I thought about homework a lot this week. I just finished giving end of course exams and I did not cover nearly enough material this year. My new curriculum relies heavily on homework and...I do not. I turned the homework into practice activities/games to do in class.
I have major issues with homework:
- you don't know who actually did it
- you don't know whether someone copied
- you don't know whether you should 'check' or 'grade' it
- you don't know if students understand enough to do the work alone
- you don't know the best way to go over it without wasting class time
- you don't know if it is effective
- you don't know what students have to do/deal with at home
- you don't know what other commitments/priorities students have
My normal teaching method starts with notes as a class in the INB for day one, then day two is some kind of practice activity/game, and the start of day 3 is a short quiz, then the notes for the next skill.
According to my curriculum, I should be teaching a new skill each day.
I cannot reconcile this with who I am as a teacher. How can students be introduced to and master a new skill in 47 minutes? I don't even feel good about them being comfortable enough to take home problems on day one let alone only have a day one. Will I really be better off by the end of the year if I kept up that pace? Or would students forget more than they remembered because we went so fast?
If I stand on my no homework platform, the only things I can think of to save time are to shorten my notes so that students get independent practice on day one, more independent practice on day two, and quiz at the end of day two.
Not quizzing over every skill is another option, but I really like that for standards based grading.
My current bell ringers take less than 5 minutes but are not over course content. I could change them to be about content, but that means 5 different sets of bell ringers for each prep. I also think they cover important skills that I won't get to in the curriculum like mental math, estimating, visual equations, good questions, and which one doesn't belong.
I've talked to my students about homework before. About half of them say homework helps their grade but the majority admitted they would not do it if it wasn't for a grade. But I don't see how, 1. I could ever keep up with all of that grading, especially since I hate grading and 2. How would I ever know who actually earned that grade?
I don't think my students see it as meaningful practice, they just think they can get easy points to boost their grade. I try to keep my grades as 'purely' math as I can by just grading quizzes and tests. Students still ask me to grade notes that we do together! They think there is no value in classwork since it isn't graded.
My priorities are
- Students are working hard
- Students are learning, not memorizing/copying
- Students retain information at least enough that they can look back over old notes and remember how to do it
- Students can make connections between similar skills
- Students are asking good questions.
Does accelerating my pace or giving homework accomplish any of those priorities?
Has anyone found a system that works? How do I do what is best for my students?