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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reflections on the first writing assignment of the year

I hate when I get excited about an assignment, thinking I have done something positive for my students, when the reaction is quite the opposite. When we returned to school Tuesday, I discussed our weekly writing homework. With my lower classes, I went over the expectations in detail. With my higher classes, I was briefer, putting more responsibility on them. The writing is not due until tomorrow, but I am already declaring a disaster. 

Since this was their first online homework assignment, I gave them five days to complete the work, telling them they could come in to advisory, go to the library before school, go to any teacher during tutoring time, use their phones, or complete the work at home. The first night, I had three students complete the work, none of whom followed the instructions. I know that I am supposed to be teaching explicitly, but by mid-eighth grade, I do not feel like I should have to read every single instruction to the kids. Gradual release of responsibility. By January, I would say we are well past gradual

Wednesday, a student told me that she tried to get to the Pinterest links while on campus, but the page was blocked. Over the break, I spent time setting up resource pages on Pinterest for the kids to use as needed. Well, it turns out that Pinterest has an age restriction, and since many middle-schoolers are not yet 13, the page is blocked until the get to high school. 

Thursday in class, many students had some extra time. I offered to let them get the Chromebooks out and do the homework. Nope. "I'll do it at home," was the only response I heard. 

Yesterday, my phone was blowing up with student questions (I have a messenger for them to contact me for help). Am I supposed to be writing about a gerbil? I don't get what we are supposed to do. Am I supposed to put my answer in the comment box? What words do I use? Almost every response I sent back was read the directions. 

I logged onto Edmodo this morning to see how many assignments have been turned in. There are only a handful out of the 108 students I have. (I love when I give them time, and they wait until the last minute.) Some of the students did not follow the instructions. Some of the students turned in adequate work. And then I found a couple that made it worthwhile to be grading this early on a Sunday morning:

On to this week's writing assignment - with some adjustments. 

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