The $50,000 exercise

Mary Bohlen | University of Illinois at Springfield

At the beginning of a writing class (especially features), I "give" all the students $50,000. For the first several weeks of class, I deduct $100 for each grammar, punctuation, spelling or stylebook error on their papers and keep a running tally for each student.

After about the fifth week of class and after we have reviewed grammar, punctuation, spelling and stylebook, I start deducting $1,000 for each mistake. If the class is an upper-level one including graduate students, I deduct double the amount for them.

At the end of the semester, the student with the most points remaining wins a prize. Sometimes I give extra credit points and sometimes I give a physical prize such as reporter's notebook.

Students will joke about how much money they have left, but I have found they are more careful about their writing skills when linked to something like money. I've also thought of distributing Monopoly money at the semester's beginning and having the students actually hand back the bills for each mistake, but I know many students would forget to bring it to class and that system would add to my record keeping.

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