Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Homework

A lot of people have contacted me about how I do homework, so I am bringing back this post from a few months ago when I think I had about 10 people following my blog! I'll be sure to answer any questions you have :)

Originally posted on May 5, 2013:

Every year, my teaching team and I wrack our brains discussing what we will give for homework and how it will be graded. I do believe that students need practice outside of the classroom, but I don't like giving textbook homework--it's extremely monotonous. Besides, with textbook homework, the kids have a myriad of excuses: I left it in my locker, I was at my Dad's house last night and my book was at my Mom's house, I forgot the page number, etc. We have an online textbook that works *sometimes*, so I tell them not to rely on that. Also, we have about 60 more 6th graders this year than we have had since I started at my not every student has one! Then, there is the other issue of who is really doing the homework??

Enter the solution: last summer we went to CAMT, the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching, since it was in Houston and it was close. We signed up for it in March...and it seemed like a great idea at the time...until the day came. We had to be at the convention center (a good 35-40 minutes away) by 8 AM for our first session! What were we thinking!? Well, I am glad we went! We sat in a session led by Brad Fulton who is an excellent speaker! He suggested we do this:

Homework is given on Monday and is due Friday. It can either be one assignment that will cover the material for the time period, or it can be shorter assignments for each night.
  1. Students must show all work to receive credit, and if they turn it in Friday, no weekend homework. (Let me clarify, no extra homework is given to those that don't, they just have the weekend to complete it for a late grade).
  2. On Thursday night, before it is due, I post just the answers to the homework so that they can check their answers and know if they need to make corrections.
  3. On Tuesday of the following week, we give the students a homework quiz. We modified this a little bit from Brad's class.
    1. We "grade" the homework ahead of time for a total of 40 points if work is completed and effort is there. No credit for just answers without any justification. 
    2. The quiz itself is worth 60 points and here is how it is broken down:
      1. 5 questions are questions from the homework
      2. 5 questions are questions from the previous week's material (that if they completed the homework should not have a problem completing).
    3. The rationale is, that if a kid is trying and does the homework, they will get a minimum of a 70, where if I actually took homework up each day for a grade, the grade would be much lower. Whereas, a kid who doesn't do homework at all, still has some way to get some points. (Hey, a 30 is better than a 0!)
Let me clarify a few things...I am a middle school teacher. I am not saying that this will work for everyone. And, 99% of the time, 99% of their kids do very well and turn in their homework. And, for those that never turned in homework before, now do. I do this with my 6th and 7th grade classes and will do it next year with 8th grade. Some of my 7th graders who I had last year were hit or miss with homework and it hurt their grades...this year, I don't have that problem. 

It also provides stability for parents. They know that each week homework is assigned and they know the expectation of when their child needs to turn it in. It eliminates the excuse of, "Well, Johnny told me he didn't have any homework..."

How do you handle homework in your class? Let me know what you think of this process and if you are willing to try it and want more information, I can help you get started!

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