I didn't really make any new year's resolutions this year but over the break, I did find a couple new procedures that I implemented at the beginning of our second semester.
I borrowed this idea from Dan Greene at The Exponential Curve. He called it the Readiness Checker. Students get a stamp/sticker for each day that they are prepared at the beginning of class. After 9 stamps, the readiness checker magically turns into a no homework pass. I made my own Magical Homework Pass that has 4 on a page. When students get all their stamps, they cut the grid off, write their name on it, and staple it to the homework that they don't want to do. At the bottom of each grid shows a picture of what I want them to have: a pencil, their homework or current packet, a calculator, and seated at their desk. If I want them to have anything else (i.e. ruler, marker, whiteboard, etc) I throw up a PowerPoint slide that tells them what to get. I mainly did this as a way to get students to bring a pencil to class because I decided to quit giving mine out to the same students day after day. It is also a nice way to get things started. I've been using it for two weeks now and it is a far from flawless process but all the students have been willing to do it and enjoy the anticipation of that sweet no homework pass. And they DO NOT let me forget or skip them!
The next idea came from the book Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith. It is a homework tracker chart that is a visual of who is doing their homework. (I also downloaded the font A Bite which looks much cooler than what you will download. Sorry.) This is mainly beneficial for when parents or administrators come in. I have my own chart that I use to check the students homework for points. Then I transfer that to the homework tracker by writing a C for Complete, an I for Incomplete, and a 0 if they turned in nothing. I admit I am behind on updating the tracker chart and so far I would estimate this has had zero effect on the students. But I am thinking that by the time March P/T conferences comes around, it will be nice to refer to. Do you think it is embarrassing for students to be able to see other students' business? Or is it motivating? I made my own charts because I didn't want to buy those huge pre-made posters that are seen in elementary.
This is the chart I mentioned above that I use to check homework for points. Someone sent me a template similar to this before I started my first year teaching (sorry to the nice lady whom I can't remember!) and I've tweaked it to fit me, like using my favorite colors. I have students in alphabetical order by last name and the number in parentheses is the number of students in the class for that period. I have a points possible row up top so I remember what the homework is out of. For days that we don't have homework, I write none so that I know I didn't just forget to check. I only check homework for completion so while I am circulating the room for stamp fest, I carry my clipboard and write how many problems the student did out of the total possible. Then when I am done checking, I show the answers to the homework and work the ones students have questions on. It also updates the date on it's own. Pretty nifty Excel formula I dare say.
For those of you who have been keeping up with me along the way, maybe you'll remember that I am not a big fan of homework. And now I'm creating homework charts left and right. What happened? I tried a unit from the CPM curriculum and found that each lesson had homework from previous lessons that were basically review problems. Kind of like Saxon I suppose. The last couple weeks before break, I assigned these problems as homework to students. I didn't put any grades in the grade book but I went around with my clipboard just the same, checking for completion. The students didn't rebel against me because the homework was (hopefully) previously mastered material. If not mastered, at least familiar. At the beginning of this semester, I told them that was practice for a new procedure. Homework is now worth 10% of their grade (school caps the percentage at 10%) and thus the enticement of the magical homework pass. I've now went back to designing my own lessons and trying to create homework problems that are similar to what we do in class so that students feel like homework is a continuation of practicing what we did in class as opposed to alien territory. I don't know if this is correct or whatever but now I know my students are practicing or at least thinking about math a bit more than they were. The amount of problems I've given range between 2 and 8. Mostly hovering around 4. If I were estimating percentages (since I left my papers at school and can't accurately calculate), I'd say I've had about 80% of students turning in their homework every time. Pretty good for the first two weeks.
And the last thing I have to add about homework: I feel like most of our class time is devoted to students working in teams to figure things out, learn new concepts, and make connections. Although I always try to incorporate time for independent practice, I feel okay about giving homework because I feel like it is an extension of that. If they spend time together 'making discoveries', it seems logical that they can independently practice what they now know to be true.
And now for the last thing I have to add about anything: I wanted to share my lesson plan template. We, as a school, have been shifting to using the 5 step lesson plan: Clear learning target (aligned as always), Activating Prior Knowledge, New Learning, Practice (both guided and independent), and Summary (for retention). Being the fan that I am of OCD, tables, and all things turquoise, I created my own template.
Happy New Semester!