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.