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How I’m Structuring Homework in 2016-17

In order to better understand the way I’m collecting and checking Homework it’s important to know how I’m structuring groups. Check out this post and come back (you don’t have to click the link, you can just scroll down – it’s the previous post).  I was inspired by this blog post from Julie Reulbach to come up with a better plan for collecting, checking, and returning homework.  This is what I decided on for this year:

I will have a set of 10 folders for each class numbered 1 – 10 to match each group number. Every class will have a different color so they don’t get mixed up.  At the beginning of class there will be one folder at the corresponding group of desks.

The first HW of each Cycle is due on on Day 2 (there wont be HW on the day between Cycles as we transition to new groups).

When students come to class on Day 2 they will have 2 minutes (1? 90 sec?) to put their HW in the group folder and put the folder in a box on the center table (mine) or it’s late (-2 points /5). Students who come to class late with no pass take the -2.  (Don’t be late.)

HW will be graded and returned to the folders which are returned to group tables before the next class.

When students come to class the next day they take out returned and checked HW, then put their new HW in the folder. They look over their returned assignments for lingering questions.

I will take questions after opening activity (in front of the whole class) or whenever students want (on the side). If there are problems that most of the class had trouble with I will address those as well.

As mentioned earlier there will be no HW assigned on the last day of a Cycle. On that day students have taken a summative group assessment. I don’t have a problem giving them the night off after that, and it avoids me the problem of having group folders with student work that won’t match up with the groups of students the next time we meet.

Positives of this plan include:

  • Takes no class time. Except for questions after papers are returned. In the past I have tried circulating and checking HW at the beginning of class. This would take time and wouldn’t allow me to be present in helping get the class started off right.   With this plan all I have to do is grab the HW box after 2 minutes and address groups or individuals who didn’t get the work in on time. Once they see I’m serious I don’t think this will be an issue either.
  • Makes it super easy to collect and return work as papers never leave the folders. I won’t have to pass out any individual papers.
  • Allows me more time to closely examine homework and give feedback. Occasionally I would do that last year and I liked it. It was a very low stakes way to assess and provide commentary and help. I could give a kid a 5/5 and still point out mistakes and give appropriate hints or help so they could fix them. Obviously this can’t be done if your checking HW during class time.
  • Encourages students to get to class on time and get their stuff out quickly which helps get them focused and ready right away.
  • Adds another element of structure and routine to the class. Students know what they are supposed to do first and from there they can transition to what’s next.
  • Doesn’t give students time to copy HW at the beginning of class. In the past if I circulated and checked HW during class students who saw I wasn’t coming to them right away would try to pull this off. What a terrible way for their valuable class time to start!
  • Holds me accountable for grading the HW in a timely manner. Those papers are not leaving the folders and the folders aren’t leaving my classroom. If I don’t get around to grading them the folders will still go back on the desks and everyone in the class gets a 5/5. Obviously I don’t want to give undeserved credit so I’ll be motivated to stay on top of it, but it safeguards me from ever having stacks of ungraded and unorganized HW. This happened two years ago when I tried having every student, regardless of class, turn their homework in outside my door before school started at 8:00. That works for one of my colleagues but it didn’t work for me.

What about the negatives?

  • The most glaring, and really, only significant negative I can think of is that we don’t go over the homework or address questions on the day of, when the issues are most pressing for the students.  However:
    1. There isn’t a hard and fast rule against asking questions on the most current HW. Students who have a pressing question will be encouraged to write it down or take a picture before class and ask it anyway.
    2. A lot of folks love lagging homework. I agree that it’s a cool idea, but it doesn’t work particularly well with my style of curriculum/instruction. Passing back and going over the HW a day behind does add a bit of the lagging element. There’s a good chance that some of the questions that might have been asked about the HW will be addressed in the lesson in between. (In fact, the way our curriculum is set up I assume that will often be the case.) When students get HW back the next day it’s likely that they can self assess and self correct. So yeah, lagging HW review. I like it!
  • The other negative that comes to mind is the fact that I won’t be giving HW every other Monday, basically just to make my life easier. This doesn’t bother me one bit. Also, I have Quizzes to grade that day/night. Who knows, maybe I’ll do no HW every Monday!

That’s it.  That’s the plan. I’d love to hear feedback especially if you can think of more positives or more negatives for my list.

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How I’m Structuring Groups in 2016-17

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2 Comments

  1. I really love the failsafe of 5/5 for any papers you don’t look at overnight AND the way the papers never leave the folder. I think you’ll find it could solidify the group structure, too. Right? I think the kids will work together to get their work into the folder and over to the turn in table. As for the overnight component, I know myself well enough that I’ll almost never look at that work. But if it works for you, that sounds like a good plan.

    One possible drawback, kinda related to the lagging you mentioned is that homework feels quite disconnected from the class practice. Maybe something like the following might merge homework and class? I have a colleague who starts class by having volunteers put solutions on the board to each of her homework problems. After 5 minutes, the solutions are on the board and are available to discuss, if necessary. She gives credit to the volunteers in some nebulous way. Oh, and she doesn’t pre-screen for correctness. If a mistake goes up on the board, it’s ok, they catch it as a group.

    • Nate Goza

      I like this. I’m thinking I could also just take one paper out of the box that looked complete and mostly correct and put that up on the doc cam. This would save the one kid from having to write and also allow students to see the prompts/questions and the answers. We could quickly discuss (or not) and move on. I could still address lagging questions as well. Or, I’m wondering if it would be better keep the lagging component and put the previous day’s answers up as students are getting that work back (I could keep one aside that had looked good when I graded it)? More tho think about. Thanks for your input!

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