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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Start of New Year Is Perfect Time To Offer Hope To Struggling Students

With the start of any new year comes the hope of many students that they will do better academically this time around.  Hope without some new ideas on what constitutes quality "homework" and what doesn't generally leads to repeated failure. 

What about tying student interest to the types of assignments teachers assign?  This might lead to students actually not only completing the homework, but also enjoying the experience.  An even more exciting approach on the teacher's part might be to allow students to devise their own ideas of homework with the understanding that it must demonstrate to the teacher that they understood the classwork.

How might this approach actually appear in a classroom?  EFFECTIVE HOMEWORK PRACTICES offers some very practical and easy to implement ideas on boosting self-confidence of academically struggling students (especially English language learners) in doing homework. 

For example, using differentiation in assignments would motivate more students to actually do homework.  The theme of the assignment would be the same (aka grade level content), but the ways the students can demonstrate their understanding of it will vary.  Take for example a biology class with long term English language learners.  Though students are free to answer questions from the text, all students would be encouraged to think of other ways to show that they grasp the content. 

If studying plant cells, students could draw and label all key parts and then write a paragraph on how all the parts work together.  For others, what about a comic strip that takes the reader through the life of a plant cell?  For ELLs, they would only need to add key content vocabulary to explain how the plant survives. 

Another option?  How about students videotaping an "interview" with a scientist (a student) lecturing on plant cells?  A group of 4 or so students would create the set, dialogue, questions, slides/charts, and closed captioning using the language of the ELL.

What about having students create test questions on the subject with answers?  The questions could be used in a jeopardy game where small groups (4) compete for prizes.

In each of the above scenarios, students are taking the knowledge acquired in class and demonstrating their understanding of it ways that work for them.  Students may even have ideas of their own to show teachers that they grasp the concepts and teachers should allow them to follow through on their ideas as homework.  Students with poor track records in grades might actually re-evaluate their chances for passing the class since they will be able to produce their own idea of homework which clearly shows understanding. 

Involve students in designing homework assignments and teachers should see a big increase in the number of students who complete them:)

Denise

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