My Dog Ate It

“So who did their homework this week?”

“I did but I left it at home.”

In my first block, only two of the 30 students had their lego-language homework to turn in. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do at this point. If this were a class of undergrads, I’d admonish them for not coming to my office hours or emailing me if they didn’t understand the assignment and give them all zeros. But these are eighth graders. I don’t exactly have office hours they can attend, and I’m not sure they would think to email me to ask questions. The fact that an overwhelming majority didn’t do the assignment means they either conspired to test whether I was serious or, far more likely, they didn’t understand how to do it.

This was a bit surprising to me, since my perception was that the first block understood my lesson the best. Mrs. Trauthwein was frustrated as she had been reminding them all week to do my homework. In the end we decided to give extra points to those that turned it in that day, and extend the assignment by a week for everyone else. I then threw together a quick example of what I was looking for, in the form of a program to build the word ‘HI’ in lego bricks, which we worked through as a class.

Before going through the ‘HI’ example, I put the code up and asked them all to sketch what they thought it would look like when built. One of my students said: “it’s going to be flat, because the second coordinate is always zero”. What an amazingly astute observation! Maybe all was not lost! We also discussed different ways to define the coordinates, in search of something that was more intuitive to them.

My later blocks had better completion rates. Roughly half the students in each class turned in something. It turns out quite a few students didn’t do their regular math homework that day either, so maybe this isn’t out of the ordinary.


About Andrew Farmer

I am a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Kansas. I'm interested in functional programming languages, compilers, and language transformation tools.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Dog Ate It

  1. Andrew, the way you are able to adapt on the spot with the 8th graders is wonderful. You are always open to suggestion and that is wonderful. Because you were willing to give them an extra week they will always be more open to learning from you…yeah, that is just the way it works. They aren’t adults yet…we are just trying to get them there. Most of them have never been held accountable for much of anything so we take babysteps.

    I approach homework as practice, like for an instrument or sport, that is why many don’t always turn it in on time…they need extra time or help, but they almost always get it turned in!

    The “HI” example was wonderful and gave many the confidence they needed to go on and try the homework.

    Have a great week!

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