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The end of the semester is approaching quickly. Only two more weeks of coursework before finals week arrives. At this point of the semester, it’s not uncommon to receive requests for extra credit opportunities. I’ve never received an extra credit request from a student, though, because I build in multiple opportunities into the semester. There’s a lot of debate over whether extra credit should be an option in the classroom. Personally, I believe that if students are willing to put in extra effort to complete additional work, then they should have that opportunity. I’m more than willing to allow students to increase their project grades by a few points by completing additional activities that require students to deepen their understanding and abilities to apply what they’ve learned. Here are five forms of extra credit activities I offer in my various courses.
Here are five forms of extra credit activities I offer in my various courses. Click To Tweet
Responses to Classmates’ Work
In my literature courses, my students are required to complete 3-5 literary analysis discussion posts throughout the semester. They post them using our LMS forums tool. The forums are set to not allow students to read earlier posts in a specific forum until they themselves have submitted a post. At that point, the rest of the posts are revealed and they are free to reply to them. Once the deadline for a post passes, I change the setting so that all students can see the posts even if they did not complete one. Students have at least double the number of possible forums to post to than required of them, so they can pick which required texts they are most interested in analyzing before they are discussed in class.
As this is a digital assignment that all students easily have access to via our course website, I always include an extra credit opportunity at the end of the assignment sheet. Students were required to complete 3 posts in this semester’s ENG170. The assignment equates to 15% of the student’s course grade. With this grade dynamic in mind, my students could receive up to 10 points extra credit on individual posts by completing the activity below. The language that follows is copied directly from my assignment sheet:
Extra Credit: Up to 10 points total
- Comment on a classmate’s post. Include one or more of the following in your comments:
- Additional quote(s) and analysis that support their points
- Additional analysis of the quote(s) they used that further support their points
- Quote(s) and analysis that can counter their points
- Additional analysis of the quote(s) they used that counter their points
- A discussion of why their points/arguments are significant
- There is no word requirement for these comments. The detail you put into them and/or the points you make in them will equate to the amount of points you receive for each comment. Once you receive 10 points total, you will not be able to receive more of this extra credit, though additional comments can help with your participation grade in a manner similar to the Discussion Addition forums.
Very few students tend to take advantage of this extra credit opportunity, but I offer it every time I use this assignment. The students aren’t required to reply to classmates who submitted a post to the same forums they did. So, while a student might not have written a post about El Deafo, this extra credit activity gives them the chance to earn points by thinking further on a text that they originally passed on analyzing in written form. If they do respond to a post from a forum they chose earlier in the semester, then they’ve chosen to approach a text they’ve analyzed from an angle they might not have thought about on their own. In either case, students gain more literary analysis writing skills and work on rhetorically responding to someone else’s analysis rather than just always writing their own without any concern to the complications of collaborative writing.
This extra credit activity is posted during Week 1, but it’s not due until the last day of class. In contrast to the activity above, this project is not attached to any one assignment. For my children’s literature courses, this activity takes on the form of creating a picture book or first chapter of a graphic novel. In my YA literature course, they have the option of writing a piece of fanfiction based on one of our required texts. Here’s the assignment from my ENG170 course:
Step 1: Create a picture book or graphic novel chapter
You can work with one partner or by yourself. The picture book should be at least 14 pages long; the graphic novel at least 8 pages in length. The picture book can be a narrative or concept book. Your intended audience should be children, though you can pick any age group. It should be designed to look like a picture book or graphic novel (front cover to back cover, not just the story).
Step 2: Write a Reflection
Write a short reflection (400 words or more). In it, discuss topics like how you came up with the idea for your book, why you decided to create this idea, why you designed the book the way you did (colors, shape, materials, etc.), what message(s) you want (or don’t want) your reader to get from the book, etc. Submit this reflection into the “Extra Credit Project” assignment link. If you work with a partner, each of you must write a reflection.
This project is much more popular with my students. Most complete the project without a partner, but I’ve seen some amazing writer and illustrator pairs. Most tend to create a narrative picture book. Graphic novel chapters are very rare. Students can earn up to 5 points extra credit on an exam by completing this activity, depending on the detail of their reflection and effort in creating their children’s text. We spend so much time analyzing the content and design of visual texts. This activity allows students to learn first hand just how hard creating these texts can be. Putting in the effort to experience this creative process and reflect on it is worth adding a few points to an exam that they might have struggled with because of how much information is included in this prerequisite course.
A new extra credit activity I offered this semester is the “class blog” project. Our LMS has a blog tool that allows students to construct a collaborative blog on our class website (so there is no need to grapple with creating their own blog or posting to the online public). So far, no student has posted to the blog. But, they have three more weeks to post. Here’s the assignment description I created for my students:
You can blog about anything related to children’s literature/media and culture. There is no word requirement for these blog posts. You can post as many as you want and include as much detail as you want. The more detail/depth you include in the posts, the more points you will earn. Just make sure it’s your own writing, and if you cite someone else in your posts, make sure to credit them. Once you receive the 5 points available for this extra credit, additional posts can function similarly to the discussion addition forum posts in regard to improving your participation grade. Here are some ideas for what you can blog about, though you might come up with other ideas:
- Children’s literature book reviews
- Children’s movie reviews
- Children’s app reviews
- Your thoughts/opinions about something going on in the media that connects to children’s texts or children in general
- Your experiences reading to children at a library or at home
- Your childhood memories of reading/watching one of the texts we’re reading for class
- Your ideas for how you’d teach a children’s text in your future classrooms
You can also reply to others’ blog posts. It’ll likely be harder to earn the same amount of points in comparison to creating your own, but replying is an option for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable creating their own posts. If your post inspires a lot of comments, this community response can also increase the amount of points you earn for that post.
Like the creative project, students can earn up to five points extra credit on an exam by completing this activity. In adding this activity, my hope was to inspire students to connect our class to the world outside the classroom. I consider what I teach to be incredibly relevant to my students’ lives outside the classroom. Getting students to have that same belief can be difficult, so I created this extra credit opportunity so that students would have reason to put in extra effort to make these connections. I’m curious to see if any student will do so in the coming weeks.
Event Attendance and “Takeaways” Response
ISU’s English department hosts the Lois Lenski Lecture every spring semester. We invite a children’s and/or young adult literature scholar to speak at our campus and host a Q&A session after their talk. I’ve learned so much from these presentations, and always mention them to my children’s and ya literature students. I also offer extra credit if they attend the event and write up a “takeaways response” to it that night. They submit them digitally by midnight, or just turn it in physically at the lecture.
This semester, my students have the option of exploring a children’s literature display at our university library. A special collections display was created by students in a graduate course. If my students explore it and write up a response to it, they can receive a few extra credit points were they most need it (up to 3, depending on the detail in their response). They had two weeks to complete this activity. Fewer than a handful did so. This activity and other events are great for helping students see how others outside the classroom study and use children’s and YA literature. Note: The takeaways can’t just be regurgitated facts. Students have to reflect and metacognitively respond to what they’ve heard/seen during the event.
I include this option when students complete a highly visual project. For the picture book festival activity I’ve used in past ENG170 sections, students could increase their poster grade by up to five points depending on the effort they put into designing their posters. All students were automatically eligible for earning these points. Students could earn a high grade as long as they included all the required material on their poster. But, if their posters’ design aesthetic was well thought out, extra credit points could be earned. Some students focused on emphasizing the content of their text (crafting a tree on a The Giving Tree poster), while others focused on the medium (designing their poster as a TV screen when analyzing Gilmore Girls). Most students tend to receive only a point or two for this extra credit opportunity, but I’ve been amazed by the thought and effort put into a few poster designs over the years. It livens up my grading experience at the end of the semester too, which is always welcome.
Of the five activities listed above, four were options in this semester’s ENG 170 course. Giving my students the chance to earn up to 23 extra credit points likely seems excessive to some of you reading this post. Here are a few points I’d like for you to keep in mind, especially if you’re considering what extra credit activities you might want to offer next semester: 1. In a 30 student course, usually less than half the students will attempt even one of the extra credit options. 2. Less than a third will attempt more than one option, and they are often the ones that don’t even need extra credit. 3. It’s rare for a student to earn the max number of points for any of the activities because of how much extra effort and work I expect from them in order to gain these points. 4. The only activity that creates the opportunity to gain 10 points is the forum posts extra credit. These points are added to individual posts rather than to the activity grade as a whole. In this specific case, one post equates to just 5% of their overall course grade. 5. If students are willing to put in the extra time and effort, and the activities actually require them to learn something, why not offer them the opportunity for engaging in additional ways with the course material?
I’ve never regretted including extra credit options in my courses. Few students take me up on my offers, and a bump up in their overall grade definitely isn’t guaranteed. But, by having these activities in my course design, I’m making clear to my students that hard work will be rewarded and that doing poorly on one assignment doesn’t mean they’ve done irrevocable damage to their course grade > GPA > financial aid/grad applications. Even one offer of extra credit can demonstrate to students that we as instructors understand that sometimes they need an extra chance to show their willingness to put in the effort to learn and grow. Why not give them that chance?
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