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!

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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.

Day 6: Polygons

Today didn’t feel all that exciting but we got a lot accomplished.

In summer school (and actually in regular school but we’ll see if I change it) I only assign about 6 homework problems a night. I have such different types of students and I want to make sure they all get proper practice of they want it. I do not grade it. It is purely for their practice. The last two years I have done homework quizzes randomly and I don’t know if I will continue it this year. I usually ask if there were any questions from the homework after showing the answers with no work. Usually I get one or two questions. Today we went over all 6 homework questions.  I had other students in the class answer them in multiple ways. I thought it was really beneficial for the class to see the multiple methods that all get the same answer. I did have some kids who clearly didn’t think this was a good use of time – luckily I was the only one who could see their eye rolls after yet another question was asked. How do I get these students to see that this could help them, even if they already got the right answers?

We looked at triangle angle sums and remote interior angles. Then we got into polygon angle sums with a little dabble in naming polygons. I saw what Dan Burfeind did with this and created my own. I gave each group a stack and said to put them in groups. That’s all. They asked how? I said just group them. They asked what words meant. I said just group them with what you know. There was some hesitation at first but after a minute or two they really got into it. Every group made a few different groups and we shared some of the ways to group them. Then I revealed the number of sides and asked if they wanted to regroup. Some did. Some (rightly) said that their categories were just fine. I love that the students were taking just what they noticed with little background knowledge to get things sorted. Great discussions too.

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Students also took their second quiz and started looking at parallel and perpendicular lines in the coordinate plane.

Une journée un peu longue mais au moins j’ai des photos!