How I’ve Been Doing HW This Year

My biggest complaint from students is that I give too much homework/never give class time for homework. My second biggest complaint from students is that I don’t grade enough homework. Guys, come on, make up your mind!

75fad7b2eef950a7b3d35a5e30ef73eaa4e4f4c8ba4e5bdee8930d05d3502e6c

So here’s what I’ve been doing (things have been adjusted over time but I’ve been doing it this way since the semester started):

Assigning:

  • Assign up to 10 HW problems per class (which means every other school day since I’m on A-B block scheduling)
  • Have told students that they should never spend more than 30 minutes on homework
  • Use a HW packet for the unit (new this semester)
  • At least 3 problems are from the section they were working on that day and at least 3 problems are from previous sections/units (my attempt at spiraling homework – new this semester)
  • Answers are always provided in the packet

Checking:

  • Roll a dice (or a student rolls it if they want to) at the beginning of class and do whatever the result says to do:
    • Even: No Grade
    • 6: Reward (I’ll pass around my bag of treats)
    • Odd: Grade (completion)
    • 1: Collect (grade for accuracy)
  • ALSO, 1-3 HW problems are written on the board before class starts and before the warm up is done for the day, students sign up to present those problems to the class
    • Students must present 4 HW problems in the semester
    • Presentation points are only given if the presenter talks through how they solved the problem
    • Presentation points can be given if the student answered the question incorrectly, but is able to work out how to get the correct answer from class participation
  • I always accept homework late for a 10% deduction
  • Even if I’m not putting a grade on the homework that day, I still put it into the gradebook as an assignment that doesn’t count toward their grade so I can track who’s doing/not doing it consistently. I just started this this semester along with the caveat of having 75% of homework complete before being able to do a reassessment.

My reasoning:

  • Homework helps retention so it should be assigned and (hopefully) completed
  • Students spend enough time during school working in class, so the time they spend on math outside of class should be meaningful (short and spiraled)
  • Homework is practice and there’s no way for me to know who’s really doing it, so shouldn’t be part of the grade, but I have to have it be a grade so I make it minimal
  • Students benefit from speaking in front of their peers and also their peers benefit from seeing math be explained by other students

I like this and I dislike this.

Ok after this point this post turns really long (as if it wasn’t already) and kinda emotional so really what it comes down to is how do you do homework in your class? Comment or tweet if you want to share.

If I was really doing what I wanted, I’d have no grade for homework but I already get enough push back from barely having homework as part of the grade. Last semester it turned out to be about 10% in each class. I would DEFINITELY keep the presentation part (which I totally stole from my old Physics teacher) because it’s honestly awesome. It’s something I can tell parents about and kids can be proud of and I also let my really shy students just come in and do it for me only but then they’re guaranteed to get questions about it from me. That’s the tradeoff. But honestly the presentation part is great.

I was a student that always did my homework because, to me, it was my job as a student to get it done. Math homework was always the easiest for me to do because it was usually just a bunch of exercises on one or two topics I just saw in class that day. In my classes now, the feeling I get from my students is that homework should be done in class and should be part of their grade so that they can get good grades just by attempting/writing anything for their homework. I actually got this as a response from a student in my first unit reflection at the beginning of the year:

Im actually getting all good grades in all of my classes, and I take this stuff seriously. Having one F or D and the rest are all A’s doesnt look that great. And like coming in this year i was super confident about math because i got AN A in math class last yearrr and I literally had no idea what was going on in that class and what the teacher was talking about but I still did well somehow. I always did my hw, which is why it so valid to always grade hw, for kids like me. And I always got good grades on my tests. I dont remember the last time I got a D or an F. Or really, to be honest, even a C ! So hm. I know I could be doing so much better… but really, I just dont understand the concept of most maths and thats just all there is to it. Some teachers are better at understanding that than others, I guess

And that was rough for me to see at the beginning of the year. And it wasn’t just this student saying it, she was just the one that wrote it out. I had a parent who is an elementary school teacher tell me that she would never “do this” to her students. However, what the kids didn’t realize at the beginning of the year is the power of reassessments.

I did start the year off with some not-so-awesome grades. Part of that had to do with my school’s grading scale:

That grading scale has since been removed by my principal. So my grades went up but still weren’t awesome. Apparently my class was hard. The (lack of a lot of) homework part of my grade took most of the blame. I blamed it on me not preparing my students well for assessments. Looking back, it think the blame should go to both me and my students not really being ready for each other.

So last semester for all of my classes, things ended ok. Students were starting to see that reassessments were good for them and also helped them with final exams in the end. This semester, students are doing their homework more. I’ve heard/seen comments about the fact that they realize the homework helps them be prepared for assessments, the packets help because they can do the homework at school during study hall and then ask me questions before they go home or get to class, and that me choosing which ones are being presented has helped them get their presentations done earlier (I used to have it just be presentations if anyone had a question on a problem). I have noticed more homework completion and I thought it may be because the students still see every assignment in the gradebook, so I’m getting more late work turned in. Homework presentations have been so much better, probably because of the higher completion.

But in the end, should it really be about how much homework gets completed? I should be more worried about how much students are learning. I think that on an A-B block schedule, homework is essential practice because my students have to regularly go 2-3 days without seeing the material and sometimes (like this week or if they’re absent) go up to 6 days before being back in class. I struggled with retention last semester and I’m struggling with it less this semester. But it’s still a struggle.

This post went in a lot of different directions and is probably hardly coherent but I’m not gonna proofread it at this point so I’m just gonna post it. Can you tell me how you do homework? I’m very intrigued by Jonathan’s post on Infinite Sums about his homework structure in his calculus class. I plan on adjusting my homework policy as I move more and more towards SBG, as well.

Pourquoi les devoirs? Je veux savoir la solution à ce problème mais je n’ai pas de grille de réponses.

Advertisements

Day 4: Bingo Review and First Test

Today started by continuing to look at basic composite area/perimeter problems. All that was used was circles, rectangles, and triangles. I gave students one of those Geo Joke worksheets with the corny jokes. The students loved it! I remember loving them too, even though the jokes are so bad. I feel like it has something to do with the answers being there so they can immediately check if their answer was correct or not.

We then started looking at special angle pairs – vertical, supplementary, complementary. We did our first proof to prove that angles supp to the same angles are congruent and I didn’t force a 2-column proof on them. I actually like the 2-column proof because it is very clear that every statement needs a reason, but I also went through four years of being a math major and if you did a two-column proof in a 400-level math class you would just get laughed at. So I accept paragraphs or bullets as long as each statement has a clear reason.

I also handed back their first quiz and didn’t have a score or any points on it a la Ashli Black. I saw this video last summer and was absolutely amazed at this concept of not putting down a grade for the student, but was way too scared to try it in my school. In summer school I have a little less stress from administration and parents. In this district they want it to be clear to students how many points each question is worth, so the students could figure out probably what their grade approximately was, but I just wrote a lot of feedback. Even with the quiz only being 2 pages, 6 questions and me only having 17 quizzes to grade, it still took me a solid hour to finish them all. I wish I had a stamp for the commonly used feedback items. I will admit, I was a little bummed by the lack of shock and response from my students. I know it’s summer school but they were still just silent getting them back. A kid asked if their grade was in the gradebook and I had to say that it would be. Maybe it won’t make such a positive shift away from grades. Maybe it was just because it was the first assessment. Maybe it was because it was 9am on a summer day. We will see how they react when they get their test back tomorrow with no grade. This time, I will not go over the answers to the test – that also could have been why there was little reaction.

We did our first review game – Math Bingo. I would share but it was pretty bad. I mean the kids were all over it – once again, it’s like an answer bank given to them. But I totally messed up their answer bank. I had made copies of an old bingo sheet I had from last year without remembering that I had changed it so only about half the answers were the same. I still had a few bingos but it stressed kids out that their answers weren’t showing up and ultimately might have hurt more than helped some of them. Oh well…I can’t beat myself up over it.

Quelquefois, ca ne va pas comme tu t’attends, mais tu apprends de ces moments.