I hate homework

I hate everything about homework (I guess except for the idea of it).  I hate trying to figure out what is the best way to grade homework.  Do you grade for participation or correctness?   Participation obviously! Right? Homework is supposed to be a learning experience and you want students to be able to practice without the worry of doing something wrong.   But if it is just for participation, then why would a student work hard to try and figure out the right answer?  Maybe I should just give quality feedback instead.  That will motivate students to put in more effort, right?  I am sure it would, but who has time for that?!  How many problems do I  assign?   If I assign too many, kids won’t do them.  If I assign too little, is it even worth it for them to do their homework?  How do I even know the students are doing their own homework?  I don’t.  For all I know, last night’s homework was trending.  If I just scrap homework all together, then students, parents, and probably administrators will be on me for not giving enough practice and they are probably right.  I hate figuring out what percentage I should make homework in my grade book. 10% is the answer, right? Except for the fact that students think that 10% isn’t worth their time.  Which is kind of right if you are only trying to pull a D or C.  So make the homework worth more?  Then we just inflated grades and they don’t accurately represent what students know.  Then you have to answer when and how do you go over homework.  Not the first 10 minutes. Or do you?   Is it worth class time to go over the homework? Probably not.  So do you not go over homework?  Well, you probably should.  But just the problems that most students have issues with.  How do you figure out which problems most students have issues with?   Ask them.  Yeah but how?  Show of hands?  Tally chart?   But how much time is this all going to take?  Should I just post the answers?  Maybe the answers and the worked out solutions?   Yeah but then those worked out solution will be tweeted out and everyone in 6th hour is going to have perfect papers.  Also, if students are just checking for right answer, that’s not promoting a growth mindset. These are the thoughts that are rolling around in my head when I think about my homework policy.

Here are the questions I want my homework policy to solve:

1. How do I grade homework so that it promotes students to strive for the correct answer, without penalizes them for incorrect answers?  Students attempting the homework is priority number 1, but I want students to strive for the right answer as well.

2. How many questions do I assign that give students enough practice, but does not overwhelm them?

3.  Do I give problems on just what we worked on in class or from previous concepts or a little bit of both?

4. How do I check and go over the homework so all students are engaged and it is worthwhile use of class time?

5. How do I decrease the amount of copying?

And here is my current idea for next semester:

Don’t make homework worth any part of their grade.   This should decrease copying significantly.  Now the question is, how do I ensure students do their homework?  Well I think this is where using SBG helps.   After we have learned a specific concept or part of a concept, I would give out homework with the caveat that the problems on this homework are similar to problems you might see on your Concept Quiz.   If you feel like you need more practice on this concept,  do this homework tonight.  If you don’t need more  practice, then don’t do the homework.  If you think later in the week you do need more practice, the homework can be found over there on the wall.   Oh, you bombed concept #12?  Look, there is homework for concept #12 over there on the wall, why don’t you grab it and try some problems (This is very similar to MathyMcMatherson’s Wall of Remediation).  The number of problems on the homework is totally up to the students.   There will be more problems on the worksheet then students should need.  I might circle different types of problems on the homework and tell students, these are the problems worth trying.  These would be like the bare minimum set of homework.  If they feel they need more practice, there are extra ones to try.  As an added motivational piece, every time students finish  two homework assignments they are given a reassessment ticket.    My next thought was how do I go over the homework?  Do I even go over the homework?   I think I should because I do want students to do the homework nightly.   Do I walk around and check everyone’s homework to get an idea of how many students are doing it? Does me checking their homework really motivate students to do the optional homework the same night it was given? Maybe.   My original thought was to have the answer key on the back of the homework.   Maybe they don’t get the answer key until the next day?  Now, do I go over the homework?  Well, I know I am not supposed to according to a lot of people.  The beginning of class is when students are the most focussed and that time should be spent on something more important.  So, maybe we do some type of opener to start.   I walk around room and check homework.  I have students circle or point out the problems they want me to go over. Then, just like this guy said, instead of working out the problem that most students asked me for, create a similar problem for the entire class to try instead.  We go over that problem together.  I am thinking there could be some TPS going on during this time. Maybe this is way to elaborate of a  plan for homework.

I still don’t know if I love this plan.   A large part of this homework plan is relying on high school students to be self motivated and do their homework even though it is not worth a grade.  Can I really expect teenagers to do this?  But is making it worth 10% really going to change that?  Or will that just increase the number of students copy someonelse’s homework. Will giving students a reassessment ticket really increase motivation?  I think in teaching you have to come to the realization that there isn’t a perfect solution; there are just better solution. Anyways, here is another better solution to homework from David R. Johnson’s book Every Minute Counts. The talk about homework starts on page 18.


4 thoughts on “I hate homework

  1. I am interested in seeing the feedback on this post. My principal and I have been going round and round about this very thing. School policy currently states that homework is 25% of the students grade. I think that is way too high (I teach 7th grade). But I do believe homework is important, good practice, and necessary for time management skills. Especially since I am on modified block and only see students every-other-day. Very curious to hear others’ thoughts.

  2. One of my district people that happens to be super amazing, gave us this book called “Rethinking Homework” By Cathy VatterOtt. It was phenomenal. Here are some main points I’ve taken from her book, but it was an excellent read so I’d highly suggest reading the whole thing and changed how I did homework in my classroom. 1) Do homework based off of time spent on homework with work (rather than finishing it). I teach from 9-12 (but 10 and 11 primarily) and I believe it she says homework should be 10 minutes for every grade the student it in. We are on a trimester system so my students only have 5 classes a day. So I have my kids do 25 min a day of homework (or finish it–whichever is first, unless they feel inclined to finish). To make grading quick, I have students either write 25 min at the top or draw a line across the whole paper if they worked in order of the problems. Her theory was that a time frame makes homework doable and if students are frustrated or stuck on a problem, they don’t have to worry about finishing it. Additionally, a time frame helps students who aren’t super great at math to make it seem like a doable task. Furthermore, it can cause less problems at home when frustration with a particular problem happens and they know they just need to get to a time frame. I’ve done this for a few years now and I really love it. The majority of my students like it as well. I do an anonymous survey at the end of every trimester and I ask them if they like the 25 min rule and if they have ever lied about doing 25 minutes. I can think of a small handful that didn’t love the 25 minute rule, but overwhelmingly, they really appreciated it. And most students don’t lie about the 25 minute rule either. I will say when grading it, I look for proper work. If there isn’t proper work, then I turn it back to them and tell them it needs work. If they don’t do 25 min or finish it, I grade it out of completion. I provide the odd answer for the students as if I was using a textbook (oh man…how I miss teaching from a good textbook…the new core screwed that up for my state since we went with the international version of the core). When I grade their homework, I attempt to look for errors in showing their work and either verbally tell them what the problem is with showing their work (or a problem with a common mistake) or make a note on their paper. I give them all the answers the next day and then after I have shown them the answer, then I have them ask questions on it. That way, if they thought they did something correctly, but after correcting it realize they did it wrong, they can still ask questions on it. I’m aware this will give teachers concern that students won’t get to know all the material, but I’ve honestly felt that the students can learn what they need to. I do always tell them, if they are consistently not finishing in 25 minutes, then they probably have holes in their learning and they should come in before or after school to work on homework for a few days and hopefully speed up that process for them. Also, if it looks like they haven’t spent 25 minutes on the homework I pass it back and say “really 25 minutes” and I will either get it back with more work and no conversation, or a long explanation about how they didn’t understand and they really did do 25 minutes. It also is a helpful gauge to see who your slower workers are, or potentially those with holes in their learning and you can hit them up for help more during class work time.

    2) The book also suggests only having a small portion of the homework assignment covering information from that day and then the rest is review. According to research, students remember better when practicing over several days as opposed to all at the same time. It’s been a few years since I’ve read her book (and it’s at school and I am not), and I know for sure I modified this one a bit, so don’t quote me, but I believe she said the number of questions that should cover that days material was 5-8. I bumped this up a bit, personally because sometimes there are several math concepts covered daily. So depending on how many little things I covered, I’ll shoot for somewhere between 5-12. I also feel like she said there should only be 20 problems. I felt 20 was a little less than my heart desires, so I think some of mine go up to 25. It’s also really nice when students are struggling with what they learned that day, that they can skip down and start working on things that they already know.

    3) I still like a little bit of both. One of my coworkers, doesn’t love it so she might switch back to working on just the things from that day. I typically just do review from that unit on it, but I have been known to put things they struggled with on the test on the homework (the ones that seem to be the same from year to year–or I just modify it each time).

    4) I have all students check their own answers. I also have them put on their homework how many they got correct at the top of the paper, so as I’m recording the completion score, I can see how well they did on actually getting the right answer as well. Sometimes I pay attention to it, sometimes I don’t. But I think it’s a useful habit for the student to get in. I’ve tried to walk around the room as they are checking answers and grade their assignments so I don’t have to do it some other time, but sometimes it doesn’t work. It’s also nice to give verbal feedback because it’s so much faster than writing. I also had a good conversation with a coworker about having students work with each other to help figure out what they did wrong on their homework. I have some kids do that naturally, but I haven’t been good yet at teaching them how to do that. Hopefully this year.

    5) There doesn’t seem to be a ton of copying. I also relaxed on my late work policy (I can’t remember if I did it from that book, or from the district push to move towards standards based grading). But I allow students to turn in work up to 5 days past the unit test. So I feel that helps with less copying too. Also, I have homework as 15% of their grade. She has a percentage that homework should be more than (I feel like it was 20%, but again, don’t quote me on that). I have a conversation with the students about how 85% of their grade is based on what they know. So they could potentially lie and say that they did 25 min but just copied, but it almost always shows up on tests and quizzes and the final that they don’t have any idea what they are doing. So most just do the homework or suffer the inherit consequence of not doing their homework, which is fine by me. And if they can do well without doing the homework at least they know the math and can properly show their work. Which is kind of what I was after anyways. Will that help with their work ethic? Nope, but I do try to help them see the value of homework so it is what it is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s