I’m trying out a new homework policy with our 6th graders in our collaboratively-taught class on Composers (General Music). The students have “listening logs” they do, where they listen to a piece of music about their composer, fill out some informatio and reflect on the piece, and then upload the whole thing to Moodle. They have difficulties with this (either the assignment, getting the technology to work at home, experimenting with Moodle, etc.), and I want them to make the necessary mistakes and learn those skills, without feeling like they are failing because they didn’t do it right the first time.
So the first day a listening log is due, I give them the “Remember the ALAMO” talk – it starts like this: “What do you do if you didn’t get your homework in on time?” I ask them if they’ve ever heard the phrase “Rememer the Alamo…” – then I tell them what my “ALAMO” stands for – Acknowledge, Learn, And Move On.
I say rather than giving me a 10-15 minute excuse about why they didn’t do it, they acknowledge that they didn’t do it (it’s a fact), learn from why they didn’t do it, and move on – tell me what they plan to do to make it up. I explain that it’s not really useful to beat ourselves up because we didn’t so something, because then we would never want to take risks or make mistakes again.
Here’s what’s happened since I started this – I have not gotten any excuses, unless they are framed with a plan to improve. “I had a rehearsal, and then a wrestling match, so I couldn’t get them done, but I can work through lunch today to finish …” Then I can say, “Take your lunch – it’s important – can you agree to have it to me in two days?” This helps me to get to know what they really are up against where homework is concerned, and to reinforce that “punishing” yourself by working through your breaks is not a healthy alternative – and a pattern that is worth breaking before it starts.
At the end of the class, I reinforce that everyone has either handed in their work or made a plan with me. I haven’t seen anyone abuse the system yet. More people are on schedule this year. I hope it continues!