kara’s “I can” sheets but not in any editable form. Can you tell me how you were able to edit her sheets? By the way, I had the very same question as you about how to address the issue of “memorize and forget” I like Kara’s idea of putting the circles in a bowl for later “quizzing”, and I agree with your realization that there are so many other benefits to this idea that even if they memorize and forget, at least they used the language, repetition is key. Have a great year!!

    1. I don’t know if editable files are still available on the JCPS site, but I can send you a template in word and you can just input your goals for each unit.

  4. Would you mind emailing me your Word template? I used to do this and got away from it but am at a new school and want to start again for self-assessment purposes. I felt the same way as you expressed when I used them before. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

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