Q: How do you get struggling students to alert you to problems with major assignments so they will be prepared for time-sensitive class experiences?
Scenario: Today is presentation day. You’ve put students into groups to show their projects and receive peer-feedback. You’ve been mindful to choose groups for the most effective, for productivity. You send the students off to work, and five minutes later, three groups are deep into their work. The fourth group is acting out.
You: Guys, stop messing around. You have work to do.
Student: We finished.
You: FOUR of you shared your projects in five minutes?
Student: Three of us didn’t do the project.
You: What? Why didn’t you email me and say you needed help — days ago?
Student: I’m a teenager. I don’t know how to answer that question.
Q: How do you deal with last minute, missing student work?
Scenario: You’re grading a digital-stack of papers on a Sunday night. They’ve been emailed or posted to the school’s Learning Management System. Grades and reports are due tomorrow. You’ve been at your computer for hours. You cannot go to bed until the papers are graded. You open up the file with the final student’s work, and — it’s not there. No paper. Or you check to see if it’s been posted to the LMS. No. No email, no explanation, no information.
Now, you’re emailing this student, asking – did he forget to send it? Did he not do it? Unfortunately, the same student who didn’t turn in the work is also probably not hitting refresh on his school email on a Sunday night. How do you mark it? Late? Missing? Zero?
Here’s the thing about managing students’ multi-day assessments and assignments – and here I speak to you sotto voce: you might not have time to evaluate and give feedback on every step students go through before the semi final draft. Even though the step may be critical and time sensitive, like peer feedback sessions.
Say it takes two minutes to evaluate an interim step in a student’s project, and you have forty students. Are you really going to spend an hour and a half just checking to see if the students did their work, just so they can share it with peers? That’s a waste of time you don’t have.
All you want is for students to, just, let you know if they need help, to be ready for peer review, or to be ready to submit for credit. But the same students who need urgent help are the same ones who won’t email you.
Q: How do you get students to tell you that they need help? How do you get them to tell you, before you’ve assembled your teams, that they’re not ready to present?
My Solution: Disaster Relief Form
The Disaster Relief Form is a Google Form, essentially an online survey, for students to fill in if they have had a problem either understanding or completing work. I’ve designed mine to compile the students’ names, the nature of the problem, the class, and the name of the assignment into a spreadsheet.
To avoid scenario 1 (students falling further and further behind on projects/assessments) peek at it once a day.
To avoid scenario 2 (forming student groups only to find that one or more people haven’t done the work to function productively in a group), ask students to fill it in, right away, at the beginning of class. Then, remove their names from your roster.
Create and teach students how to access a shared calendar for class.
- Train students to check posted announcements at the beginning of each class, even before “First Thing Work.”
- In the days leading up to a deadline, in announcements, request / remind that any student who has fallen behind immediately fill in the Disaster Relief Form. Link to it, right in the shared calendar.