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Recycled Homework

Admittedly, I am not terribly good at evaluating homework.  In spite of my efforts and best intentions, I find it difficult to give homework assessment the attention it deserves on a regular and consistent basis.  There, I said it.

Recently, however, I came up with a fortunate outcome to my unfortunate practice.  While reading a book with my 8th graders, I assigned a character study about the two main characters.  That evening, I came across a similar assignment that I have given last year - for the same chapter.  Needless to say, I had not made any comments on these old papers, either.

The next day in class, I asked this year's students to "Grade the Graduates."  Current students evaluated the work of former students.  This practice not only helped the students develop that elusive skill evaluation, it helped them gain a deeper understanding of the content.  Our class discussion was rich and students were able to improve the quality of their own work afterwards.  Wouldn't it be nice if every instructional shortcoming could be transformed into a teachable moment?