Reflection: Rules and Consequences Delving into Deeper Meaning with Poetry & Dr. Seuss - Section 2: Introduction


While the Common Core Standards clearly articulate that students need to come to class prepared, with all texts read, homework completed, and mentally ready for a rigorous discussion about the content with their peers, no student is going to knock this standard out of the park every class period.  I'm a positive person, but it's just unrealistic to expect that all of my "YOLO"-loving students will come to class with the self-discipline and commitment to make this happen, despite so many competing drives for their attention.  With that said, I think it is an extraordinarily dangerous viewpoint to shift that stance to the idea that students shouldn't be asked to do any learning, practice, or preparation outside of the classroom because they may not always get it done.  My feeling is and always has been that students will rise to the bar at which expectations have been set.  My duties are to set that bar at a level that will make them take ownership of their journey toward fulfilling their academic potential and to help them learn how to cultivate their own abilities, resources, and drive to succeed, here and in the future.  I want them to see that the real "YOLO" moment in life (which, if you are lucky enough to be unfamiliar with this term, means "You only live once!" and typically is used by high school students to justify one of a multitude of horrible decisions), is that you DO only live once and, therefore, you should put in your best darn effort to doing it well.  While trying to balance these two competing realms of reality, I went through much personal anguish deciding what to do about students who don't complete homework.  We're talking YEARS of anguish.  What resulted was a rather profoundly simple set of ideas, which in all honesty, shouldn't have taken years for me to understand, but que sera, right?  Here's my revelation:

Homework does not have to be an inflexible policy that either allows or doesn't allow all/partial credit.  Homework has different purposes, and the consequence of not completing homework should be based on its initial purpose.  

Not completing homework is a symptom of a problem, and we need to measure the frequency of those symptoms to diagnose and treat the issue.  Not assigning homework does not fix the problem; it only masks the symptoms.

As I said, these are not complex or revolutionary ideas.  But, they continue to be integral "truths" which inform my classroom management and teaching.  Homework is assigned nearly nightly in my classes, though not all of it is graded.  Consequences for not completing homework are created after evaluating the purpose of the homework.  Today's poetry assignment was primarily a way of collecting formative assessment of students' individual ability to objectively summarize and to use textual evidence to support imagery and theme analyses, so I can have this group of students with incomplete homework achieve the same results by serving as our "all-star" class members to talk us through an analysis of one of our three poems today.  Since my intention was to collect this feedback, and my daily lesson plan already planned another student-based application of these skills in class, these students would not face a formal penalty for not having their work done at the outset of class PROVIDED that they completed the same activity process (both orally and in written form) for one of the three poems today as we discussed them.  It is not, however, a "free pass," as this group of students is then "on the hook" for an informal individual or group conference to discuss why the homework was incomplete.  They also become my "volunteers" all day, which most students would agree makes a fairly good deterrent for not completing your homework.


  Dealing with Incomplete Homework
  Rules and Consequences: Dealing with Incomplete Homework
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Delving into Deeper Meaning with Poetry & Dr. Seuss

Unit 3: Romanticism & Transcendentalism
Lesson 3 of 8

Objective: SWBAT objectively summarize and analyze poems and "Horton Hears a Who," supporting all interpretations with textual evidence through small group and individual practice.

Big Idea: Whitman launches a multi-generational "rap battle" of sorts, and Yertle the Turtle is unveiled as an allegorical Hitler…it’s a big day.

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dr seuss
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