Reframing Extra Credit

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“Can I do extra credit to raise my grade?”

I hated this question so much as a teacher. It required me to do more work and sometimes felt like it wasn’t a good practice. For a few years, I offered no extra credit because I didn’t have the capacity to grade anymore than I already was. For awhile, I only offered it to students with no missing work. It was the absolute bane of my existence until I tried something different…

What I wanted to be mindful of was that life happens to students, and for reasons beyond control, sometimes they miss an assignment OR do poorly on assessments or assignments. I needed to figure out a way to make opportunities to raise grades meaningful and accessible.

Extra Learning Opportunities

Creating a year-long extra learning opportunity for students is a way to reframe how we look at extra credit. Extra Learning Opportunities (ELOs)can be on a rolling basis and can take the place of an assignment that the student didn’t do well on or missed for whatever reason. 

ELOs give all students the agency to raise a grade authentically. It also allows students to explore other areas of history and government that you don’t get to because of time restraints. It also reinforces historical research skills by giving them a jumping-off point. 

A few ways to control grading barrages is to accept it only every so often, usually right before a grading period. I had them open for two weeks before grading and only accepted one per quarter. The ELOs take the place of a grade up to a certain point. It was any assignment up to 60 points, and this could not take the place of an assessment. (I stopped giving multiple-choice tests for assessments and did Socratic or writing) 


  • Writing. Any plagiarism removes the ability to turn in future extra learning opportunities. I usually had students talk to me for a few minutes about the critical takeaways before reading what they wrote. Length is up to you, but I usually did 1500 words split into: What you learned, what you already knew, and what questions you have after listening/watching/reading to the resources.
  • Socratic discussion if you have a group of students. 
  • Podcast episode to share with students 

How to plan-

-base it on what you have already watched, read, or listened to. *it’s worth showing too that you are a learner 

-give students agency to explore something they are interested in, within the bounds of approval from the instructor/curriculum 

Have the ELOs on the board or in a place that is easily adjusted. (I added to the list quite a few times) 

Why this is important-

-Shows you are a lifelong learner

-Allows for grace for your students

-Illustrates that learning doesn’t end when the bell rings 

-Creates positive situations for students to improve their grades without asking for last-minute extra credit. 

-Doesn’t focus so much on current events, which creates more immediate work for the teacher. The focus is on broad standards. 


–Exploring avenues of Civil Rights– Giving students a starting point (of prescreened resources) and a choice to explore.

–State of the Union Twitter Party

Asking students to add to the list and giving an abstract of the resource with what they learned and what questions came up as they were researching!

At the end of the day, it’s about making sure students understand that learning can occur outside your classroom and beyond!

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