Doing something good: The one assignment I actually LOVE to grade

Finals week. That point in the semester where I’m looking at the stacks of (physical and virtual) papers to grade wondering WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS? Oh yeah, me.

A professor friend accurately described end of semester grading as a “prison of your own making,” and it is SO TRUE. This semester is so gross, I admit writing myself a mid-semester “Dear Syllabus-Writing Shawna: Don’t ever do this again ever, even if it sounds good in August when you’re all excited for learning again. Sincerely, Dead Tired Midterm Shawna.” It really is that bad right now.

But. The bright spot of my grading life? Extra credit assignments.

Do Something Good Today
I participate every semester, too, in the form of platelet donating and secretly buying random students coffee at the campus Starbucks.

I decided years ago to stop offering extra work or make-ups. Students don’t want to write another paper. I definitely don’t want to read them (amidst the regular chaos). So, taking a leaf from my friend, Chris, who offers extra credit for charity 5ks and blood donation, I created the Doing Something Good Extra Credit assignment. It outlines two options for extra credit: Doing something good FOR someone else, and doing something good WITH someone else. And then writing about it and providing documentation, preferably in the form of pictures. The assignments are worth 10 points each (in a class of 1,000 points).

The only real parameters: The doing good must be out of the normal scheme of things and unpaid/unrequired by another class or work or club. Babysitting, cleaning an elderly neighbor’s yard, donating blood, volunteering at a food kitchen, taking a significant other out to the movies, making dinner for mom… all of these things are fair game.

The assignment is three-fold fabulous. Besides the good works themselves, students write about reconnecting with sometimes neglected family/friends and finding a wee bit of sanity during a nutso time of the semester. Meanwhile, I get to read about their awesomeness and have extra good will generated before I start grading. AND I get to see SO MUCH CUTENESS. This semester featured a higher than average number of adorable puppies and kidlets, and so many stories about connecting with elderly relatives. My heart was just bursting.

If you’re interested in adapting the assignment, here’s the details, complete with FAQs from over the years: Doing Something Good Extra Credit Assignment Sheet

Okay, back to actual grading now.

Dr. Shawna

 

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