Friday, August 21, 2015

Assignment naming conventions - Numbering

This summer, as I was reflecting on my classroom procedures and practices, something that came to my attention was the way I named assignments. In my reflection, I discovered that my naming conventions made sense to me but not my students. When I first started in my building, I was told to use a code at the beginning of every assignment that would represent a certain cluster of Common Core standards. For example, if the assignment was based on finding key ideas and details in informational text, I was supposed to include the code "KDI" at the beginning of the assignment name. Likewise, if students were working on an assignment to analyze the craft and structure of a literary text, the assignment would include "CSL" at the beginning. For 3 years I used this naming convention. And for 3 years, I fear that my students did not gain anything at all by seeing these codes. 

As I was considering how I would go about re-configuring my naming conventions,  I came across this post from Alice Keeler about using a number for every assignment. Genius. I mean, it's so simple! An assignment that would previously be named "KDI - School Start Time Main Idea" could be renamed "#001 - School Start Time Main Idea." As soon as I read the article, I decided that I would drop the codes this year.

Today, I experienced the power that lies in this simple switch. My students were turning in their writing about their first class project. As I was showing the class how to submit their work, I had one student who lost track of the steps. She asked aloud, "Mr. Stern, which assignment is it?" As I was about to answer, two of her classmates stepped in and said, "assignment 3." The young lady found the assignment in question and turned in her work. I didn't even have to explain a thing.

As you start setting up your own grade books and begin writing assignment names, I urge you to consider using a naming convention that includes a 3-digit number at the beginning. Assignment names are much easier to remember, and you don't have to go through and explain what this or that code means to your student. They probably don't really care about the code anyway; they just want to turn in their work.

-Mr. Stern

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