Renaming Homework

I've decided to rename my homework assignments as 'practice sheets'.

I'm not going to talk about homework, grading homework, or anything related to it. I am going to introduce the 'practice quiz'. I want to get away from the negative connotations of homework and just call it what it is- it's practice and you need to do it to learn anything. Period.

These quizzes will be 5 or less problems that come straight from the 'practice sheets' throughout the week, worth 10-15 points total. I will choose the problems I think are most important- that way I can really emphasize my priorities. These quizzes will happen every Thursday. If a student does the practice throughout the week, they should do well on the quiz since they are literally the same problems, same numbers, same everything. This also takes the pressure off of me having to create something new.

I've decided not to let students use their 'practice sheets' on the 'practice quiz' for two reasons. One is that students would then be motivated to ask me how to do every single practice problem in class to ensure they have the right answers for the quiz. Two, somebody could copy someone's practice sheet on Wednesday night and then get free points on Thursday's quiz. 

If a student asks me about grading the practice sheets, I'm going to ask them if they keep score in sports during practice. I'm going to explain that the practice quiz is to hold them accountable for learning, rather than holding them accountable for the practice. Different students need different levels of practice but should be held accountable for the same amount of learning.

I'm currently debating about putting the answers directly on the practice sheet when I pass it out or showing the answers the next day at the beginning of class. I like the idea that they can self check if I give them the answers ahead of time but I had some students who were really frustrated by that when they tried over and over to get the right answer. But maybe that's a good thing? Maybe I will try a mixture of both.

Practice quizzes can not be retaken. To improve low scores on the practice quiz requires doing the practice sheet in the first place.

I'm feeling pretty confident about my system and it feels like it will solve my previous homework issues, but this is just the 1.0 version that is sure to have bugs once I start actually using it.

To be continued...


  1. Last year, I ended up with about 35 more students than I normally have. Grading homework was getting to be a task that I could not keep up with. I decided to do the same as you. I called assignments "practice work" and then gave a quiz to be graded. The kids just refused to do the practice work. They would understand everything enough for the quiz, but because they hadn't practiced it enough, they did horrible on tests. This year, I'm going to change it up a little bit. I'm going to give homework every night, but randomly take it up for grading. If I don't take it up, we will check it as a class and then talk about any that gave them trouble. If I do take it up, I will grade it. This way kids won't know when they'll be graded, so they will have to have it done. I'll also throw some quizzes in because I think those are important. Just a suggestion! :)

  2. I had thought of doing that as well. A math professor in college used to have us choose a card from a deck and if it was a face card then he collected our binders and if not then we were safe.

    I discarded (ha ha pun intended!) that idea because I don't want to spend more than one day a week grading that stuff. Leaving it up to chance won't always work in my favor as it does when I plan it my way! My idea is similar in that they won't know which problems will show up on the quiz. I like to be in control :)

    I'm going to try my idea but if it fails miserably then I will keep this in mind as Plan B.

    Thanks for your suggestion.

  3. I teach math at a community college. I give a short quiz each day from the homework. No makeups. I drop a few. But they can drop one more for each 2 visits to my office. They can visit with a purpose or just to sit and do their homework. This helps with the Math Anxiety. Getting those who need it most to come for help, without making my workload worse.

  4. Could you give "practice quizzes" and also stamp the practice assignments so that both showing the understanding on the practice quiz and doing the practice in the first place count towards a student's grade? That might motivate some students who would otherwise not do the practice assignments at all.

  5. I gave almost the exact same "does your sports team's record reflect how well you practice?" speech today about grading homework.

    My philosophy on homework has evolved to the point where I keep the solutions manuals to book problems sitting out in the open in the classroom. I tell the students that I want them to have the correct answers to all their problems before I ever see the paper to grade -- just like a coach will tell you whether you are doing something right or wrong in practice.

    I hardly ever grade homework for accuracy. I give a score on a 5 point scale based on the effort I see shown. If a student has, at the very least, gave an honest attempt at every problem, he earns a 5. Skip problems, give me answers with no work, show very little work, you start losing points. I emphasize throughout the year that on homework (practice problems), I care very little about the right answer. I'll give that to them for free. I want the right *work*. And if they have the right work, the right answer will be there.

  6. Susan,
    That might work at the cc level but I have 71 students and giving 71 homework quizzes every day would take up way too much time that I would rather be planning lessons.

    I used to do that but there are some people who truly don't need to practice as much as others so I'm trying to getting away from that. I want to hold them accountable for the same amount of learning not the same amount of practice.

    I'm not very good at deciding what an honest attempt looks like. I also hope to build some responsibility and initiative in students to learn what they need to do in order to be successful.

  7. I just found your blog and I'm SO excited about all of the neat ideas it has! Thanks for sharing!
    I do the same thing with quizzes, except in the past, I've had fewer students, so I've given more frequent quizzes. I have also used a small, cheap notebook for each student; it's their "quiz book;" I write the question or two on the board, they copy it into their quiz book and complete it. It stays in the classroom and gives me and the student a good overall picture of how they're doing (all in one place).

    1. Aw really like that idea- maybe next year? Glad to see your enthusiasm.

  8. I did not collect or grade "homework" last year. I teach 8th and 9th grade Geometry. If the practice problems came from the book, I kept the solutions manual out on my desk. If it was a teacher created worksheet, I scrambled the answers up at the bottom. The majority of my students loved this! My time is valuable and I would rather spend an hour a night creating meaningful lessons/activities for my students than grading homework that was either carelessly done or copied from a friend. (To be completely honest, my tests scores went way up last year. I think it was because of my new Practice Problems vs Homework Problems philosophy.)


    1. You mean they actually did it? I'm already getting the sense that no one will be doing any practice problems around here.

  9. I use basically the exact same policy. I have used it for the last two years and I absolutely love it! I don't necessarily use practice sheets, sometimes it comes from the textbook and I do give the answers to every problem. I want them to practice correctly and know success as they verify they have the right answer. I encourage collaboration by using Edmodo and find that when students are unable to get the right answer and can't find their own mistakes, some of them will take their work to Edmodo and get help from others. Practice Questions are used as bellringer activities; students write the problem number on the board that they were unable to get the correct answer to and other students go to the board and work it for them and explain it as they work it out while I take roll. It is a great way to hold students accountable for their own learning as they prepare for college.