The Black Hole | Mindsteps Inc.

The Black Hole

Somewhere in every classroom there’s the black hole that is the “no name bin.” Whether your students are six years old or sixteen years old, there’s always someone who can’t remember to put her name on her paper. The no-name syndrome gets worse as assignments become more complex – students answer only part one of a two part question, leave out some of the requirements (“What, I needed quotes from the text in my essay?!”), forget to show their work, leave their lab notes out of the lab report – all despite the teacher’s clear directions.

Next time your students are turning in an important assignment, consider showing them a very bad example a few days before the due date. If you have a copy of student work from a few years back, you could remove the name and go from there, or create your own bad example of an assignment that is missing pieces or otherwise not quite complete. Let students use their directions and rubrics for the assignment to figure out why this is a bad example. If you’ve ever handed out something with a typo, you know how students love to find mistakes.

As the class shares their findings of what is wrong with the assignment, have a student record and post what should be included. For example, the paper should have the student’s name and the date at the top, the answer should include the page number in the textbook where it was found, the final answer to the Algebra problem should be circled, the bibliography should be attached, etc.

Now as students prepare to submit their own work, they have reviewed the rubric and directions, applied the expectations to example work and helped create a checklist of what’s required. Students can use the checklist to make sure their own work is in order before submitting it – saving themselves point deductions and you the headache of dealing with incomplete assignments.

Claire Lambert

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