I had to miss school a few weeks ago, and my students really needed a work day to revise their essays. Here's the problem: I teach high school seniors. And as we know in high school, work day = free day. So I wanted to hold them accountable, as well as actually have a way to immediately check their work.
I left them an assignment itslearning, asking them to write a brief summary of what they did that day, ask any questions they still have, and to attach a photo of their work. This photo allowed me to ensure they actually worked, but also allowed them to take their essays home to continue revising.
The result? I was able to visualize the work they did through the photos (revising is a messy process!) and I was able to prepare answers for some of their specific questions. The added perk was being able to hold them accountable for their work that day. Below are a few sample responses
To be totally honest, the sub was about 25 minutes late but it was great because I was able to finish my chemistry lab and my calculus study guide. I'll probably ask for help with revisions later. But is it okay for me to change my thesis statement? I don't think I can support it with the evidence I have and my knowledge of the book.
***Honestly, I include this one both because it made me laugh and also because she had a legitimate question
Today I reread my essay about a million times, to try and figure out how to add commentary. I decided to take out a few lines of summary. I rearranged the conclusion to try and transfer the commentary to the rest of the page. I am still unsure if what I'm changing is adding value to my paper.
During class, J and I highlighted each other's commentary and plot summary and discussed how we think the other person could best improve their essay from an outsider's perspective. After looking over my essay with J, I decided my essay needs more specific text references and less commentary.
Before I worked on actually rewriting my essay, I highlighted my theme, plot summary, and commentary in different colors. Then I began from the beginning of the essay by rewriting my thesis statement to make it apply to the world in a broader way. I then rewrote the intro to include more information about the time period...I still don't believe my intro is strong or flows very well, so I'll probably go back at the end and rewrite it again. I think my second paragraph is stronger than my first, so I decided to focus on the first page. I noticed I had less commentary on the first page than the second, so when I was rewriting I focused more on that. I also took into consideration how often I repeated words like we'd discussed in class, but that was after I repeated the word "education" multiple times...Sigh. I ran out of time after that, because trying to figure out how to rewrite the thesis and claim statement, plus adding more commentary made my brain hurt.
Okay, so some of these responses made me laugh a bit. Many were basic summaries (which is exactly what I asked for, mind you). But some, like the ones shared above, surprised me by explaining their thought process. That was awesome! I think I might include something that prompts more students to do that in the future, making it more of a reflective piece than a summarizing piece. I truly loved seeing their thinking.
All in all? I'd do this assignment again. First, it was EASY to prepare. This was probably the simplest sub lesson I've ever prepared. Second, it was effective. I would possibly even do it on a day that I didn't have a sub, because high school students love an excuse to type on their phones. Honestly, they probably typed their summary on their phones faster than they would have hand-written a response. It felt informal as well, which I think was necessary for this to work. Lastly, (and just as a humorous side note), a few weeks after I posted the assignment, I got an email from ed tech asking if they could use it as an example of an itslearning assignment. I was embarrassed to tell her it was for a sub day - and yet, that seemed to make it all the better! The simplicity and the effectiveness made it a perfect example of how itslearning can be used with ease :)
And now, I no longer fear the sub day; instead, I'm drinking all the itslearning kool-aid and embracing some new ideas.