Homework, Again


Today, I spent some time thinking about homework. Specifically, I want to avoid repeating what happened with Algebra II last year: I used homework I got from TPT (I’m not proud of it, but at the time I thought it would make things easier), which ended up overwhelming my students. Their work ethics were not strong already and I didn’t make it easier on them. I ended up doing daily checks of homework and putting them in the gradebook for parents to see, which was annoying. I don’t even do that for my middle schoolers.

The system I’ve used for my middle schoolers for the past 7 years has been pretty successful; it has certainly been better than what I did my first year (textbook? worksheets? it wasn’t consistent). I like that there’s fewer problems, that I include a vocabulary section, and that there’s some choice involved for the students: practice & regular or regular & challenge. I know that homework, and whether or not to give it, has provided a lot of debate not just among the #MTBoS, but with educators at large. I have considered giving up on assigning homework, butĀ I’m just not there yet.

I weigh homework and notebook checks as 5% for the middle schoolers, but for Algebra II last year, my intentions were to put a grade in the grade book, but with no weight. That way I had a record of who did however much, but their overall class gradeĀ still relied wholly on proving their abilities on their assessments. As I said earlier, I ended up having a bad combination of poor work ethic and too much / too difficult homework, so I ended up throwing in a 5% weight for them, too.

I’m intrigued by the idea of lagging or spiral homework, but since I’m already redoing the pacing guide for this year, I’m not sure I’m up to the task of developing something like that yet. So, I think I’ll go back to my old standby of practice-regular-challenge for each skill. Hopefully I can get the packets for all the units finished before I go back to work in a few weeks.

Homework Template

One month to go and I’m procrastinating on the two priority items I’ve marked for myself: exit tickets and homework for Pre-Algebra. All last year, I was excited because I’d finished creating all the homework packets for Math 7 and Algebra I, thinking that this summer I wouldn’t have to do anything with homework but edit some typos. However, since my Math 7 classes have been shifted to someone else and I’ve been given Pre-Algebra, I have to work on that curriculum.

I’ve struggled with how to deal with homework before. My first year, I worked kinda out of the book and kinda with whatever handouts I could find. However, the book is terrible, especially now that Virginia has adapted new SOL. So, in coming across this comment on Dan’s blog, I developed a template for homework.

Homework Template

Each skill gets its own page (or several, if it’s something like integer operations), followed by relevant vocabulary. When that homework is due, I project the key via the doc cam, with one warning: there is one intentional mistake in the key (and sometimes accidental ones, too) and the students are supposed to find it. I’ve really found that students have been much more willing to ask questions this way, at least as opposed to showing a key with no mistakes.

So, what I’m supposed to be doing right now, is creating the homework pages for each skill and then compiling them by unit and saving them as a pdf. I post the pdf version on the class website so that any student who has lost the original copy may download and print another one.

For the past couple of years, I haven’t generally graded each homework individually. I walk around to see who is checking/copying/lost. I’ve collected the unit packets for a grade (all homework/notebook grades make up 5% of the overall average), which is a quick effort grade, but I always feel a little dirty for messing up sbg.