Friday, December 18, 2009

No homework here!

Essays are mostly finished! Several committed (and detail-oriented) students are putting together the fish pictures and essays so that we can publish our book to share.

The entire project took quite a while, even longer because we did all of the work in class. That's right, no writing homework. I've found that many of my students really need my constant support and intervention in order to create a quality product.

I learned this the hard way. I'd tell students, "Your final draft is due tomorrow!" And many of them would dutifully bring back their final draft. Unfortunately, the drafts would be riddled with errors. And I am so soft-hearted that I had a really hard time telling students that they had to start over. Even worse, some students would lose their rough drafts, or never turn in a final draft at all. I loathed having to track down students.

Now, I have a different approach. I know that some students will want to do their final drafts at home, and this is fine. Some parents enjoy this opportunity to sit down at the computer with their child and work on a product.

But all students have the option of working on their final drafts in class. This does present some management issues, as students finish at different times. However, thanks to the time that I spent developing journal writing at the start of the year, students are happy to settle back into their self-directed writing. Students have re-discovered stories, drafted holiday cards for friends and family, and even started writing plays. Students also had the opportunity to compare and contrast their fish and another student's. Even though everyone is working on different projects, writing is progressing nicely.

As students worked to finish final drafts, the classroom settled into a quiet, productive hum. Now that we have moved on to sentences, all but three of my 60 students have finished their essays. No homework, no lost papers, no tears, no parent phone calls. Pretty good!

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