Homework Conundrum Solution

OK, so I am SO done with collecting/grading for completeness homework and I’ve only finished the second week.  After some “soul-searching” and cues from some model veteran teachers, I spent a good part of my long weekend developing an easier-on-my-sanity approach to homework, classwork and rewards.  I stole compiled various ideas from teachers and developed something that I hope think I can live with.

So, here it goes.

I will remind you (or let you know if you didn’t peruse previous posts) that I am teaching 3 sections of Intensive Math for Algebra using the Agile Mind curriculum.  I would personally not assign as much homework as is required through this curriculum though.  I have been warned on numerous occasions by another teacher teaching this that I am NOT TO DEVIATE from anything.  You can add activities, but you are not suppose to alter assignments, content, etc.  This has its pros and cons for a brand-spanking-new teacher, but I’ll elaborate on those some other time.

My two-week-old homework system:

Students are given 10 minutes during class to (hopefully) compare and discuss solutions with their partners to the previous night’s homework, as built into the curriculum.  When they are finished, they are to make sure my personal (and district) required information is included on their homework: Name, Period #, Level of Understanding (1-4 scale), logical attempt to problems, answers in full sentences (district requirement).  They were warned that they would receive an Incomplete if any of those things were missing (I honestly didn’t return incomplete for certain things, but always for name (duh!  How do I know who did this?), complete sentences and for lack of logical attempt on MOST problems.)  OK, so are you picturing my mound of homework, current, overdue and incomplete, toppling over on my desk?  Or how about the HOURS I’ve spent looking through each and every one of these, some two or more times?  Yeah, definitely not working for me.

Ideas I compiled:

From the other teacher using this curriculum:

She is using weekly punch cards/ scratch off cards that she created prior to school starting.  While students are doing their Opener (or Bell Work or Warm Up, etc.), she walks around to check their homework and initials the day’s “punch” if they completed it.  At the end of the week, they can scratch and utilize the prize if they received 5 out of 5 “punches.”  She gave me a list of her rewards which included: homework pass, 5 minute hall pass, extra bathroom pass (she limits the number of times they can use the restroom during a quarter), double your highest grade, etc.

From my fantabulous cooperating teacher last fall:

She uses weekly check sheets to keep track of homework, classwork and make-up work completion.  She uses a 1-5 point scale to determine completion on all of the above.  Each day has its own row for classwork/ make-up work and then another one for homework.  When she is checking for homework she also has them show her their notes from the day before.  At the end of the week (she might have done it on the day of a unit test, I don’t recall right now), she collects the check sheets and grades them.

My final outcome:

Creating the scratch off cards seemed like a daunting task for me to take on right now, but her ideas sparked the fire under my behind to do something about my homework situation.  Instead of scratch off cards, I created reward cards to be put in a jar, box, something for kids to choose a homework reward at the end of the week.  I used most of her ideas, nixed a few, and added my own.  These are the ones I’ve gotten so far:

  • Free homework pass (they love these, don’t they?)
  • Hall pass (get out for 5 minutes when needed)
  • Double your highest weekly grade
  • Drop your lowest quarterly grade
  • Cheat sheet on a quiz/test
  • Pick your partner for the day (I have assigned seats, I know many will love this one.)
  • Sit in rolling chair for a day (they fight over my extra teacher chair)
  • Choice of candy from me
  • Eat food in class pass

I’m planning on asking them what kinds of rewards they would like, too- maybe.  I figured these would be good ones to start with and I can always adjust as the year goes by.

Below is the check sheet I created.  I am planning to grade the classwork and homework separately because my PLC decided they should be separate.  Notice on the bottom it states that if the student receives either a 4 or 5 on every homework they can pick a prize (the ones listed above).  I am hoping this gets more students to complete their homework PRIOR to class.  I plan on walking around the classroom during their Opener to check their homework and classwork.  I also like how the make-up work is listed on the check sheet, too.  This will help me keep kids who are absent accountable for what they missed.  Some of the classwork they would not be able to complete without being in class, but a good deal of it they can.  To deal with late homework, I will cross off the 4 and 5 on the check sheet and initial it, so that when they show me their completed homework at some other time, they can only get at most a 3 on it.

Did you notice the “Party Points” on the bottom of the check sheet?  On my whiteboard, I have had “Party Points- coming soon!” since the first day of school.  They have been eagerly awaiting for me to launch this (I haven’t divulge much information).  Below is the description for Party Points that I am planning on going over with each class tomorrow.

I tried to gear Party Points towards behavior, not academics, but I did throw in the “A” points.  I am also hoping they don’t feel like the big prizes are unattainable.  I want to stress the importance of working hard for rewards with them (sense of entitlement, anyone?).

So, there you have it.  Please feel free to offer suggestions to help make this better- I am all ears!

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4 thoughts on “Homework Conundrum Solution

  1. Pam Rissmann says:

    I hear you! My first couple of years I was overwhelmed by the homework load, and I eventually developed a worksheet called the Homework Summary Sheet. If you are interested, take a look at this post to see how I handled it: https://pperfectsquares.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/taming-the-homework-beast/ .
    Good luck!

  2. greecemath says:

    Sounds like some serious thought and a lot of potential. My question for you to think about is what message does a free homework pass send? Yes, students like them but is that the message you want to send. Similarly, your party point option to forgo class for the day sends a similar message. Just something to think about.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying. The way that I wrapped my head around the free homework pass thing was to think that the kids who have the possibility of earning them consistently complete their homework. As we all know, “stuff” happens and sometimes kids might not get the chance to do their homework one night. For instance, what if an emergency arises at home. Many kids won’t tell you WHY they didn’t do it, especially if it’s personal. I feel like it’s a nice perk for the kids who typically do their homework.

      As for the party points: It’s designated mostly towards behavior, therefore, if everyone is participating and doing what they are supposed to be doing, then we are moving at a steady pace in the course. This would allow for a free period (I have them for two periods a day, so there would still be class for half the time that day) because we have been doing everything we need to do.

      I am dealing with at-risk kids, many whom lack the internal motivation and/or the grade motivation that many students have. I knew I needed to find something to motivate them, especially because there is very little I can do in regards to my lessons (I have to follow the Agile Mind lesson plans).

      Thank you for your comments though. I will limit the free homework passes (i.e. put less of them in the bag to be chosen) to make sure there aren’t too many floating around.

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