In my last blog post titled, “Stop Taking Grading Home,” I explained how I use the Station Rotation Model to provide students with real-time feedback as they work instead of taking grading home. I had one teacher ask me what I do when a student arrives at my teacher-led station and has not done the work required. That’s a great question, so I wanted to share my very simple strategy with my readers.
If students have fallen behind on a formal essay, large scale assignment, or project, I require that they begin their session with me at the teacher-led real-time feedback station by writing their parents an email to explain why they have not completed the work they were assigned. They must CC me on the email, use the formal business letter format, and propose a specific action plan to catch up on their work.
This strategy is so simple but so effective! Students are rarely asked to take ownership of and responsibility for their work. Typically, a parent does not realize there is a problem until a zero is entered into a gradebook or report cards are mailed home. Requiring students to contact their parents and take responsibility for their work at various check-points along the process creates an incentive for students to prioritize their school work. This strategy also takes the responsibility off of the teacher, who is typically the person tasked with reaching out to the parents when there is an issue.
The most rewarding part of this strategy are the conversations that take place between parents and their children. Because I am CCed on the initial email, parents typically “reply all” and keep me in the loop as they dialogue with their child. I love the questions parents ask in their follow-up emails, like “Why weren’t you able to complete this part of the assignment when it was due? How are you using your class time? What can I do at home to support you in getting your work done?” I see so much value in encouraging students to have these conversations with their parents.
As soon as I adopted this strategy, more students completed their work on time and several parents thanked me for keeping them in the loop about their child’s progress, or lack thereof.
At the start of this school year, I posted a blog titled “Who is doing the work in your classroom?” where I said I planned to try to flip my thought process to make sure students were the ones working because the people doing the work are the ones learning. Each time I was tempted to say, “I could…” I challenged myself and my co-teacher to flip the statement and instead make it a question like “How can students…?” This shift in is what led, in part, to having students email their parents. I remember saying to my co-teacher, “We should email the parents of students who’ve fallen behind on their essays.” Her response was, “Why not make them do it?” Thank goodness for her reminders!
So, whenever you feel daunted by all you have to do as an educator, ask yourself how you can make your students do more of the work in your classroom. From that work will come real learning.