Reflection: Relaxing Late Work Rules

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In August, I wrote about how I decided to try a new tactic regarding late work.  Instead of stiff penalties for turning in work late, I decided to accept assignments for up to two weeks past the due date for full credit.  The only penalty would be on an “on-time homework grade,” which is 10 percent of the overall grade.

Here’s how it’s been going.

I was concerned that students would take advantage of this, just turning in work whenever they wanted, and I’d forever be grading assignments, never getting caught up because things just kept coming in.  However, that didn’t happen.  Students for the most part still turn in their work on time, and those that don’t are the same ones who never do.  Nevertheless, I don’t feel I’m enabling those habitual offenders by giving them more time.  I email home saying there is missing work, and I try to continue to remind them to get it done.  In some cases, this has helped students not to give up and say, “Well, it’s late and I’ll only get half credit, so I might as well not do it.”  In some cases, I think it’s actually helping students to complete work they otherwise wouldn’t have.

However, I don’t love the on-time homework grade.  Or rather, I like the idea of it, but putting it in the grade book every week is annoying to me.  It’s just one more thing for me to remember.

I’m not sure the change has really altered the habits of my habitual offenders, but I feel it has reduced the stress level in my classroom.  Especially for my high achievers, having that flex time helps them not to panic if they haven’t gotten something done.  Not only that, but it helps eliminate excuses from those students who don’t really want to do the work, but now can’t say, “Well, she won’t accept it now.”

I have a couple of ideas about how I might tweak this plan for next year.  I’ve considered eliminating all late penalties completely.  As long as they get the work to me so that I can score it before grades are due, I’ll accept it.  After all, as I mentioned, I really don’t have a lot of kids who abuse the flexibility.  Another idea I have is to keep a time limit (either at two weeks or reduced to one week) but just remove the grade penalty.  I’m not positive about which I’ll do.  Part of me thinks that kids need to learn to work to deadlines, but another part of me things that middle school kids have so much to learn, and I should focus on the content rather than the life lessons.  But life lessons are important, too!

As you can see, I’m conflicted.

But I’m glad I made a change.  I just have to decide how to alter it further to really mesh with what is important.

If you have ideas concerning my dilemma, please share in the comments!

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