Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Battle with Homework. Victory!

Traditional math class:

Bell rings.  Students might take out their homework and half listen to the teacher read off answers.  They may even hurriedly write down an answer in hopes of getting credit for scribbles resembling answers.  Any questions?  Great.  Here.  You do this, then this, and then this.  Here's your answer.  What else do you need help with?  Then, they pass in the homework to be graded by the teacher.  Usually very little feedback is given.  The homework will be placed in a stack for the teacher to place a check mark on after briefly looking to see if the work is complete.  Ten out of ten.  Good job.  Next paper.  Five out of ten.  When will this kid learn he needs to finish his assignments?  Enter the grades into the computer.  Fill in zeros for the kids who didn't turn in a paper.  WASH.  RINSE.  REPEAT.

Does this sound familiar?  Have you been in classrooms like this?  Aren't you tired of this endless cycle.  Are you the teacher in this scenario?  I was.  I was only because I didn't know any better.  Now I do.

And here is what my homework time looked like this morning: 

"Hey, take out your homework from last night on solving inequalities.  You should have checked your answers last night in the back of the book.  Now, I want you to check with your group mates.  Do you all have the same answers?  Oh, and hey, if you have questions.... ask your group peeps.  Lisa, get off of Facebook, your homework answers aren't there."  I then took attendance, attended to other minor details, then walked the room.  I checked in with each group.  I asked several students where their homework was.  When they responded they didn't do it.  I then asked, "Well, how can you help your peers if you don't do the work or how are they going to help you if you don't bring it?"  I walked around several times and soaked in the rich language the kids were using to help each other.  One final lap, this time with a pad of paper and pen in hand.  "What questions couldn't you and your group answer?"

43, 55, and 59.  Three questions.  That's all I could get from them.  They were so excited that they could answer most of the questions and they could explain it to each other!  By the final few groups, I just held up the pad of paper... Any others?  Nope.  Great!  Then I walked them through those three problems, but not all the way.  I got them to the spot where they could finish it on their own.  And I gave them 2 minutes to finish it up, check with their groups, and check the answer.

18 minutes into class and we were done with homework.  Some students still needed more time to finish up what they didn't complete.  However, they were going to leave class with the ability to do it on their own.

Today during lunch I wrote some feedback on their papers I collected.  But my writing feedback to them is not nearly as powerful as the feedback they gave each other.  BOOYAH!

The best thing I heard today in response to "How can you help your group if you didn't do your work?"  "Oh, but I still can.  I really understood this.  I just didn't have time to complete the homework.  Anna, get your homework.  Which one did you need help with?  See Mrs. Berg, I will still help.  And I promise to have my homework tomorrow."

The worst thing I did today:  I did the three problems.  I should have asked for volunteers to bring their work up on the doc camera and explain how they were able to figure it out.  There is always tomorrow!

How much more involved were my kids today?  Heck ya!  I'm doing this again!!!


  1. This is about how I do it. I can't even fathom taking papers home to grade each night. I did spend many years walking around class for the first ten minutes checking it off and I was never satisfied with it, but also didn't know what else to do. It's great when you figure out a new/better way to do things.