Next year I've been slated to teach ALL GEOMETRY. This translates to ALL FRESHMAN. I haven't taught this age group in eight years! I've never gotten them fresh out of Intermediate School and I am a little worried about how mommy-ish I have to be. I've taught juniors and seniors mostly and I am really worried about homework.
Let me pose some questions...
1) What is the goal of homework, at its most basic level?
2) Should we punish kids that don't need to do the homework?
3) How can we be sure THAT student did the work and it isn't just copied from a friend?
4) If the student did all of the problems incorrectly, should they get a perfect grade?
Here's my thoughts:
1) The goal of homework is to reinforce skills/concepts that we have worked on in class. It is not for me, the teacher, it is for them, the students to get better at doing their job (which is learn what they need to learn).
2) If a kid is SO GOOD (and it's extremely rare) that they don't need to practice, then I should not punish them for spending time practicing other subjects that they need to work on.
3) Copying is problem in ALL schools. I do not want to reward this behavior. I want to reward the fact that a kid took the time to learn/relearn/reinforce the SKILL, not the fact that they put someone else's efforts on a page during lunch.
4) The reinforcement argument assumes that the kid is doing the work correctly. But what if they aren't doing it correctly? Then they are reinforcing BAD HABITS, which is unacceptable.
So, how do I deal with all of these factors?
(First, let me say that my school is on an alternating block schedule- kids have 4 classes on A day and 4 different classes on B day. So, in essence, they have two days to complete homework to get the skills down.)
I assign homework EVERYDAY. Sometimes it's three questions (basic, medium, hardcore) and sometimes its fifteen (5 different problems at each of the three levels). I also give out a list of the answers with every homework. No work shown, mind you, just the final answers.
The following class, there will be a homework quiz. The quiz has both multiple choice and free responses questions and it's four to six questions BASED ON THE HOMEWORK. Not exact replicas, mind you, but assessing the same skills at about a B- level. The kids take the quiz during the first 15-20 minutes of class and hand in the answer sheet when they are done. They keep the question sheet.
After everyone has handed in the answer sheet, we go over the quiz right away. We discuss the answers and how to get them, we talk about different ways to tackle the problems, we learn from our mistakes and our classmates. We realize that homework has value- if we had completed the homework, we would have done better. Maybe some of us should stop by Mrs. G's room for extra help today?
Then we grade them. They grade their question sheet, I grade the answer sheet. Each question in worth one point, but the grade is out of twice that number. So on a six question quiz, if you get one wrong it's an 11 out of 12, two wrong is a 10 out of 12, etc. After they are graded, I throw them away. I used to keep them, but quickly realized that's not necessary.
I like it because I can quickly assess where my kids are and pinpoint misconceptions. It doesn't kill their grade- the lowest they can get is a 50%. The kids like it because they know where they stand right away and they can see how they are doing. Parents like it because they get an update everyday as to how their kids are doing BEFORE the major assessment (quiz, test, project).
Questions? Comments? Points of view? Thoughts?