how can i help you remember? (a snapshot)

Here is a thing that happened today:

I have a few middle school classes that only meet once a week. In one of the classes, the students almost never do their homework at home. They find themselves doing it or trying to do it frantically in the first five minutes of class. The result is a waste of time, terrible quality, and incomplete work. And of course an angry teacher.

Today was no different in terms of homework completion. But it was different in terms of response. I was midway to shouting when I realized that maybe the problem was that they couldn’t remember it. I mean, I have a hard time remembering the beginning of a day at the end of it. It would be no wonder if the homework got lost in the sea of other assignments. While I know that it’s their responsibility to record and recall their assignments, it is possible that they need some support.

So instead of shouting, I asked them: How can I help you to remember your homework?

I really actually expected them to just look at their desks and not answer me. But they picked up that my anger had drained and I was asking a real question.

And they answered.

One girl said, “we can make a Kakao group and you can remind us the homework one or two days before the class.” Heads nodded. Other students agreed. They looked around at each other. I confirmed that they all use Kakao Talk and I passed my phone around. They input their phone numbers and names. I put my phone number on the board and gave out their phones. They added me, too. One of the students helped me find them all and create the group.

Our Kakao Group

Our Kakao Group

At the end of the class, I wrote the homework on the board. I also posted it in the chat room. I also took a picture of the board and posted that as well. The ‘thank you’s started streaming in (which was a good reminder to turn off notifications!), along with banter and friendliness. I promised to repost the homework a couple days before class next week as well.

Hopefully it works.

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  • Rose Bard  On April 2, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    That is exactly what it means bringing learners onboard. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. The fact that you acknowledged something that is real (we all forget things) and could be possibly a reason for homework not be done, you also created a huge opportunity for change. The change comes from within the people in the room when we negotiate and discuss how to do things better and a solve a problem together. This is why dialogue is central. You can’t work together and learn with and from each other if we deny this very essential need that we all have, that is, to be heard. In turn, we also learn to listen, weight the options, give it a try, reassess critically and refine until we find a solution that is really useful to us all.

    Thanks so much to share this snapshot of your class.

    • Josette LeBlanc  On April 3, 2015 at 7:51 am

      I can’t say it better than Rose. This is the magic of tuning in isn’t it. And on top of that, now they have an extra space to communicate in English — if not in English at least the possibility of a new, supportive community.

      Thanks for the glimpse into your day Anne!

      • livinglearning  On April 3, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        Thank you! I didn’t think of it as an extra space to communicate in English, but I did start thinking about sharing photos or short notes related to the themes we discuss. I’m glad they can also communicate as a class when they need to. I’m very glad we had the chance to focus on a solution instead of the problem. That’s a lesson I’m going to hold close. I don’t ask questions like that often enough.

    • livinglearning  On April 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Dear Rose,
      I wish I could say it was an intentional thing. I went with the moment. I hope change comes from it and I hope it’s change that they want, too. I have been trying to find ways to involve students in managing their own learning and supporting them in ways that work for them. I will also remember to check with them later about whether they feel the system is working and what changes they might want to make. Thank you for being the inspiration so I can remember how to talk to my students when these moments come up.

  • annloseva  On April 5, 2015 at 1:08 am

    I like it a lot! So simple and quick, I wonder if I’ll be permitted to use this with my students here.. That’d be something fresh straight away.
    Please do let us know how it works out in the long run. :))

    • livinglearning  On April 6, 2015 at 1:37 am

      I will let you know. And I will be curious to hear about the tools you need or are expected to use in your new classes. Good luck, my friend!

  • Chewie  On April 5, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    Simple and effective.

  • Martin Sketchley  On April 6, 2015 at 3:03 am

    A wonderful idea – getting students to decide on how and when to undertake homework as well as how to be reminded. This is the best way to share responsibilities among the learners and foster a relationship of learner-centredness.


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