Appendix 1: Low-Stakes Assignment Ideas

Low-Stakes Assignment Idea #1

Writing at the end of class on the lecture/discussion

Activity: During the last five minutes of the class period, ask students to use an index card or a piece of notebook paper to respond to a prompt like 

Explain to me what . . . (key concept from that day’s class) means.

or Tell me why . . . (key concept from that day’s class) is important to (larger topic).

Collect the responses as the students leave the class. Feedback is provided at the next class session. This can be done by acknowlWriting Intensive Courses 34 

edging the usefulness of the exercise and mentioning a few issues that the instructor learned needed clarification.

Benefits for instructor: 

The instructor receives immediate feedback to check the students’ comprehension of course material.

This feedback comes in a form that does not need to be graded, marked, or even returned.

Benefits for students:

Students get the chance to articulate their understanding of the topic, which aids in their processing of the material.

Students get used to writing regularly about the subject.

Variations:

This activity can be done outside of class and given to the instructor at the beginning of the next class period. In this case, be sure to set a length limit (perhaps three or four sentences).

Low Stakes Assignment Idea #2

Homework reading logs

Activity: As an ongoing homework assignment, each week ask students to write (or word-process) a one-page summary of that week’s reading for the course. The level of instructor response depends upon whether this is being done as a low- or middle-stakes assignment and whether or not completion of the assignment counts toward a percentage of the final grade for the course.

Benefits for instructor: 

The instructor receives feedback to check the students’ comprehension of course material.

The class periods are more productive because this activity strongly encourages students to stay on top of their reading assignments.York College • City University of New York 35 

Benefits for students:

Students get the chance to articulate their understanding of the reading, which aids in their processing of the material.

Students get used to writing regularly about the subject.

Variations:

Instructors can specify or limit the scope of the summary they want the students to write. For example, the summary could be of one or two specific readings or certain difficult pages within a reading. Or, a specific question can be given. A series of such assignments could affect an outline of topics for a high-stakes essay.

Instructors do not have to collect and read these one-page summaries every week. Some weeks they may want to mark that the students completed the assignment and other weeks they may want the students to exchange papers and compare their understanding of the course material with their fellow classmates. Or, they may want to read them and write one or two brief remarks.

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