Saturday, August 11, 2007

Doing What Works (for me, anyway)

Grading: Anything I don't want to grade, I make them grade. Classwork, quizzes, tests; I have no problem with having students grade their work. I make them clear their desks COMPLETELY and I hand out colored pencils and then the item to be graded - each student gets his own work. They count up the number of items wrong in each section. All I have to do is calculate grades and put them in the book and the computer. Another benefit: on my must-turn-in lesson plans, this gets labeled as reviewing/reteaching. They get a classwork/participation grade in addition to the grade for the original assignment.

Introductions: Nope. I do give the students a list of my expectations that goes into more detail than the poster I keep on my wall (work hard, be kind, obey school rules), and I ask them to go over that with their parents in addition to the syllabus. I have a separate information sheet that they turn in where the student and the parent both sign stating that they've read and understand the syllabus and the expectation sheet.

Makeup work: At the start of the term, I ask for volunteers to be notetaker or timekeeper. Each day, one student will make an extra copy of any notes we take, as well as writing down instructions for each assignment and taking an extra copy of any handouts. This is then all placed in a binder in reverse chronological order (newest in front). For this, the student receives a homework pass at the start of the next class period. The timekeeper checks the double notes folder every day to make sure that everything is correct, shows me, I check it off and write the homework pass. The timekeeper gives the pass to yesterday's notetaker and then tells whoever's next on the list that she's got double notes. If the timekeeper has no "misses" all week, he gets a homework pass at the start of Monday's class period. Thus, the binder stays current, and the notetakers and timekeepers remind each other of their duties.

I think I am going to revise it so that the notetaker keeps track of who's absent, adds that to double notes, and takes extra handout copies for absent students, PLUS an EXTRA copy for the binder.

Additionally, I did do a couple of phone calls to students who'd missed several days of class already - barely a week into the year!

Journals: Students enjoy writing about themselves. Therefore, I assign journal-style writing (15 lines* from a prompt) for homework every night. I look at the next day's lesson and try to base the prompt off of that, sort of like an extra-early warm-up. Just think of the benefits: they don't have to drag a book home (our lit books are ginormous); they can't say "I didn't know we had homework" (because we have it every night); they're thinking about tomorrow's lesson; they don't have to struggle through something they don't understand; it really doesn't take all that long; and there's no way they can cheat/copy/breeze through. It has to be their own work. Oh, and also? I'm giving a list of back-up prompts to parents at conferences and Open House, so that if a student doesn't write down the prompt, she still can't weasel out!

So far, it's been the only thing I've graded. To be honest, I enjoy it! I don't have to go through a list of answers, checking off right or wrong eleventy bizillion times. I just read and get to know my students. I grade both for content (staying on-topic) and completion - 9 lines or more gets a check-minus (70), 12 lines or more gets a check (100), 12 lines or more well-written gets a check-plus (110); late, off-topic or fewer than 9 lines gets an X (1 point, but credit for being turned in), and a refusal gets a 0 (no credit for turning it in at all). Because I'm not trudging through an enormous pile of grading, I can comment on many of the responses.

Homework passes: See above.

*Our school is on block schedule (90-min classes, 4 classes per semester), so other teachers might want to make it only 10 lines per night. Essentially, for me, each day of class is like two "regular" classes, so if you're on a year-long schedule, it might help to shorten the assignment length. Plus the students have more classes to get homework from. I wouldn't go much less than 10 lines, though, because you really need SOMETHING to read!


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