With the new quarter approaching, here is a tip to help keep struggling students focused:
SHOW THEM THE EXACT GRADE THEY NEED TO GET IN THIS QUARTER TO PASS.
The math on this is not hard (and is based on a semester-length class) - once they know what grade they want to get in the course (for some it is bare minimum passing, others it is a 70 or 80) and once they have the first quarter, all they need to do is to figure out how many points away from their desired grade and then add that (or subtract if they are ahead of the grade) to the desired grade.
Student A wants to pass with a 60. He has a 47 currently. That means he is 13 points away from passing (60 - 47 = 13), so he has to be 13 points ABOVE his desired grade (60 + 13 = 73). If Student A does not get at least a 73 this quarter, he is not passing the course. This is helpful to know because Student A may work harder and get a 65 and think he is doing much better, which he is, but he is not doing enough.
Student B wants an A in the class. She already has a 94. Since she is four points OVER her desired grade (90), she can afford to go as low as four points UNDER her desired grade (86) and still come out with an A for the course.
When you do this in class, you will find that many students have completely unrealistic understandings of how grades are factored. I'll have a student with a 74 who wants to make an A for the course. That's mathematically impossible.
You can use this chart to help you out or just google search grade calculators.
What about exams?
Well, exams have an impact, to be sure, but if you are operating on a grading scale of 1st quarter = 40%, 2nd quarter = 40%, exam/state test = 20% (or something similar), you'll find that the exam rarely does more than impact their grade five points or more. Why? Most students will score on their exam close to what they make for the two quarters averaged together. An exam, using the 40/40/20 method, only moves the final grade 1 point for every 5 points it's away from the quarters average together.
Student C has a Q1 grade of 82 and a Q2 grade of 76. His average is 79. He would have to make an 84 on the exam to pull the final grade up 1 point to get a B (80). Conversely, he cannot score so poorly on the exam to pull his 79 down below a passing grade of 60.
Since most students are going to score within 15 points of their average grade, the impact is nearly as impressive as we often believe.
A student who knows exactly what grade he/she needs to get is more likely to stay on target throughout the year, especially if you keep your online grade book up to date (which you really should, by the way).