I love to tell my students that it’s my job to push them. I want them to work hard and not settle for ok. I have so many smart kids in my class who just have a natural gift to do well in school, but I like to push them. The same is true with all my students. Those that struggle, well, it’s also my job to push them to the next level. This past month’s book report assignments have given me yet another way to push my students. I write this post today because The Push has definitely been paying off!
You may have read my last two posts about assignments. In one, “RE Assigning Work,” I expressed my disdain when correcting the students’ first assignment for their historical fiction book reports. They were to do some pre-reading exercises as well as write a paragraph explaining why they chose their book. What I got was, well, not what I had hoped for. I graded them on a simple 0-4 point scale where 4 was a complete, thoughtfully executed paragraph including details. Out of 21 students, 1 achieved a 4 and 2 earned a 3. That next day, we talked as a class, examined student examples, discussed ways to improve writing and then I assigned anyone who did not get a 3 or 4 to re-do the work.
“Groan!” is what I got, but I stuck to my guns. I was not going to let my students pass in one paragraph that was mediocre when I was certain they could do more. Over the next couple of days, kids passed in newer versions of the assignment, sometimes after conferencing with me. Some went straight to the 3 or 4, but others had to try and try again. But see, they did!
I was pushing, and they were doing the work.
The following week, students were asked to describe the setting(s) of the story in a paragraph. We talked about the assignment together and I modeled a paragraph for them as well as brainstormed ideas with them. This time more people (6) received a 3 or 4. Again, the following day, we talked about our papers, looked at student work and then I re-assigned the paragraph to the class.
The “Groan” this time wasn’t as loud. They half expected me to say that. The next couple of days, I got more redone setting paragraphs and they were getting really good.
Well, this past week, I assigned a paragraph where students had to discuss a character from the story and describe their character traits. It’s funny. Sunday, as I sat down to correct them, I did not read through them with disappointment in the air. Instead, I had a smile on my face! The papers were great! The number of 3s and 4s jumped to 16.
I celebrated a small victory when I was done with the pile! My commitment to pushing high expectations on this particular assignment had certainly paid off. I felt as if some of these students had truly risen to the occasion and showed me what they were truly capable of doing. Even the other students who were not at a 3 or 4 had bumped their writing (and therefore, their grade) up.
I’m looking forward to facing my students today (I was at a workshop on Monday) so that I can help them see the value of my pushing them and them responding with good work ethic. Sometimes things need to be done a few times to get it done right, and that’s ok! That’s “effective pushing” on my part.
Through this series of assignments I have also learned that I need to push more each day. The turn around time for students to get their work back with feedback needs to be quick and I need to respect their work by providing that for them. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time writing feedback on their papers and conferencing with individual students.
These assignments were also very purposeful. My students felt the drive to complete them and I felt the drive to correct them.
I realize this is just good teaching practice, but sometimes we lose sight of the real value of pushing our students to achieve high expectations. This historical fiction book report project that my team of teachers and I worked on creating has helped me to revisit these ideals.
And now… off to another day of pushing my kids to the next level.
I love the fact that you kept sending the kids back to write their work over again. Yesterday, I had such a situation where I was so dismayed by the quality or lack of work by some that I made a select few sit out of independent reading (their favorite and I hated to do it) and also ten minutes of recess to get their work done. The funny thing is, not one student complained. Not one student fooled around or didn’t try their absolute best. And I loved when you mentioned in your post that you say to your students that it’s your job to push them. I laugh because I say the same thing. I tell them that I will say to them what I say to my own kids: any old thing isn’t good enough. You have also done something that I was toying with and that is sending them home to redo an assignment. I commend you for allowing yourself to take the time to conference with each student about their work. My class had to write a paragraph last night as part of their book project assignment – I am going to try this today and will let you know how it goes.
I think your post is timely with our workshop withAndrew Chen (really enjoyed him). We need to push students as hard as we can and I love the fact that they just expect it. Push onward my friend. 😉