1 April 2010 11:09 AM

Long Term Assignments

by rbavaria

The other day a reporter wanted to know why teachers assign long term assignments.  Kids complain.  (There’s something new!)  Parents become frustrated when their little darlings announce on Sunday night that, oh, by the way, the Science Fair is tomorrow and what do you think would be a good topic?


Long term projects can be frustrating, but they don’t have to be.  A little organization, bit of discipline, a couple of helpful routines, and visible parental involvement can work miracles.  Here are some reasons why teachers assign those projects and a few helpful hints to get the whole family through them with a minimum of agita.  Who knows?  Maybe some new habits and increased confidence can result!

  1. Long term assignments teach kids research skills.  A longer, more complex assignment -- like a science fair project or a social studies debate or an English term paper -- lets kids realize that real research is more than just Googling something.  Some content just takes longer to digest, to discover over time, to learn.

  2. Long term assignments teach kids time management skills.  Breaking up a large project into smaller, more easily managed tasks, is a lifelong skill.  And, it saves time in the long run.

  3. Long term assignments teach kids organization skills.  Organizing material, either in computer spreadsheets or on 5x7 cards, is an important skill that transfers to other school subjects and to real life.

  4. Long term assignments teach kids collaboration.  Most assignments include the involvement of others -- classmates, librarians, interviewees -- and kids learn how to cooperate, to share information and expertise, to have respect for others' time and energies, and to get a taste for the team-approach that underlies most adult work schedules.

  5. Long term assignments teach kids the importance of routines.  There's a time for research, a time for reading and interviewing, a time for writing the first draft, a time for editing, a time for proofreading, a time for getting the final project turned in on time.  Pulling all-nighters rarely teaches anyone anything.

  6. Long term assignments teach kids healthy habits of mind.  Longer projects help kids develop responsibility, learn independence, enhance talents, discover new interests, and experience the positive feelings of accomplishment.

  7. Parents can help by being aware of special due-dates.  The science fair, the book reports, the performances, the special events.  Parents can maintain a  calendar, visible for all the family to see upcoming important deadlines.  The refrigerator is a good place.

  8. Parents can monitor their students' progress.  Especially for the younger students who are still learning these important skills, parents can ask for periodic (daily, weekly – hourly if necessary) progress reports and ask to see the work.  Insist on meeting deadlines, neat work (if it's not neat enough for you, it's not neat enough for the teacher), and giving one's best efforts.  When all else fails, you have my permission to nag.

  9. Parents can give rewards and consequences.  Break up big tasks into smaller ones, then "celebrate" when each is accomplished.  This is particularly important for younger learners.  Celebrations don't have to be big.  A special treat, pizza, an extra ten minutes to bedtime are all okay.  Consequences, too, are important.  Decide together with your student what an appropriate consequence should be.  Loss of video game time?  Earlier curfew?

  10. Stay positive.  Show that these assignments are important to you.  Talk about the long term assignments you're working on at the office -- this shows the relevance of the skills she's learning.  Talk about a long term assignment you remember when you were her age, one that turned you on to a special interest, a favorite author, an interesting insight.




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