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Have students read assignment sheets

8151789_origfavicon What I’m about to propose is not rocket science, but it’s revolutionary.

It’s time for a new assignment. Maybe it’s an essay. Or perhaps it’s a project. Whatever it is, this assignment has what teachers call a “sheet,” which usually offers some background, an introduction, a few tips and directions, and plenty of deadlines.

This is what usually happens:

  1. The teacher calls on a student to read the first paragraph out loud,
  2. Most students do not pay attention, because…
  3. The teacher then explains everything that was just read.

What’s wrong here is that the students have done no reading and understanding on their own. As a teacher, I have no idea whether the students understand the project. And when they’re doing the assignment, students likely won’t know what’s going on, plus they won’t think to use their assignment sheet as a resource.

One better way to do this would be:

  1. Have students read and annotate the assignment sheet,
  2. Answer clarifying questions,
  3. Check for understanding and build interest.

Some teachers achieve #3 through a scavenger hunt or by having students share their initial thoughts in pairs.

You know you’re successful when students know what they’re doing and what they need to do in order to succeed.

Easy, right? Not so much. Most teachers stick with the read-aloud approach out of habit or because they think students won’t understand what they’re reading. If that’s the case, who is the assignment sheet for?

Assignment sheets are chock-full of a teacher’s vision. They’re meant to be read and referred to. May it be so! favicon

3 comments

  1. Beth Silbergeld

    How about reading a rubric?!! Snoresville. Great to hear this best practice! It will be interesting to change classroom culture around this practice. Teachers may need to adjust what is on paper, so that the students can engage with the assignment without much prompting. (Visuals spruce up a sheet for sure.) The directions that you put in the post could be on the board, so that neither student nor teacher falls back into the routine.

    • Mark Isero

      Ah, rubrics are even better than assignment sheets! (Funny that we become frustrated that students haven’t read the rubrics when we find them so boring ourselves that we never have our students read them in the first place!)

      I like your suggestion to add visuals. Maybe that means Microsoft Word instead of Google Docs? I also advocate for a one-page sheet, or if it’s a huge project, a front-and-back. No need to keep going on and on. Let’s get to the task prompt, the best part!

Please share your brilliant insights!