“What can I do for extra credit?!” I’m pretty sure there isn’t a middle or high school teacher that hasn’t heard these exact words coming from a student’s mouth. Students are HUGE fans of the concept, and honestly, who can blame them? Another way to boost their grades? Most students will leap at the opportunity (especially if their grades are suffering.) But what do teachers think about the use of extra credit? Truthfully, it’s mixed. In this article, I’m going to take a (brief) stab at explaining the pro’s and con’s of offering additional points to your middle school science students, as well as offer a few extra credit ideas for middle school teachers.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
REASONS TO OFFER EXTRA CREDIT:
Offering extra credit isn’t just about boosting bad grades or humoring your students’ last-minute requests for a better grade. Fans of extra credit assignments typically view extra credit opportunities as a way to provide students with extra enrichment in addition to their regular assignments. Here are a few reasons you should consider offering extra credit in your classroom:
- Extra assignments (even those given for extra credit) are a great way to give greater exposure to the course material.
- These opportunities give struggling students the chance to keep trying.
- Extra credit work can be a fun way to explore different concepts related to your curriculum that you might not otherwise cover. (Ex: Current events)
- Extra credit assignments are a great way to boost student engagement.
EXTRA CREDIT PITFALLS TO AVOID:
Not every teacher is a fan of extra credit (and with good reason.) Personally, I believe that extra credit assignments can be a helpful tool within the classroom, but like all things, it can be misused and abused. Here are a few extra credit pitfalls to avoid:
- Offering bonus points for attendance. In my opinion, just “showing up” is not enough to earn extra points. Students should earn extra credit when they go the extra mile.
- Giving too many extra points. Extra credit can be nice to boost the grade of an individual assignment, but it shouldn’t radically change a student’s overall course grade. In this case, their class grade is no longer a true refection of their learning, content understanding, and effort. (Ex: A student earning a D receives a B after factoring in extra credit points.)
- Offering extra credit for every assignment or assessment. This may decrease students’ motivation to give a good effort the first time they complete an assignment. After all, why try if you know you’ll essentially be given a “do-over.” Instead, I recommend offering extra credit sporadically and for different types of assignments.
EXTRA CREDIT IDEAS FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS
Alright, so you’ve decided you DO want to offer extra credit opportunities in your classroom, but you need some extra credit assignment ideas to get you started. Well, my friend, I’ve got you covered. Here are a few of my favorite extra credit ideas for middle school teachers:
COMPLETING STUDY GUIDES
Periodically, you may consider offering bonus points to students who complete their study guides. Not only will this encourage students to finish this important classwork, it’s also a great way to ensure that your students have everything they need to prepare for tests and quizzes. The following items are a few of the study guides I’ve used with my science classes. You might offer bonus points for the entire study guide or just for a specific section.
Test (and other assignment) corrections can be a powerful exercise for students. It teaches the valuable life skill of being able to reflect on mistakes and learn from them. When having students make test corrections, I HIGHLY recommend that you ask for more than a list of correct answers. (Let’s face it…any middle schooler can look up or copy down the correct answers without learning a darn thing.) Instead, I’d recommend having your middle school students give a written explanation for why their original answer was incorrect and what the correct answer should have been. Yes, it’s extra work…but this process helps facilitate true learning.
It might look something like this:
#1. I answered ____________________. This is incorrect because _______________. The correct answer is _______________ because ____________________.
Science is a discipline that lends itself well to the creation of infographics! Have your students create an infographic, chart, or diagram that illustrates an important concept within your unit. Having to synthesize the information in their notes and create a visual representation of this information is a great way for students to deepen their understanding of important concepts (and in my opinion, is well worth a few bonus points.)
For example… <SH4>
If you are teaching the states of matter, you may ask your students to create their own visual diagram or infographic representing how one substance might move between the different states of matter.
FAMOUS SCIENTIST SUMMARIES
Who doesn’t love a good biographical assignment? I like to offer famous scientist summaries as an extra credit assignment students can tackle for homework or free time assignments. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to let students choose their own famous scientist to research. This encourages creativity and ownership over the project.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you’re looking for an easy way to offer bonus points, having students complete a science “question of the day” can be a great way to do just that! These extra credit questions could be used a bell ringers or a simple addition to a homework assignment.
NEWS ARTICLE SUMMARIES
Incorporating current events and news articles into our class discussion is one of my favorite extra credit ideas for middle school teachers. Having students read and summarize news articles is an interesting way for them to see the “real world connection” of our science curriculum.
What are YOUR favorite ways to use extra credit in your classroom?
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