In judgment of sincerity
Harder and longer
Not at the last minute
The value of extra credit cannot be overemphasized. At the very least, it’s an activity to make up for that forgotten homework assignment or botched quiz. We all have our bad days, and a teenager’s life is so complicated that he deserves an occasional break.
Beyond that, it gives you a way to individualize instruction. You’ll always have the student who just can’t seem to get it no matter how hard he tries. An extra credit assignment can give him the added experience with the topic and give his grade a boost, too.
You’ll find that your very best students feel the need to prove themselves through means beyond the daily work. Indeed, they are the ones most likely to do the extra credit. It is ironic that the ones who don’t need it are the ones most likely to do it.
Extra credit also gives you a means to judge a student’s sincerity. It’s hard to believe a student’s declaration of concern and effort at the end of the course when he didn’t avail himself of extra credit opportunities.
Use your imagination when designing extra credit. Written questions on a museum exhibit give kids an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon and earn some points as well. Have them take notes (for you to grade) on a TV show that might parallel your course. Posters and reports are traditional extra credit assignments. You’ll want to quiz them orally on their contents of their report, though, just to be sure that they have actually learned the information and not just paraphrased the encyclopedia. You might ask them to learn something beyond the normal course content and then quiz them on it after school. Building projects might be appropriate for some classes as well as group activities where some learning can be demonstrated. Be certain to impress on your students that you expect some learning to take place and that you will base their grade on your evaluation of that learning. Don’t make extra credit just so much busy work.
Two cautions are in order. First, it should be more difficult to get points through extra credit than for the regular classwork. Otherwise, you’ll have kids doing the extra credit rather than the homework or studying for tests. Second, teenagers are great procrastinators. Don’t allow them to do extra credit right up to the last day of the marking period. If you do, on the last day you’ll be besieged by hordes of kids suddenly cognizant of their sagging grades. Announce the availability of extra credit early in the course, saying it will be due one week before the end. They won’t be very interested in the beginning, so a reminder or two as the weeks pass might be in order.