How do I make honors courses more challenging?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by allaragallagher, May 7, 2016.

  1. allaragallagher

    allaragallagher Comrade

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    May 7, 2016

    Looking for any suggestions on how to make my honors courses more challenging.

    I'm finishing up my second year of teaching. I've taught honors-level junior and senior English both years and will be teaching them again next year. I made a lot of changes after my first year (mostly with the materials I use) and I'm planning on changing things again. But the changes I'm implementing next year are more procedural.

    For example, I noticed students this year would bomb a test and then just retake it when they were ready. The same thing happened with their papers. They would receive average grades on their essays but then revise for a higher grade. Next year, I'm not going to offer retakes (if I'm allowed, school policy says we must) and I'm going to average grades and retakes together. I'm also not going to offer extra credit in my honors courses.

    But the other day I was talking to the students and a student made the comment: nothing in this class has been honors level. It really shocked me because right now we're reading The Odyssey and they are struggling. I think the material is challenging but that I allow too much time and offer too much help. Can you tell me about your honors curriculum and expectations? Is there a professional development class I can take?
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2016
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  3. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    May 7, 2016

    Who taught the class before you? I would ask to see the syllabus or reach out to nearby schools and see if those teachers are willing to share their information.
     
  4. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    May 7, 2016

    I think a lot of this is going to depend on what your school allows, but my honors kids don't get retakes on anything. They also have homework every night (actually, so do my regs) and they get ONE day they can turn it in late or else it's a permanent zero.

    I teach history, so what constitutes "honors-level" would look different than an English class, but my kids have additional content each unit as well as a primary source analysis paper that they must write each unit. And of course the more difficult tests.

    Looking at the previous teacher's material is a good start, but I felt my predecessor wasn't pushing the kids nearly enough and really ramped it up when I took over the course.
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    May 8, 2016

    So few people at my school differentiate between regular and honors. As a result, I get complaints about being too hard. Almost always they give the same tests to both sets of students, and simply curve the regular class grades. Makes me crazy.

    In my advanced classes:

    I give less support. I don't spoon-feed material unless I believe it is a really hard concept. For regular classes I will repeat a concept over and over. Students might hear/read each test question four times before the test in my regular class. In honors I sometimes won't explain a method but instead give an example and have the kids figure it out in a quasi-inquiry manner.

    I ask harder questions. My regular ed students have almost every test question written out in their notes. My honors students have about half. The rest are questions that they need to figure out during testing, based on the foundations I've given in class.

    I have higher expectations. For an assignment where I've outlined my requirements, I will give full credit to my regular students if they meet the requirements. For my honors students I expect them to go farther to show me how much they have learned and understand.

    Basically I try to make it so my regular students (which are 90% remedial, not regular) only have to memorize to be successful and my honors students have to analyze and create to be.
     
    allaragallagher and PallasAthena like this.
  6. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    May 8, 2016

    If school policy says you must allow a retake (which I think is crazy,) does it have to be the exact same test? Could the original be multiple choice or short answer and the retake be an essay?
     
  7. ~mrs.m~

    ~mrs.m~ Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    The highest my students can get on a retake is an 80. That does encourage most students to prepare the first time. I teach middle school.
     
  8. allaragallagher

    allaragallagher Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    Thank you for all of your suggestions.
     
  9. allaragallagher

    allaragallagher Comrade

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    May 8, 2016

    It does not, and I've started doing exactly that. Thank you!
     
  10. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    May 8, 2016

    I do a lot more in class reading with my regular students. I also use more young adult literature with them to try and keep them engaged.

    Most of it has to do with the support I give though. My honors kids are much more self-motivated. I can give them an assignment with little hand holding. I do a lot more step by step with my regular classes.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    May 9, 2016

    When it comes to the retakes or rewrites I would be looking at trends in what is missed or what type of feedback the students are looking for or getting prior to the rewrite. Sometimes kids use this method because they are lazy in studying and other times they use it because they really don't understand the expectations for the assignment and use it to feel out what is an A level paper.

    Sometimes they haven't been taught what is expected for different types of analysis and research so they use feedback to improve. The fact that they do the rewrites shows they want to learn unless you are allowing them to just copy your words in their rewrite. I wouldn't necessarily say no rewrites because they are honors, especially if you are expecting them to be able to think more critically and write at a higher level than regular students.

    Our 9th grade honors students read the Odyssey. They also write several short analysis papers and a longer research paper. Some students come in for help by signing up for a writing conference, but it is basically just a way to do a rewrite before it is due.
     

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