Late Work Policy 2016

I can hardly believe that we’re two full weeks into the school year already! Things are going really well so far, and I’m loving my change to tables. If you get a chance, I highly recommend it – students no longer try to finagle their groups so that they’re always working with the same people. One class tried once, but the students love new seats every day as much as I do, and since day 1, there has been no culture of students picking groups – something that has always bothered me but I have never been able to nix until now.

But that’s not the only new thing this year – there’s one thing that I think I have handled differently every year so far. Late work. For my first 3 years, I taught the only way I knew – drill & kill, grammar & vocab, textbook driven. I assigned a worksheet for homework every night, and even then I couldn’t find a late work policy that I liked.

Year one it was what our principal wanted – no late work was accepted without a darn good excuse.

That felt too harsh, so year 2 I took off partial credit – the same amount, no matter when it was turned in – and was buried under 9-week-old worksheets at the end of each quarter. And what good are worksheets that old? Either the kids got it or they didn’t. It felt useless.

Year 3 I still wanted to allow some late work, but I wanted to motivate kids to turn things in sooner to save myself at the end of the quarter, and hopefully increase what the kids got out of it. Twenty percent off per day, and I would accept work up to a week late.

Year 4 was a turning point for me, I jumped into proficiency-based, (attempted) CI with both feet and switched my homework to a weekly blog post and a points-based homework choice assignment. This time around, I combined years 2 and 3, I allowed late work for up to one week, but simply took off 15% of the possible grade.

Last year, I again found that I didn’t like telling kids that, after a certain point, they simply couldn’t get credit for work that wasn’t done on time. This new homework system seemed too useful for me to tell kids that they may as well not do it. So I went back to my system from year 2 – a flat deduction for late work, and it didn’t matter when it was turned in. Guess what happened? Well, I didn’t get buried under worksheets, but only because I wasn’t giving them anymore. Part way through the first semester, I replaced blogs with free writes due to frustrations over translator use, but I was still inundated with homework choice assignments at the end of each 9-weeks.

Which brings us to this year. This year I’m excited. I’m excited about homework and I think I’ve finally settled on a late work policy that is going to be effective in all the ways I need. For the last couple of years, my students never really loved the homework choices. I thought that was crazy because, I mean, they get to choose their homework. But then I read Laura’s post about a different kind of homework option. Or maybe it’s more just a different way of coming at a similar idea, but either way, I decided to give it a try this year.

First – my students are super excited because they can literally watch Netflix and listen to Pandora for homework. Every week. And several of them intend to do exactly that. I love that I don’t have to track points or figure out whether an activity is repeated or…well…any of the things that were so tedious and time consuming before. If you’re curious, I settled on 45 minutes for Spanish 1, 60 for 2 and 75 for 3.

But the best part. The best part is my new late work policy. Because this new system is based entirely on time spent “experiencing real Spanish” (as I tell my students), the late work policy is simply this: For each partial week late, add 10% more time. So if your assignment is due at midnight on Tuesday (they turn them in via Google Docs, so I can use edit history to see when it was done), and you turn it in at any point between 12:00 Wednesday and 11:59 the following Tuesday, do an extra 5/6/8 minutes (I round up), and no credit will be taken off. If it’s another week late, add another 10%.

I’m guessing you can already see why I love it, but let me spell out the implications here:

1) I hit hard that, the longer you wait to do your homework, the more you end up doing, so you’re better off just getting it in on time. I told the kids I didn’t even want to do the math to figure out how much time you’d have to do if you turned everything in during the last week of the quarter. Yikes! My great hope is that this will cut down on kids taking advantage and turning everything in at the very end of the quarter.

2) When kids do turn things in late, they end up getting more input. So in reality, the kids who turn things in late are secretly the winners here.

3) Kids’ grades aren’t dragged down by this. I don’t love giving a homework grade every week, but I definitely think them “experiencing real Spanish” outside of class is worthwhile, and I’m willing to reward the students with grades. And, if we’re being really honest, it does help make the grades look a little better because my expectations are rigorous, and my graded assessments are infrequent.

There you have it. My super awesome late work policy for the 2016-17 school year. Maybe this one will even survive more than one year. Our first tarea (I used to call them aventuras, but one of my top students ended up thinking aventura meant homework, so…) was due this week, and so far the students seem on board. I would say that I got a higher turn-in rate than normal, too, so hopefully that keeps up.

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