Sustaining Engagement over Winter Break

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 16:04 -- Emily Johnson

Winter break is fast approaching, and for many students and educators, it is time of rest and relaxation. For students, winter break can be up to a month long, so I often worry about them remaining engaged and intellectually stimulated. We know that frequent low-stakes quizzes have shown to improve learning, and we know that summer breaks can reduce gains in learning achieved during the school year. Certainly students need time of rejuvenation, but we also do not want their minds to lay completely fallow such that they forget material or lose the progress from the previous term. How do we keep students engaged and on track for college and career readiness even when they aren’t in the classroom?


The CRAfT project just might have an answer: Independent Study College Readiness Assignments (CRAs). Ten independent study, fully online CRAs are available to help provide students with on-demand opportunities to improve on their college and career readiness skills. These assignments, which are self-paced and can be completed in part or in whole, are perfect for winter holidays, other school breaks, or anytime a student wishes to assess or improve their readiness skills. These interactive CRAs are based on their same-name CRAs for Classroom Use, which were field tested by high school and college faculty across the state of Texas and increased students’ readiness across all 19 measured dimensions. Independent Study CRAs present the material through interactive media designed specifically for CRAfT by Enspire Learning, who recently won the Brandon Hall Group’s 2013 Excellence Award for Best Use of Games for Learning.


Independent Study CRAs are designed to require little-to-no instructor involvement, so they are perfect for educators who wish to assign extra-credit, additional activities for advanced learners, or supplemental activities for those struggling. All the activities are self-contained, and the instructor could choose which portions to have a student submit to them for grading or simply a completion check. In addition, Independent Study CRAs are excellent tools for students who wish to check out their readiness for post-high school activities on their own. CRAs were designed and developed through a collaboration of high school and college faculty, so students, parents, and educators can be sure that CRAs reflect the skills necessary to succeed in college and career.


We encourage you to look around and check out the Independent Study CRAs for yourself. Not sure where to start? How about a CRA that combines improving research skills with a winter break favorite: web surfing. My favorite independent study CRA is “Choosing the Best Websites to Support Your Argument.” The activities in this CRA help students discern between credible, relevant sources and those that are less reliable or inapplicable to their thesis. Students learn to examine the author, context, and content of websites to identify biases and verify claims. It is an engaging assignment that offers students the opportunity to develop critical skills.


During your winter break, please do peruse the Independent Study CRAs and identify ways they can help you or your students. We wish all of you a relaxing and safe winter break!