Monday, July 28, 2014

Homework. Ugh.

I don't even want to think how few days are left before school starts. I could count them, but I won't!

One of the big things I want to change this year is homework. Since the school requires that at most 10% of a student's grade come from formative work, homework has been a losing battle I have waged over the past three years. More than once I have had students flat out tell me that they're just going to do enough of the homework to "keep their A." Certainly, some kids don't need to do the homework. They can work along in class and study and show proficiency easily. I'm not really talking about those students. Although part of me dies a little when we have the above conversation and smile and nod at each other. And there are those lovely students who understand that homework is how they learn best. It is the other 70% who realize that it doesn't truly impact their grade enough to bother that I agonize over. They don't see the value. And honestly I am tired of the daily homework check that has exactly the same scores every day. So I'm rethinking the whole thing.

I don't want homework to be a punishment of too many repetitions of the same skill. I want it to be a few well chosen problems that reinforce what we've learned, and that students will work independent of me. I want them to work these problems on their own, and then check their solutions to verify for themselves that they understand or don't. But I get it that not all kids really need that.

My daughter took Pre-Calculus last year. Told me she never did the homework. Got an A. (Proud me!) But then I had those kids in Calculus who finally realized in January or February that they should have been doing the work all along. One lovely girl said proudly to me one day: "I've done my homework two days in a row, Mrs. L. I haven't done math homework since 8th grade!" Wow. I don't count anything formative into the AP Calculus grade - it is all summative. They know it, so they don't do it. They find out too late that I really meant it when I told them that they needed to be working outside class if they wanted to really get it.

So my plan for this year is different. I want to assign just a few problems. 6 to 8 maybe. Maybe less. All with answers they can check, so (hopefully) they come in to the next class with questions. That isn't any different than what I've done this year. But I will not check to make sure it is complete, which I did at the start of class each day. Instead, once a week, I will give them a homework quiz. Three or four problems, maybe one from each lesson, that are exactly the same as problems they did on the homework. If they pass (2/3 or 3/4) great! I'll record the score and for Algebra 2, this will make up part of their 10% formative grade. AP Calc and AP Stats will show the grade, but it won't be calculated. If they don't pass, they will be give a homework contract, in which they will be required to show me all the complete homework assignments for the unit before they take the unit summative assessment. If they show up with no work on test day, I will send them into the lab to complete the work.

My thinking is this: we use formative assessment to gauge student learning, and determine when they are ready for summative assessment. If a student has shown insufficient formative understanding, then it is not in their best interests for me to have them take a summative assessment when they are unprepared.

The students who "get it" and don't usually do their work will at least be expected to show some progress. More than likely, they won't need the homework contract. I had at least one student last year in Algebra 2 who would have earned an A if he'd just done his homework consistently. The students who think they're getting it (aka my Calculus students) will gently be reminded that this is a new creature and they might actually have to do a little work outside class. My kids who hate homework for the sake of homework will come to realize (hopefully!) that if they spend a little time each day it will pay off in the long run.

And I won't have to take that dreaded walk around the room each day to verify that each student has done exactly what they did yesterday!

1 comment:

  1. I've been giving serious thought to this topic, and I really like your plan! I despise the "dreaded walk", too!