January 10, 2008

Early Rewards

A few years ago I implemented an Early Rewards system in my class, where I sometimes offer extra credit to students who turn in their work early. I save this special incentive for projects and papers, and it appeals to a wide range of students. I originally came up with it to encourage those hopeless students who are thinking about blowing off a major assignment, but I also thought my super motivated students might enjoy a challenge, too. (The extra credit amount is generally enough to raise their overall grade by 1%, which is not major.)

Last year I wrote about the quality of work I generally receive from the students who turn in their work early, compared to students who turned in their work late. Generally, the quality of the work is better with projects submitted early, while those procrastinators who took more time turned in poor quality, often incomplete work.

Tomorrow my students will turned in their quarter-long writing projects, which was a book of their personal essays thanks to House on Mango Street as inspiration. Today 30% of my students turned their books in early! That is truly impressive!

On first glance, I have wide variety of quality-looking books. Some students bought nice folders and placed their pages in plastic sleeves, while others actually had their books spiral bound. Not all students think to do something like that (or have money for it), so there are some functional covers made of construction paper. I've made it a point to tell the latter students who were nervous with their covers after seeing some of the fancy ones that it was the writing inside that really made it special. I'm drawn to a pretty package, but I know some of my students couldn't pretty up a project if their lives depended on it. However, they can put their hearts into and make it neat. There's no shame in that.

Also due tomorrow is an comparison essay related to a book they've read this quarter. It was assigned in December, but I told the students if they would be sure to have the book read by the time we returned from break, I would review techniques on writing a compare/contrast essay with them and give them time to work in class. Although I didn't offer an early reward for the essay, I had 10% of my students submit their essays early, too.

I find myself constantly irritated with my students-who-don't. This year has been once of the worst, too. Today, I am so proud of my students-who-do for pushing themselves to succeed rather than allowing themselves to procrastinate. I'd like to think they've tasted the true reward of my early reward system. While their classmates pull all-nighters, those motivated students will be getting a good night's sleep. Maybe they had a little free time to do what teens do this evening, too. Perhaps the time management skills they've used that enabled them to finish early will become a life-long habits. What a satisfying habit that would be!

No comments: