Site icon ELA Brave and True by Marilyn Yung

Holy On-Time Homework, Batman!

How I got my students to turn in their assignments on time

Do missing homework assignments drive you crazy? Yeah, me too.

Last fall, less than half of my students regularly turned in their homework on time.—even with the full week I give them to do it. (It’s assigned on a Tuesday and due the following Tuesday, and we’ll often have part of one class time to work on it.)

Y’know how it goes… a handful of students are always on time, if not early. Another handful wait until the last minute and turn in nearly everything the day before grades are due. And then a large swath of students in the middle consistently turn in their work a week or two late (and sometimes later than that).

I could blame Covid-19 for the low on-time rate last fall. However, my school is nearly entirely in-person. I only have about five students who have chosen to learn remotely.

And it’s been this way since August. In addition, during the previous school year, late work had been just as rampant.

In any case, most students just wouldn’t complete on-time the single homework task I assigned each week to my juniors and seniors: a one-page response to an Article of the Week.

So, in January, right at the beginning of this semester, I experimented with a new trick. (And I’m not sure how I came up with this idea, but it was probably while doing something totally unrelated to teaching like rolling the Dumpster to the curb or reaching for a new bottle of Gain at Walmart.)

Anyway, here’s my new trick, which everyone knows is my new normal:

I delete the assignment from Google Classroom at the end of the day.

Yes, it’s that simple. However, before deleting it, I also do this:

  1. I make sure I have both a printed hard copy of each student’s response as well as a digital file submitted on Google Classroom. For the time being, I ask students to turn in both. (I think responding to a paper copy is more effective and “real” than offering feedback on-screen in a Google doc. I know it’s redundant, but I simply prefer paper.)
  2. After making sure I have both a hard and soft copy, I return their digital file. There’s no grading at this point; I simply return it. (So, yes, there’s no real point in having students turn in their responses on Google Classroom, since I do receive a paper copy; however, when students know the opportunity to turn it in will go away, they’re more conscientious.)
  3. Then, I delete the assignment from Google Classroom.
  4. Finally, in our school’s Lumen Touch system, I award ten points to each student who turned in their assignment, which is essentially a first draft, by the end of the day.
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

That evening or over the next day or two, I provide brief feedback on the printed hard copies of their responses. Over the next day or two, I return these to them personally in class. When I pass these back (usually while students are doing their bellwork), I can briefly conference with them regarding the changes that need to be made in their final drafts, which are due on or by the end of the week.

And if you’re wondering how I provide feedback on all those first drafts so quickly, here’s the thing:

Giving feedback on these first drafts is SO MUCH FASTER when I’m not assigning a grade.

I don’t know why, but it seems when I must assign a grade, I spend a significantly longer amount of time doing so.

At the end of the week, students turn in their revised final drafts ALONG WITH their marked-up first drafts. If I see a student has made the suggested improvements noted on their first draft, they earn full points. If not, I adjust accordingly by knocking off a point or two based on the rubric for that week.

Promise: it’s not as complicated as it may sound. But even if it was complicated, I guess I don’t care because…

— cue the angels — IT’S WORKING!

Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

Since I’ve adopted this new method, 85 to 90 percent of my students (as in, for example, 27 out of 30 juniors and about that many seniors–yes, it’s a small school!) turn in those first drafts on time!

As a result, many more students are getting feedback on their writing.

In addition, they’re eager to turn in their final drafts at the end of the week where they know they’ll likely earn full credit, assuming they make the needed improvements.

It’s been a resounding success. Even those students who are perpetually late are turning their first drafts in on time. When students have a marked-up first draft to build on for their final draft, the quality of their writing can’t help but improve.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Apparently, there’s something about knowing an assignment will disappear.

It’s more urgent. When students know that an opportunity for a guaranteed 100% grade on their first draft will “go away” at the end of the day, it seems they don’t want to waste that opportunity. In short, they take notice.

Another note: in the past I’ve always allowed students the choice to revise their AOW responses to earn more points. Now, with a required final draft built into the process, each student automatically revises and generates a final draft.

So, in the end, more students are turning in first drafts, which means more students are revising and, as a result, turning in better quality final drafts.

My new policy isn’t rocket science. | John Carkeet, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This method isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t perfect or even novel. I could just be seriously behind the curve on figuring out this particular aspect of student accountability.

However, I do know it has increased the amount of on-time homework turned in by my students.

What about you? How do you encourage more timely homework assignments from your students? Leave a comment below or use my Contact page to share your ideas.

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