Posts Tagged ‘HSSunFun’

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My Homework Philosophy and Policy

August 19, 2012

My philosophy towards homework has always been that it is necessary for students to spend time practicing the things that they have learned in class, especially because we are on an A/B block schedule, and I don’t see them every day. I have generally related it to either music (I always had to spend time practicing my flute) or athletics (would you expect to play a game that you had not practiced for?).

My first year teaching, I tried grading all of the homework; that didn’t last long. To keep my head above water, I switched to “completion” grades–did the student appear to have completed most of the homework; if he did, he got 100, if not, he got 0. A student could turn in late homework for a penalty of 10 points off per class day late (this was later changed to one day late only). I counted homework as 10% of their grade. A couple of years I used homework quizzes in combination with this to help motivate them to get it done.

Two things happened to change this policy. First, I had a student who was one of the hardest-workers I have ever had. Maria spoke almost no English, but I sat her with another student who could translate for her, and this girl tried. She almost always had her homework done. At the end of the last six weeks, she had a 66 (passing is 70). She also had a couple of zeros on homework. When I eliminated the zeros, her grade jumped to a 70, which is what I did.

The second thing that happened is standards-based grading. One of the aspects that struck me was that I wanted to base student grades on their performance on my assessments. My band director never graded me on my practice, only on how well I performed in sectionals; I decided to use that same philosophy towards homework. Because of Maria, I also wanted to change homework to an incentive system instead of a punitive one.

My Homework Policy
In my class, homework is 0% of your grade, and it is not graded. It is not even turned in. I check for it at the beginning of class; if you have it and you appear to have worked at least half of the problems, I put a checkmark down. Geometry students have one additional class day to turn in homework late for half-credit (I have decided not to accept late Algebra 3 homework).

Here’s the incentive: at the end of the six weeks, for every checkmark you have, I add 1 point directly onto your six weeks average, up to 10 points (Algebra 3 gets 2 points, but they have fewer assignments). That means that if you had a 60 average, but you did all of your homework, you would have a grade of 70. If you had a 90 average, you would have a 100. (If you have a 100, alas, you would still have a 100.)

How Has It Worked?
My Algebra 3 students love this (although, most of them mainly loved the half-credit for late homework). We’ll have to see this year how the “no late homework” affects things. They are old enough to understand how to work the system, though, so I’m not too worried.

My Geometry students haven’t always been mature enough to understand how this helps them. One change I am going to institute this year is that on their third missed homework assignment, if they are failing, they will receive after-school detention.

This policy has made for fun parent conversations. “You mean, that all my child had to do was do his homework, and you would have added 10 points onto his grade?!? I promise you, he will definitely be doing his homework from now on!”

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First Day of School

August 11, 2012

(#HSSunFun) First Day post

I hadn’t orignally planned to blog about my first day of school plans, because I thought they were pretty boring and unimaginative, but maybe there’s something here somebody else might find useful.

Seating Chart
Since I usually don’t know the students, I decided a couple of years ago, it was pretty silly to spend a lot of time working out a seating chart. My room has seven tables that each seat four students, so I have 4 sets of popsicle sticks numbered from 1 to 7 (if I have a small class, I will remove a number). I put them in a mug, number end down, and have the students draw one as they enter my class. That is their table number. I keep an eye out to see who tries to switch numbers (so I know where not to put them). Once everyone is seated, I have a little half-sheet at each table for them to put their names on so I have my seating chart.

Personal Information Card

After several years, I think I’ve settled on the things I want to know about my students when they first walk in.

One of the most important things to me is to call my students what they wish to be called. There have been a number of times in which a student will tell me, “Miss, how did you know to call me XXX?”, and I will reply that that’s what he wrote on his information card. I transfer that name to my roll sheet and my seating chart.

I also like knowing what the students’ interests are (although it can be somewhat scary and/or hilarious at times). It’s especially useful with my seniors, because I can tailor my presentations a little bit more towards their interests and aspirations.

One of the saddest parts of the card is the “dislike” section. By far, the most common response is “yells and screams at me.” Another popular response is “doesn’t help me.” Now, having been a teacher for a few years, I know that many times a student’s perception of “not helping” means “she didn’t give me the answers”, so I take that one with a grain of salt. I do find it useful to find out which kids really hate being called upon.

Other Paperwork
The only other paperwork I pass out on the first day is the course calendar and course description (Geometry) or syllabus (Algebra III). I used to have Geometry students have their parents sign off on the course description, but I haven’t done so for the last couple of years. After reading this excellent post, I may rethink that and send home a letter just for the parents (especially if I can come up with a pithy way to explain SBG). Because we get such an influx of students after Labor Day (we start Aug. 27th), I don’t pass out books on the first day of school.

Introduction PowerPoint
Like many other teachers, I have an introductory powerpoint–mainly to make sure I don’t forget things. I share a little bit about my background and interests, and then I outline the course, grading, and expectations. I’ve read a few posts from people who are going to hold off or skip going over rules and procedures and jump right into learning. While I can see their reasoning (for many students, the first day of school is the closest they get to being excited about learning–it’s all downhill from there, so why waste that potential?), I just don’t feel comfortable not laying out norms and boundaries.

An idea I’m kicking around is to show several minutes from a cricket match (YouTube has bunches). After that, I would ask if anyone has any idea of what went on. I expect to hear crickets chirping. Then I would show several minutes of a baseball game (go Rangers!). Ask the same question. The point I want to make is that when we understand the object and rules of the game, it’s a lot more exciting. Math can work the same way.

Math Stuff
Last year, for the first time, we had a regular schedule on the first day of school (we had previously had shortened classes to ensure that everyone was registered into the system and that students knew where to go). We’re assuming that will also be the case this year, so we will then have a short introductory lesson. My Algebra III kids will have homework; I’m not sure yet about Geometry.