So, this year I have taken a new approach to teaching, and "my kids" know what that approach is (I never keep anything from my students)...I am giving them a lot more responsibility. I told them from day ONE of this school year, I'm not chasing them around for their work and you are going to be solely responsible for completing and turning in quality work. I even went against my own rules and told them that they have a pinch of my trust, so don't "JACK" it up.
I have a combination of (2) classes this year general 8th grade Science and Science Technology, also for my 8th grader's. So I immediately delegated out the responsibility of them having to email their first assignment to me because I know they all have a genuine interest in computers, and I got 100% participation (I was surprised). That was truly a good demonstration because once they had my email address they began emailing me about other assignments so that they can receive help at anytime about anything.
Now we are working in the classroom for several days in a row to make sure they can keep that ball rolling outside of the tech lab. It truly lightened my heart when I saw my students carry over their habits from the tech lab in to the "lecture/lab" class. It ran like clock work: they get a demonstration, they get a guided assignment where they can "shoot" me all sorts of questions, then they get their assignment and they are working, period. Something new that I am glad that I am seeing this year (I taught these students last year too) is that they are helping each other without me having to mandate it, and they are really learning from each other. It sometimes even evolves to an open discussion amongst themselves with me only acting as a facilitator.
I'll tell you what, I hope this lasts throughout the school year because if it does I can predict a lot of higher learning and critical thinking going on. We will see, they are either going to choke themselves out with all this responsibility, or they are going to use that rope to take that responsibility and pull themselves to the "next level" with it!