Friday, September 4, 2015

Why I Don't Take Late Math Homework and How I Value It

That right I don't take it...late math homework. After two years of teaching I was so over playing "Chase the Paper Trail" game with my students (and parents) over homework. Typically my homework assignments were short--less than 20 problems (normally hovered in the 10-15 range) and it was more for me to see are they actually understanding what I taught and a responsibility issue. I was so so frustrated at the end of each term having students (and parents) begging for past math homework assignments and me attempting to teach, plan, get ready for parent conferences, and then have to re-assign already assigned assignments on top of everything else going on in my life, and then wait until the very last minute to enter grades--and even prolonging the grading period.


Before my third year of teaching I wanted to change something but I didn't know where to start. I still wanted homework to have a meaning but I realized I did tons of self-assessment, formal assessment, and informal assessments at school that the "assessing" value of homework to me probably wasn't as high as those. I also attended a district training where they encouraged teachers to give less homework (and by less they meant, don't give 40 problems, which I didn't do). This really struck a chord because why should a student need to do 40 problems that they already understand and why should a student that is struggling be given the task to do 40 problems they don't understand? Catching my drift.

I decided to slash my homework problems to 5-10 each night and aim for 5. I also decided to value my in class assessments more (not that  I didn't but this was where all of my important data came from). Think about how much time you spend checking homework! I knew this would cut down on class time that we spent checking homework and taking questions. Also I implemented a new and easy way to keep track of grades that made it a piece of cake and at the end of the day I didn't have stacks of homework to input grades into the computer.

After deciding to slash homework, I evaluated my paper issue of late work. I decided that I would not take late math homework (gasp!). Here is what I came up with to guide me, my students, and my parents:

I assigned so few problems that my students could easy finish during the school day. Also, if they needed to take it home it was a quick finish for them once they got home. Part of my homework policy is if your child is once your child has spent 30 minutes on it parents can sign it or jot me a note saying "HELP!" to let me know that their students just isn't getting it. Because I don't want my students to have anxiety build up over proportions or exponents and I don't want their to be math frustration (I totally had this problem as a student). I have to tell you this only happened TWICE out of 34 students during the entire year!

I valued my in class assessments more...those gave me more authentic information. Homework could be scribbled out or even done by a parent--so I wasn't getting accurate information that would even let me know if a child needed help or had holes in their understanding. My walk arounds, small groups, task cards, games, quizzes, tests, my favorite no's, check-it's, that is where I get all of my information.

Also, I valued my time to teach more than having students self check their work 
(and my time too--I would rather spend it planning)...they still self check but we spend considerably less time doing so. I felt like I spent a chunk of time checking homework when that wasn't and isn't the most important thing. LEARNING is the most important thing. Plus I hate grading--more so inputing grades ha! I do! So this not only helped my students but it helped my sanity!

And just to be a stick in the 6th grade math teacher didn't take late homework. I feel like we are totally willing to give into kids sometimes (and parents especially, if they are intimidating enough). However, sometimes in life if you miss the boat, you just miss the boat! You snooze, you lose! Insert all cute and real life statements here. I valued my students learning responsibility and taking responsibility on their own. Students would see that if they skipped homework once or twice--it wasn't a big deal. But if they made it a pattern it quickly impacted their grade (and one term of this was all it took!). Also, my parents LOVED this because it was solely their child's responsibility and we were ALL on the same page from the get go. Parents didn't have to bother asking for homework because it's all a done deal!

The day after the nights previous homework loses it's value. I've already done assessments (my favorite no, walk arounds, practice, partner teaching, etc.) the following day, during the week our quizzes provide more information for me, and after a test over the standard I am able to see if my students understood it. So at the end of the term the value of late homework decreases for me and for the student (they've already mastered the task and I've assessed so much).

If I assigned my students homework on Monday it was due at the end of the day Tuesday. Meaning they have recess, lunch, and any free time to get it done on BOTH MONDAY AND TUESDAY.  There was a grace period so I'm not the witchiest teacher ever. Family emergencies are automatic excuses for these things because I completely understand hospital stays, deaths, and illnesses. Parents take a huge sigh of relief on this because when family matters come up the last thing I want them to worry about (and my students) is homework!

My absent policy is you have how every many days were missed plus one more. I hate to have students still not feeling well and rushing through assignments and sometimes the first day back is draining enough. I've been there, have you? I know when I return from being sick the first day back is so hard and I'm totally wiped out!

At the end of the year my students are ready for junior high. They've mastered RESPONSIBILITY and TIME MANAGEMENT. We talk a lot about when to do homework and how it's best to just get. it. done.

Stay tuned because I am going to talk about more of the POSITIVE impacts it had on my students and WHY my parents LOVED my homework policy! 


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