There are so many little things that matter in teaching that I knew but didn’t really know. One of those things is homework; assignment, collection, grading, and answer checking. Another is warm-ups/do-nows because for some reason in my mind they go hand in hand.
At my school students are not used to having homework. They have become accustomed to 5-10 extra minutes at the end of class that is optional time to do homework (or hell it’s just not assigned at all). All last week when I was passing out worksheets (remember they don’t have textbooks to take home) the moaning and groaning was louder than any participation or disrespectful name calling I’d heard all day! But here’s the issue with homework – they copy, they cheat or they don’t do it. I realize none of this is in my control exactly but I’m wondering if I can provide meaningful incentive to complete this (hey, like knowledge?! no, bad – that’s bitter).
Since Monday is a new week I was hoping that I could start with new routines, expectations and goals since this past week I’ve been throwing together random routine ideas and seeing what works. I observed another teacher who collects homework, grades for completeness and returns the next day. She also has 4 problems very similar to the assignment on the board as a warm-up. Students complete the warm-up each day, go over the answers as a class and on Friday turn in their sheet with all their days work for credit, “Easy points to earn, easy points to lose.”
I have been putting warm-ups on the board but they do not always lend to the previous nights lesson (for example, does my text message count as a warm-up?). Also, I have not been asking students to complete these for credit and I’m wondering if that would increase the number of students actually doing it. I don’t want to impose points on the warm-up to set these kids up to fail or to threaten them and I’m not sure if credit is enough incentive anyway (But maybe worth a shot!).
The procedure I’ve been implementing is taken directly from Mr. M. I have students do whatever I have up on the board while I go around and check the homework for completeness, not correctness. The problem with this is I do not get to see the common mistakes, I do not get to see what is tripping up every single student and I’m wasting time by going around to each student and marking done or not done. Plus, the last kid I check always gets more time to scribble some stuff down and make it look like he’s done his homework (I watch them do this). Then I’ll go over the warm-up or ask about homework questions. This whole procedure seems like a time-killer and ineffective. I read this post by square root of negative one about homework and providing solution banks to students and I think she’s onto something.
So basically this is what I want:
- Meaningful homework assignments that are used as practice and assigned almost every night (Do you give homework on Fridays?)
- A fair way to grade homework that allows students to get credit for effort and allows me to identify common misconceptions
- A meaningful warm-up – NOT busy work so that I can finish checking homework. I don’t know if I want it graded or not.
One thing I was thinking for a “warm-up” for this upcoming week is a challenging root/irrational problem to put on Monday’s do now and have the kids work on it every day for the first 5 minutes and get further and further as we move along in the unit. They would use what we’re doing in class each day to help them get closer on the warm-up the next morning. But to grade it, not to grade it… oy vey…
Most importantly I would love to outline my routines and expectations on Mondays so these kids can kvetch when I hand out homework but already know it’s coming. I don’t want to surprise them with challenging do-nows and I don’t want to collect homework one day and not the next. I really want to provide them with structure.