#msSunFun- Homework


When I began teaching, we used the Saxon program and all kids had to do 30 problems each night.  I graded all of them.  I have no idea how/why I did this.  It was completely pointless.  Throughout the years, I have really struggled with homework.  I find it to be much more of a stressor for me since there are always kids who don’t do it and I hate that I care more about doing it than they do.  I do think it is very important for students to practice the skills we learn in class independently, and I really don’t like that we are moving toward kids not being used to having to do things like homework and I think we are setting them up to fail in high school and college when they must do these things or else they will just fail.  Unfortunately, when I get a 7th grader who has already learned that homework isn’t important somewhere along the way, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot I can do to convince them. 

What I have been doing for the last several years is assigning problems, but having the kids grade the homework themselves.  I talk a ton at the beginning of the year, and whenever I feel like they are forgetting this, that I am letting them correct their own homework because it is so important that they know what they know already and know what they need to work on, but that this only works if they are trying their best on the homework, and actually correcting it and asking questions if they get things wrong.  I have also been assigning a lot fewer problems at night (usually between 4 and 6 problems) and really trying to make sure it is not something that would provide them too much struggle.  Then they come in the nexet day, open their notebooks and walk around to see who has it done and who does not.  I comment on certain things I see or don’t see when I walk around as well.  Then I do the entire homework assignment with the help of the students, on the Elmo so that everyone can see what they should have done.  If they didn’t do their homework, they aren’t allowed to have out a writing utensil, but if they did their homework, they are required to fix and make notes on their assignment. 

With our SBG gradbook, we also have a homework module where we can simply check off whether a student does an assignment or not.  Then this combines into the “work management” section of our gradebook and gives them a score for how many assignments they have done.  While I like this, I also know that kids figure out pretty fast that doing vs not doing their homework really doesn’t affect their grade at all, and so many middle school kids lack the motivation to do the work simply because it will help them out.

One thing that I think helps is that we have an assessment pretty much daily after the homework is corrected that is on the material we learned the previous day.  So doing the homework often will have a big impact on whether they are able to easily take the quiz or not.

I don’t think it is a perfect system, but it is working well for me/us at this point!



#msSunFun- Homework


Wow.  PD and classroom prep kept me busy last week, then I was out of town from Friday- Monday.  Monday night I spent getting ready for the first day of school today.  I am proud to say that I actually am feeling confident enough about school tomorrow that I can take the time to write this.  Yay!

I wanted to do an #msSunFun post, even though Sunday is long gone, because I think this week’s topic of homework is so important and key.  I also struggle with it daily and have been so interested in reading everyone’s posts this week.  So here goes…

Some things I believe to be true about homework:

1. It is so important, vital, for students to practice the skills they learn in class on an individual basis.

2. Students, families, and society as a whole, are putting less and less emphasis on the importance of homework.  I have many students who do every single thing asked of them every single night, but just as many who clearly don’t think it is important and don’t seem to care if they ever do the work. 

3. I can pretty much determine which kids won’t do the homework based on their performance in class and the understanding of the material.  If a student does not understand the lesson, they aren’t going to jump right on that homework to brush up on their skills.  They just won’t do it.

4. If students understand the material and feel confident, they are much more likely to do the assignment because they feel good about it.  And students feeling confident and good about things.

5. There are some students who really, truly, don’t need to do their homework and they will ace their assessments.  BUT I think there is value in learning how to do homework and how to study for tests because one day will come when these kids will need to know these things and will never have learned them.

6. There is no point in a student doing 30 problems if they do them all wrong.

7. Students hate showing work and will do whatever they can to write down the least amount of “work” possible no matter how many times I tell them that the work is DOING THE PROBLEM. 

So in thinking about these things, my plan for this year is going to be something like this:

I will assign homework on a regular basis, pretty much nightly.  These assignments will be drastically different than I have done in the past.  Last year, I had students do 20ish similar problems, typically they were able to do a lot of it during class, then the next day they would come in, the work and answers will be on the board, I would walk around and give students checks for completion, we would review the problems on the board and ask questions, then some students would stand up and recycle their papers and I would want to scream.  My plan for this year is to incorporate a few of these great ideas:

1. Give students the answers with their homework.  This accomplishes a few things.  It forces them to focus on the work and it allows them to check and correct their work if they don’t get the right answer.  I also plan on putting in a couple of wrong answers sometimes and challenging the students to find them and fix them.

2. In the past I would give an exit ticket (2 problem assessment) immediately after the lesson, then students would do their homework.  I am going to move this.  I now plan on having students come in, check their work, answer questions, then do the quick assessment.

3. Checking will be much more interactive.  I loved this post where she talks about having students check their answers with their groups and discuss them when they come in.  I am trying to focus on getting kids talking this year, so this will be a good start!

4. I also like the idea of assigning must do and may do problems, so students who need more practice can do more, students who need less can do less.  I am also toying with the idea of letting students skip homework if they really believe they can get a 3.0 (mastery in our scoring scales) on the assessment.  If they don’t, I would have them go back and to the practice and redo the assessment.  If they did this multiple times, I would take this out as a an option for them.  Not sure on this yet…

5. I also need/want to continue to check homework for completion, but want to change this somehow. 

I would love any more ideas and suggestions!