Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Are bad ideas that get results still bad ideas? 

I feel almost dirty right now. I had an idea last night. We were going to be working on our last worksheet of the year today and I've been struggling all year to get kids to even bother putting pencil to paper. We've tried everything. Modeling style discussions disappeared a while ago because we couldn't have meaningful whole class discussions when only 2 kids did any work. We tried picking students at random to work through problems in front of the class, but again, when no one does any work, that quickly becomes a nightmare. I tried checking worksheets for a completion-based grade and that worked for a very short while, but soon we were back to square one. Quizzes have been open notes all year, with the idea being that if students are completing the work, it'll be right in front of them on the assessment. Still, maybe 10% of students are actually completing the worksheets. 

So I decided to give students an incentive to get the work done. I know that's not a new idea, but I hate anything that makes the reason to do get work done something other than learning. My idea was to give students a raffle ticket for every question on the worksheet that was 100% complete. This means detailed steps, the correct answer, and proper units. The raffle tickets will be put into a bucket and one will be drawn for a prize. The prize will be some token I have laying around, but I refuse to make it academic (and made that clear to the students). SBG makes extra credit a non-issue anyway. I told students that they were welcome to work together, but doing so would inflate the number of tickets out there and decrease an individual's odds of winning. 

Also, my rules dictated that I would NOT help in any way. All I would do is pass out tickets based on the number of complete problems I saw on a worksheet when it was put in front of me. I would not say which question was wrong or why. It was fun to see which students figured out that doing problems one at a time was the guaranteed way to keep track of which problems were correct. 

Sadly, a decent chunk of students (maybe 1/3) still did nothing. But that means that 2/3 of the classes were actively getting their work done! And they have no idea what they MIGHT get! And they know it's NOT academic! 

I feel really weird about how well it worked. I guess the real evidence will come from assessment data to see if getting them to try will yield to proficiency, or if they really did just copy answers to get a raffle ticket. 

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