When my Unit Packets almost went extinct…
I’m not sure if this is a phrase or an actual thing, but it seems that my classroom is a reflection of me. I guess it would make sense since that is where I spend the majority of my time and devote so much of my energy. This, however, didn’t become apparent to me until one key structure in my classroom almost went extinct.
For those of you who do not know, I’m a list maker. You can look at my desk at work, or my coffee table at home, or Google Keep on my phone, you’ll find lists everywhere; things I need to do, ideas I have for assignments, shopping lists, etc. Naturally it makes sense that I would favor a homework procedure that would involve students making and following a list.
I originally saw this system done by one of my master teachers and I modified the system slightly. Students are given a blank checklist at the start of each unit.
Each class period then begins with students updating their checklist with the work for the day. Students then complete their assignments and hang onto them until the day of unit test. On test day, students staple their work together in order with the checklist on top and I go through and assess whether they completed their work.
(Note: I do check their work throughout the unit by using the stamp system: blue stamp means 100%, red stamp means incomplete. Any red stamps completed by the test day will receive half credit. Red stamps that are not completed receive a zero).
This was a fabulous system up until last August when Google Classroom, a fantastic application that allows students to flawlessly access their work for each class in one place, was introduced. Since I knew that I would have the Chromebooks for designated units, I decided to go totally digital in my classroom by using Google Classroom. From day one I was in love with Google Classroom, but it seemed to eliminate the need for my unit packet system. This wasn’t a major problem until the first few assignments began rolling in. I had students turning in work almost daily, which meant I had more grading to do over the weekend and students were getting confused about their grades and work that they could and could not make up. I longed to go back to my organized checklist system, but I had no idea how to accomplish it while still using Google Classroom.
I considered alternatives:
- Have students attach each assignment separately onto a single Google Classroom assignment. I shot down that idea because I was afraid students would get mixed up and forget to attach certain assignments.
- Give all the work for the unit to the students at the start of each unit. I shot down that idea because while I am organized I’m not THAT organized; I also like the option to modify assignments as the unit progress based on student needs.
Finally, I came up with an idea. I would share a blank checklist at the start of each unit. Rather than posting work as individual assignments on Classroom, I would post them as announcements.
Students would then copy and paste the work below their checklist so they could complete the task (Detailed process pictured below). Then on the day of the final, students will “Turn In” their checklist, which is a single document filled with that entire unit’s work. This seemed to be my best option, so I decided to give it a try.
I will admit, it was slow going at first and many students wanted to reject the new way of turning in work. I reasoned with them that we should give this new procedure a chance and that it would make the classroom more organized for them. Throughout many unit packets, students groaned, got confused, and sometimes assignments got copied in the wrong spots. We worked together to simplify the process as much as possible; one students introduced me to “Ctrl+A”, which allows you to select an entire document in one click. Bythe end of the semester, my students were into the rhythm and my new version of the unit packet seemed to be working.
At the start of the Spring semester, my school reorganizes classes so teachers wind up with a new set of students. I knew that introducing new students to my perfected version of a digital unit packet would be the true test of whether this procedure was a success.
I am proud to say that one week into this unit and the students have yet to overthrow my digital unit packet. Former students helped new students get situated with the procedure and we have gone step by step each time. Now they know the procedure:
1. Open their checklist
2. Open the announcement, Ctrl+A to select all then Ctrl+C to copy
3. Switch over to the very bottom of the checklist document and Ctrl+V to paste.
Its still not a perfect system and I’m always looking for ways to improve it, but I’m happy that my classroom remains a reflection of myself while still being totally digital.