As I teach an accelerated math class, I feel that a small amount of homework is crucial for success for my students (and, not just “doing” homework, but doing it well). I got closer to being happy with my homework system this year, but it still took too much time for me to check and especially to record.
What I did this year:
- Published solutions – This goes first because it is KEY and so amazing. I published fully worked out solutions to homework every day by 3PM. I encouraged students to check homework AS THEY WORKED instead of afterwards. No-one learns well when they are practicing incorrectly.
- Required students to check their completed homework against my solutions and mark the ones they missed or did not understand with a different colored pencil. Kids really did this at the beginning of the year. It made such a difference. They knew which ones they had missed and we hit the ground running everyday.
- Assigned a manageable amount of homework. I aim for no more than 30 minutes each night.
- “Lagged” the homework. I assigned previous material each night and starter homework (easy, skills based) on new topics. I only assigned tougher questions after we had been working with the material a couple of days. This way there was no pressure to finish my lesson so they could do the homework. Also, students didn’t complain as much about not understanding how to do the homework.
- Checked the homework each day, 2 points per assignment, 1 point for incomplete homework.
- Entered the grades in the grade book once a week.
What did not go well is that checking homework took up too much of my class time. I walk around with my grade book, stop at each child, look at their homework, then take time to record the grade in my gradebook. And, after Christmas I did not do a great job of checking it everyday. As a result, many students stopped doing it.
Additionally, some students never checked their solutions online. They did their homework as fast as possible, just to get the credit. They had zero idea if they were doing it right. They did not care if it was correct, as long as it was “complete”. This did not help them and wasted my time looking at their barely complete work day after day, trying to decipher if they had actually done it or were just scribbling anything down. This has to stop.
I loved Amy’s post about accountability. And even though I hate taking the time, if I really want students to be accountable, I need to make sure they are actually doing their homework well, and be more systematic about checking it. I also loved how Julia is planning to check homework next year.
So, here is what I am planning for next year. I am still working on it though and any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
My biggest change is that I am going to have students keep a Homework Journal. I will require every student to do every homework assignment (even Delta Math problem sets) in a graphing composition book.
- Lagging Homework and publishing the answers as I did last year.
- Require students to check answers and mark ones they did incorrectly with a different color pen/pencil.
- Homework Journal – Students will do all of their homework in a graphing composition book. The only thing in this book will be homework. Our calc teacher does this and loves it. He talks about it all of the time so I have to try it next year. He calls it a journal and encourages them to write in it. He tells them to write what did they not understand, what questions they have, and so on. I could even have them write about how well they felt they understood each assignment. I do a red/yellow/green for each assessment and think this may be valuable for the homework assignments as well.
- I will have a section in the back of the journal for their weekly Delta Math problem sets. I want students working these problems out (and Photo-math is a problem). Hopefully this will help with both things. This will make it take longer to do some sets, so I will assign less problems per set.
- Incorporate “Criteria for Credit” to illustrate to students what a well done math assignment should look like. A teacher at my school has the students create and then follow this criteria at the beginning of the year. It is great and I am going to adopt it. I have also talked her into guest blogging about it now that school is out!
- From Julia – Each day I will circle any questions they did not fully and correctly complete with a red pen. I will walk around the room and do this, I will not take them up.
- Students are encouraged to complete circled problems ( to earn partial credit) before the homework journal is graded.
- On quiz/test day (or about once every week), I will take the journals up and grade them. I will take off full credit for every problem not completed, and give half-credit back for any completed circled problems (problems that were incomplete before).
- Absent students would need to write down each assignment in the book, and ideally complete them before taking any assessments. I would like to check this, but it may be too hard to keep up with.
Last year I walked around recording their homework scores as I went around the room on my grade sheet. This is such a pain. It takes time to look at the work, then time to put a grade down. And I don’t even mark on their paper. With Julia’s new system, I can just walk around the room circling without having to record anything. So checking homework each day should go much faster. Then I can take the time once a week to get the grades down. And, since incomplete homework is already circled, it should not take long to grade (hopefully).
I love the idea of homework quizzes, but I don’t know if I would keep this up. Making, distributing, grading, and recording a quiz takes a ton of work, even if it is online. And I don’t want to create more work for myself.
I am hoping that more work setting things up at the beginning of the year will make the rest of the year easier.