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Guiding Students Toward Independence

Today was Friday…

THE day before Spring Break.

Students were certainly NOT in the mood to be taught curriculum, and most teachers were not in the mood to teach the curriculum.

I’d been out for two days this week, so I couldn’t waste the day.

I decided to do something a little differently thanks to information I learned this week during my day of TDY.

But first, I had to give my kids some good news.

I, hard-core teacher that I am, had come up with a plan to help them raise their GPAs in my class.

You must first understand that I do not give anything…especially grades.

Students must earn every point they accrue.

As I’d been looking over their averages, I was concerned.

Sure, my class is not one that is required for graduation.  Students who have difficulty passing the state assessment (FCAT) are placed in classes such as mine to provide extra practice in developing the skills necessary to improve reading comprehension and, thus, pass that dag-blasted test.

Still, though, their overall GPAs can be severely hurt by low grades in my class.

Hence, my plan.

I had given my students an FCAT practice packet while I was out, and they had already been afforded the opportunity to earn 1/2 extra point for every question they answered correctly.  There were fifty questions on the probe,and they had to select at least five of their answers to justify since it was a multiple choice assignment.  I didn’t want them Christmas-treeing and getting lucky.

Because the packets were already copied, I told my students that they could, during Spring Break, justify all fifty answers to receive a 100 test grade.  I provided them with the correct answers during class today.

One of my students turned his head in a quizzical way and said, “Mrs. AuburnChick, this means we’ll have to look back in the text to justify the answers.”


By golly, he was onto my game!

That was the point!

Many of my kids need that test grade.

The assignment is OPTIONAL, though, so it places the burden of choice solely on the students.

Packets will be due the Monday we come back from Spring Break…April 1st.

The second option for earning extra points is that students can sign onto a program called Classworks, which we use in my district.  Teachers can assign specific practice components to target individual students’ weaker areas of comprehension.  This is a program my students regularly work on during guided reading stations, so they know what they’re doing.  What’s great, though, is that students can access the site from any computer that has internet access!

I told my students that they will earn two bonus points for every Classworks assignment they complete and earn a mastery level of 70% on between today and March 31st at midnight.  My apologies to the parents of such children.  I expressly told the kids NOT to tell their parents that they had to stay up until midnight to work on assignments for my class.  This will prevent them from running rough-shod through each assignment.  I’ll receive alerts when they’ve completed assignments, making the tallying much easier.  The bonus points will be added to their lowest test grade.

I typed all of my instructions up for my students and had a tear-off section at the bottom for students to sign off that they understood their options and were also aware that they were making the choice whether or not to take advantage of the extra credit options.

I kept the bottom portion of the papers for my records…just in I need to justify lower-than-expected grades in the future.


My students felt I was being very fair.  One student even asked if he could begin working on Classworks for the remaining part of class!

Oh, and for bellringer work, I had my students list out places that they, personally, could access the internet.  I tied in their answers with the extra credit assignment options, explaining that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I also put everything on Edmodo…the FCAT practice booklet, the instructions for the extra credit, the link for Classworks, as well as a screen shot of the Classworks login screen.  We had gone over how to log in during class, and they had taken notes as well.

I’d also emailed the information to parents and students.

Simply put, students will be unable to present arguments when we get back on the 1st and grades are due three days later.

The last couple of things we did, which I’m especially proud of, involved signing onto student gmail accounts and our district student portal.

Until two days ago, I did not not know that students were given their own gmail accounts when they began school in the district.

I got some clarification from an instructional specialist, whom I’d emailed quickly this morning (and she’d responded within enough time to share with my class).

One of my students offered to be the guinea pig as I demonstrated how to log in.

As we did so, I explained that when they get to college, EVERYTHING will be done via email.

They could see, as we brought up my student’s account, the email I’d sent out last night.

Lastly, we logged into the student’s portal account.  The student herself explained how to navigate around it, although I avoided certain screens that would reveal information that was not appropriate to share with others.

I told my students…all ninth and tenth graders…that they needed to OWN their education…put themselves in the drivers’ seats because they won’t always have an adult doing this for them.

Now, I have to say that as teachers, sometimes we wonder how much attention our kids really pay.

I quickly found out after I left school today.

One of my students replied to my email (she had to log into her newly-discovered account).  She wished me a happy Spring Break and told me thank you for the information.

This was less than two hours after school had been dismissed.

I’d already told the kids that they could add the email accounts to their phones if they had data plans.

She’d apparently not waited long.

Folks, THIS is the kind of stuff that teachers must do.

We have to stop thinking that our kids can’t do such things.

Some students need to be pushed.

Others are simply waiting to be equipped with the information they need to run on their own.

I learned a valuable lesson today.

Next year, as part of the “training” process I’ll put my students through the first couple of weeks, they will learn how to do the things I’ve detailed above.

We will use these tools frequently.

I will train my students to expect this, for that is the service they are worthy of.

It is my job to prepare them for life within and outside of the classroom.

Independence is my goal.

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