Sunday, July 20, 2014

Checklists: Why I'm Excited to Try Them!

This morning I saw Steph Reilly's post about Checklists and Error Analysis.  Both are genius ideas (please, go read and I'm grateful to her for posting them.  I think checklists are going to be a life-saver for me...and here's why.

I don't grade homework or notebooks.  I don't have time and I don't want to put so much emphasis on homework that students want to copy.  (I wrote a lot more about homework here.)  However, I had a lot of trouble getting students to do the work required to get the learning.

Because of that I chose a unit and planned to have students do an Agenda assignment in preparation for the test.  I gave them an "agenda" with lots of options for tasks to complete.  (By the way, creating the agenda was a LOT of work for me.) They got to choose which ones to do in order to earn x points.  They had class time to work, but were expected to complete some if it out of class.  They had to have it completed BEFORE they could take the test.  This was pretty unsuccessful.  Students hated the agenda, to put it nicely.

I've been debating all summer how to hold students accountable for doing the work, but I knew that agendas probably weren't going to work.  There is something similar I'd heard of called "menus", but I'm not really sure they would be any better.  So I had a problem with no solution, and that is one of the reasons I was so excited to read Steph's post.

Here are the things I like about the checklist:
  • Can be built as we go, so I don't have to plan everything out ahead of time
  • Can include whatever I want, even notebook pages
  • It won't overwhelm students at the beginning because it will be empty
  • It will give students things to work on if they finish something else early
  • It will remind students of things that we have done that they have forgotten about
Anyway, I liked the idea so much that I am fairly certain it is the solution to many of my problems.  I wanted to link the assignments to specific learning targets, so I added a column that Steph didn't have in hers.  I also typed up some instructions, but didn't want to have to include them on the actual checklist, so I think I will make them notebook friendly and tape them in the front of our notebooks with our syllabus, bellwork schedule, and classroom expectations.


Since I made the documents, I'm going to go ahead and call them my #Made4Math Monday, but I totally stole it from Steph as stated above, so please read her post!

Note:  These files will open in google drive and you will have to download them to edit them in Microsoft word.



  1. I absolutely love this idea. In fact, I loved it so much that I had to sit down and make my own checklist before I could even post a comment. I flipped my class last year and had a hard time keeping track of who didn't finish each of the little in-class assignments. I tried rolling them over from day to day ("your first job is to finish yesterday's handout, and your second job is to start this set from the book"), but my record-keeping was sloppy.

    On my checklist, I am writing that the due date is the test date (roughly every 3 weeks) and that I cannot check papers or issue stamps once students arrive for the test. I do like the idea of having one smaller due date along the way.

    Have you thought about what you'll do if students lose their partially-completed checklists? If they still have all of their stamped papers, it's an easy fix. I thought of having students store their checklists in my classroom. They wouldn't have them at home, but they could view my master copy on the class website.

    Thanks again!

    1. I'm glad that you like the idea, but mostly I'm glad that Steph shared it! I have some thought of having students glue their checklists into their ISN so they don't lose them, but that would be a pain when it comes time to collect them. Another thought is to have students keep a folder for important papers, and their checklist could be in there. Good question, but I don't have a solution yet!

    2. Thank you, Kathryn! I'm thinking of having a tray or folder in the classroom in which students are welcome to leave their checklists if they'd like. I'll present it as an option for those students ("you know who you are...") who can't seem to keep track of anything.