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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Problem Solving at its Finest.

This is an old post.

I wrote it a couple of weeks ago.

I think it is still worth sharing:

Goal setting madness.

NaNoWriMo doesn't end until after Thanksgiving.

That means students have five non-school days in a row.

Continuing to write is essential.

Inspiring them to write during a holiday is challenging.

Last week, daily challenges were surprisingly effective.

So, I thought maybe a vacation challenge might work.

But my students are progressing at WILDLY different rates.

It wouldn't make sense to give everyone the same goal.

It might not even make sense to give everyone the same prize.

This was a conundrum.

I decided to let students set their own goals.

Goal-setting is a skill they need to practice anyway.

Whether most of them could actually create a meaningful goal is another question.
I presented the task at the start of class after students checked their grades.

Which is inspiration of its own.

Most students whose grades are in trouble are suffering from missing work waaaaaay earlier in the semester.

Department policy limits how late I can accept work, and rightly so.


I also can't accept failing students who have since either mastered the material, or finally started playing school.

My compromise: Recovery credit.

Not the same thing as completing old, outdated work.

Instead, I create new, usually more difficult assignments, that address the same objectives.

So, in addition to the normal desire to slack off during the holidays, I also have to contend with grade grubbing.

The point here is that there are competing priorities:

Kids need a break, they need a grade, and they need to write.

I was a little afraid some of them would melt down when they saw their grades.

Not so much.

I thought kids would resist the extra work.

Not so much.

That doesn't mean they will complete it, but no temper tantrums is a start.

Anyway, once we got all that out of the way, I presented the Thanksgiving writing challenge:

Set a meaningful goal for yourself and indicate your preferred reward.

We talked about what a meaningful goal might mean.

I told them it needed to be challenging, yet reachable.

100 words is inadequate, 10,000 is unreasonable.

I gave them a few choices for preferred rewards: toys, food, candy, or stickers.

Then I passed around a clipboard with 3 columns: name, goal, reward.

I wasn't really sure what would happen.

The results, though, were adorable.

Totally darling.

Universally, with only one or two exceptions, the goals were realistic.

Universally, with only one or two exceptions, the rewards were reasonable...and creative.

They stuck with the four categories I gave them, mostly, though they got pretty specific.

They asked for Gushers, for DREAM tickets (our earnable internal currency), pizza, and earbuds.

It was sweet, really.

My favorite moment, however, was this:

"Ms. Hirsch, I can't write over break," she said.

"Why not?" I responded.

"I'm not allowed to take my Chromebook. Last time, I left it in a hotel room," she continued.

"I see," I said, "I wonder what you are going to do then."

She paused for a minute and the lit up, "Oh wait, I got an app on my phone so I can type! Never mind!"

Problem solving at its finest.

And also, that is just too cute and typically teenaged for words.

I won't really know if anyone actually writes over this break until next week.

But I am hopeful.

Most of them seemed surprisingly eager to do so.

Enthusiasm, willingness, and reasonableness, all good things.

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