Monday, November 23, 2015

Expecting "A+ Work" in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Hello! It's Myranda from Keep Calm and Teach 5th Grade! I hope that I'm not alone when I admit that it can be downright painful to get some of my 5th graders to produce QUALITY work! Do you suffer from the same problem? It has taken me some time to find out what works but I have some tips to share with you so that you don't have to struggle as much as I have!

First, why do students turn in low-quality work?
  • Work avoidance. They don't want to do it so they fly through it as fast as they can just to get it over with.
  • Lack of explicit expectations. Does the student truly know what is expected of him or her? How clear have the expectations been made to the student?
  • Reward. What does the student get to to do afterward? Is a more desirable activity on the table?
  • Lack of confidence. The student believes the he or she cannot do it and then manifests that in his or her work.
Why is rushed, sloppy work a big deal?
  • Undermines responsibility in students
  • Doesn't promote college readiness
  • Fails to provide a strong work ethic in children 
So, what can be done about it?
  • Start an A+ work club! 
    • I have a "Frindle Club" in my classroom. Students who produce neat work demonstrating their best effort the 1st time (on a consistent basis) get to decorate their name and put it up on the wall under the club banner. Then, they get to use fancy pens of their choosing on any assignment other than math. They get super excited about this and it encourages other kids to step it up a notch to make it into the club.
  • Give students a tangible reward. 
    • Now, this may go against some people's beliefs regarding intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation but this will give you the results that you want. Do you do interactive notebooks or any yearlong assignment? Offer $20 to the kid who has the best product at the end of the year. Or perhaps an ice cream party for the group with the best work.
  • Provide choice in assignments. 
    • This will alleviate frustration and give kids assignments that they want to do. They won't rush through stuff that they're genuinely interested in as much as they'll tend to rush through mundane work.
  • Build confidence. 
    • This is the most important one, in my opinion! Some students think that their peers have better work the first time around because their peers are smarter than they are. I spend a lot of time driving home that it's not about intelligence. It's about effort! Make sure they know, time and time again, that effort is what makes the difference! Anyone can put in effort. I tell them very honestly that they're choosing not to put in the work but that they're more than capable of doing so!
  • Create anchor charts.
    • Make very detailed, explicit anchor charts showing what you expect their work to look like. Refer back to this anchor chart any time students fail to meet your expectations or need a reminder. Keep examples of past assignments by your students to show them what they're capable of shooting for when you start new projects. Show them the standard!
  • Hand work back to the students.
    • Here's the hardest one. It can be hard to give work back to be redone when you're trying to push through so much content so rapidly. There's so much to do every single day! However, you are doing them a disservice by not requiring them to redo their work. If you allow it to pass, it will continue to happen. Don't accept less than your students are capable of giving you! 
So, what tips do you have for getting A+ work the first time! Share them with us below!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Myranda! I use choices for my students as well. I completely agree that choices help alleviate frustrations among students. I also like that students are taking ownership of their learning. Thanks for sharing these tips.

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