No matter how clearly or emphatically I explain something, my students will still depend on me to repeat the information when they are ready to finally use or process it. While my previous post focused on how to avoid repeating directions about class protocols, this one focuses on letting Showbie complete the wearisome job of catching up absent students.
We all know the dreaded question. The question that carries forces us into a vortex of self-reflection and doubt: ‘Did we do anything important last class?’ Here is where Showbie saves the teacher from the great unraveling, while also allowing the teacher’s perception of the student to remain intact.
I create an assignment in Showbie which I modify each day using Showbie comments. This assignment is called ‘Recap of the Day’. At the end of each day, I take the time to tediously explain exactly what was done during that day’s class. I do this for every class, adding nuances, so that absent students can feel like they were with us. This may seem like a lot of time devoted to recapping small details, but, to borrow their phrase, ‘OMG’ is it worth it.
I teach high school and could have 3-15 students absent on any given day. With the ‘Recap of the Day’ assignment in place, any student who is absent knows they must look in this folder before asking me any questions and that their questions should demonstrate that they’ve already delved into the tasks and content. Their questions should not ask anything related to ‘What did we do?’ In this way, I start receiving statements from my students as opposed to questions:
- ‘I read and annotated the text found in Showbie/TheTellTaleHeart, but didn’t understand some of the author’s choices about the narrator.’
- ‘I was absent for two weeks. I’ve submitted the majority of my paper, but wanted your feedback on some conclusion ideas before submitting.’
The beauty of this system is that it flips the whole relationship of teacher and absent student. Instead of creating double work for the teacher in recreating a lesson, getting absent students caught up is dependent on teamwork. The teacher purposefully relays enough information in the Showbie comment and the student moves through the information completing the tasks before the next class.
The ‘Recap of the Day’ assignment also gives me more freedom in navigating the day’s variables. If a student who was absent comes to class unprepared (not having read the recap of the day comment), I now have more choices. Instead of having that student try to pick up on what’s going on and deepening his confusion, I can have that student work through the ‘Recap of the Day’ assignment independently and/or with support as needed (i.e. me, student leader).
The Showbie ‘Recap of the Day’ assignment allows me to focus my work with students who were absent on developing their understanding of concepts and their critical thinking processes as opposed to reiterating directions, without detracting from the work my students are doing AND without me having to host an after-school (or worse, Saturday!) makeup session.