Okay, teachers and…

Okay, teachers and students and former students (that's all of you), here's a question for you. Assume the following:
  • 50-minute class
  • Students assigned to read two short stories by Philippine-American author (also have short 2-3 page paper due today)
  • First 10 minutes of class I spend reviewing Philippine-American history for context
  • Then move into story discussion -- to discover that NONE of my 20+ students have done the reading
  • What do you do with the next 40 minutes of class?
My solution was to dismiss them to go catch up on their reading, but I'm not thrilled with this solution, as I'm pretty sure they see it as a reward and not a punishment. They haven't internalized 'I'm paying for this class and therefore I ought to get value out of it, which I can't do if I don't do the necessary prep." I've already once had to give them a reading quiz to make them catch up on their reading -- do I have to do this every damn week? Should I have given them a reading pop quiz today and let them flunk it, to scare them into staying caught up? Do I just write today off as an unsurprising consequence of them having a paper due? Should I have kept them in class for the remaining 40 minutes -- and done what with them? Suggestions, please, as I am seriously frustrated.

10 thoughts on “Okay, teachers and…”

  1. The worst punishment I could think of is more work. Make them do an extra paper on the story they didn’t read. And/or keep them in class the entire 40 minutes doing writing and then make them read what they’ve written in front of the entire class, front of the room. I’m pretty sure that your students don’t think getting dismissed early as a punishment.

  2. Quiz every week. Definitely. That’s what we had to do in Orgo lab at Wellesley, to make sure we’d read the pre-lab materials. Don’t worry about “treating them like children.” I didn’t feel like I was being treated like a child getting quizzed every week; it was just something to make sure I understood what I was doing, and so I appreciated it.

  3. I do like the idea of having someone randomly chosen read the material aloud to the class. A different person each time it happens would be best, perhaps. You would have to decide on the fly how to grade the reading performance, of course.

  4. I’m sure the paper due had everything to do with it.

    Also, I’m sure a couple of people did read the short stories, but didn’t want to fess up to doing so in front of their peers.

    I’m taking a class now where the prof does a short 5-question multiple choice quiz for the reading we should’ve done. It’s counted toward the “participation” part of our grade, which I thought was clever because it removes the threatening anxiety of a “real” test, but has enough consequence that you feel like you should do the reading.

  5. Also, I would’ve made them read the shorter of the two stories in class and had a discussion immediately afterward. I’m guessing that would’ve filled in 30-40 minutes?

  6. Were either of the stories short enough to be read in 20 minutes? If so, I would have given them 20 minutes to sit there and read one of the stories and then discussed for 20 minutes.
    Or if the stories were longer than that, had them read up to a specific point and then talk about how they thought the story might end and why.

  7. Heh. Appealling as the idea of making them sit there silently for 40 minutes is, that feels way too high-school for me to comfortable with it.

    If we could’ve read a story in class, I would have taken that option, which I agree would’ve been best, but both stories were on the longer side, and I’m pretty sure most of them didn’t bring copies of the stories to class with them. (A bit unusual because these are stories I e-mailed to them, rather than out of books they own, which they’re more likely to bring in.)

    I’ll do the quizzes if I have to, I guess, but it’s frustrating because a) it takes up valuable class time, in a class where I’m already feeling very pressed for time, and b) it’s extra work for me, of course, to both prepare the quiz and grade it. I’ll do it if I need to, of course, if that’s the only way to get them to do the reading, but it does feel a bit like I’m being punished because they aren’t doing their work.

    I don’t think there’s any way I’ll ever do a reading quiz every class, but maybe random pop quizzes every week or two.

    I do like the writing assignment idea; if I’d thought of it, that’s probably what I would’ve done with the rest of today’s class.

  8. There is a professor here at UD who requires a 1-2 page first impression paper from each student on each new topic after the reading is done and before any class discussion or lecture on the topic is begun. I had forgotten about this until this minute. Students apparently ask “What do you want?” early in the term, but his answer, “I want your own thoughts and ideas,” eventually takes hold.

    This has the advantage of not taking class time, and it is really obvious if two or more people turn in the same essay. I really like this idea.

  9. “Appealling as the idea of making them sit there silently for 40 minutes is, that feels way too high-school for me to comfortable with it.”

    But that’s the point–they’re acting like high-schoolers, so why not treat ’em that way? 😉 And it has the benefit of not creating more work for you.

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