Monday Musings: How Many Opportunities Should You Give Students to Complete Missing Assignments?

s2In a perfect world, the teacher would assign work and all students would turn in work every time an assignment is given.  In the real world, this scenario is highly unlikely.  If this is your scenario, please let us all know how you obtained this.

I was recently talking to a fellow educator who was frustrated about students not completing assignments.  You typically have two camps:  camp one let students make-up missing assignments and camp two let students earn zeros and will not allow students to make up late work.  I’m in camp one because I allow my students to make up work, but I’m more flexible than many teachers.

Last week, midterm grades were due for my high school students on Friday by midnight.  I allowed my students to turn in or redo any assignment until the end of the school day on Thursday.  One of my teacher friends said, “Shawnta, that’s crazy.  You’ll be up all night.”  Actually, I went to bed at 9 p.m.  I know what you are thinking…”No one turned in any work.”  No, that’s not what happened.

From day one, I told my students they could redo any assignment for a higher grade or turn in any missing work at any time until one or two days before grades are due.  My students are in the habit of redoing assignments.  I told them they should never be satisfied until they have done the best they can do.  Also, I relentlessly remind them to turn in missing work during class and I don’t allow students to use poor behavior to leave class to avoid work.  I’m notorious for intercepting students on the way to in school suspension to come to my class and complete work first.

In short, I say give students as many opportunities as possible to complete missing work.  If they aren’t doing their work, you don’t have data to determine if your students are learning.  It is easy to give zeros.  It is easy to say you are making students responsible by not allowing them to turn in missing work late.  It is harder to keep nagging students and keep persisting they do the work.  When you create the culture of students redoing assignments for a higher grade and the culture that avoiding work will not be tolerated, you won’t have to worry about a flood of last minute assignments before grades are due because students will work throughout the grading period.  The best part is students will learn because when students repeatedly receive zeros and can’t make-up work, they feel like hope is lost and give up and students giving up benefits no one.

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