Have you tried contracting their grades? I realize this is not a normal
practice for high school students or bellow, but it might work. One of my
college professors did this and I thought she was crazy. It turns out
that the students had no one to blame but themselves for poor grades.
You decided the amount of projects it would take for an "A" or equivalent,
for a "B" and so on. You allow the students to chose what grade they
want. You tell them that this is a contract for a grade. In order to
recieve the grade you will have to complete the set number of projects.
The students must sign this contract as well as yourself. You make a
photocopy to give to the students, and keep the original for yourself in a
When the student completes the work, you will check it off on a sheet. At
midterm, hold a conference with each student to let them know if they are
on schedule for their contracted grade.
This eliminates some pressure for you, and the students. They can decide
if they can complete each assignment required for a certain grade. For
example, I contracted for an "A" in one class, and a "B" in another. I
knew my one class was an elective, and the additional work for an "A" was
too much for my class load.
Also, If your students enjoy more hands on projects, give it to them.
Maybe have them create their reports on the computer using a multi-media
program. This sounds like a class where you have to compromise on the way
it is taught.