Supporting Students – Homework

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.

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.


7 thoughts on “Supporting Students – Homework

  1. I know you may not receive this or respond, but I have the same issue with homework. I teach middle school, so it’s a little different. For the last couple of years, I did not take a grade on homework (per administration). We graded it in class, used the ✔️, ✔️➕, ✔️➖ system as a formative assessment. If they did not complete it, they lost the weekly reward time and had to stay in to finish. At the beginning of the year, many were doing homework, but some were not doing it well. They were either halfway completing it or copying just to get it done. It just got worse as the year went in.

    My plan for this year: I’m planning to do the same thing with my homework with the ✔️ system. We will still grade them in class with pens (this helps me determine where misconceptions are and I address them then.). However, I’m going to take them as a weighted grade with a ✔️➕ being 100%, ✔️ being a 90%, and a ✔️➖ being an 80%. Of course if it’s incomplete it will be a zero. The students will put the appropriate check on the paper, so I’ll take up and record it that day and return it the next. My only concern is being able to really gauge how well they understand.

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. I really enjoyed this post because homework is something I struggle with.

    Kelly Hardison

    Sent from my iPhone

    • My solution sets are VERY detailed. I do every little step (you know, that the kids don’t do). So I can usually tell. And, when we discuss in class it usually becomes obvious.

  2. Comment re: homework quizzes. My school uses an eclass system for our class pages that allows us to create a quiz online that is graded. We are also on an A/B block schedule, and I really want to encourage better study habits for the one day on, one day off, so I plan to utilize questions/ quizzes/ discussion blogs to keep them thinking about the math everyday. This will be for credit, obviously. I want this to be an evaluation forum for test questions, and test level vocabulary, to get them talking to each other about ideas for solutions, things they recognize, stuff like that. Like you, I want homework to be meaningful. I plan to use these as discussion starters in class the next day- my kids are just “hammy” enough, that I suspect they do the online assignments just to have their name mentioned in class the next day!
    Would love to hear any feedback!

  3. I’ve been planning on implementing an online multiple choice homework system, with no distractors. Maybe this coming year will be the year it happens? Choices are the correct answer, two answers that make no sense and there’s no logical gotcha errors that would result in those, and an “I didn’t get any of those.” That way, a student works through a problem, and there answer is either there or it’s not, and if there’s a minor error (rounding, negative), that’s obvious for a student to correct. Student gets immediate feedback, and I get immediate feedback. Is that something that could work for you?

  4. Wow! What a great idea are the homework journals! I applaud you on how deliberately you have adapted your own concepts!

    Since the kids nowadays are very into multimedia it might be helpful to combine multimedia with learning. Have you ever heard or even tried “flipped teaching” before?

  5. Pingback: How I’m Structuring Homework in 2016-17 – The Goza Way

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