Archive for February, 2013

Goodbye to homework…

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

We assign it, they do not complete it.  We check it for completion, we collect it, we spend all night grading it…   We get frustrated, beg colleagues for other methods/ideas, even sit for hours on Global Math Department meetings on Tuesday night to talk about it.  

Well… I am saying goodbye to homework and asking my students never to ever mention that word in my classroom again.  I have been on the fence about this idea, but this week I jumped in with both feet.

Here is how I am changing the culture in my classroom:

I gave the students a survey yesterday about homework and classroom notes.  I want them to think this is their idea to help increase the buy in.  I was not amazed when during a class discussion (after they turned in the survey) that the one thing they would change would be the homework.  Student A says, “If I understand the material, why do I have to do 10 problems just like the first one”.  Student B says, “I do not have time to do all these problems every night”.  Student C says, “I don’t ever get it, and there is no one to ask”. 

Here is what I had already decided and in turn, we started today:  I give notes (we do a “cornell”-style of notes.  They are typed but indexed on the left hand side.  They “fill-in” and put reminders/examples on the right side).  Then I pass out 4 problems on a half sheet; I am calling it Assessment Practice.  They work on them (they have a math buddy they can work with).  I walk around and answer questions and checking answers for those that need to know before they move on.  Once everyone is about done, I display the answers.  They now can flip to the back of the half-sheet and find where in the book there are extra problems (answers in the back of the book).  These problems are what we are calling “individual practice”, because they are needed on an individual basis.  Class ends.

Tomorrow I will start with 5 minutes of review/answer questions on the individual practice.  I will then pass out 4 questions about the section/concept and they take a “Prove It” Assessment.  If you know the material, now prove it to me.  I got instant feedback today about what to reteach/review at the beginning of tomorrow and then after the prove it assessment I will have feedback about reteaching/reviewing before the quiz/test.  I usually will then do a small activity/application before moving on to the next section/concept.  

So how did it go?  Today, I had 99% participation on the practice assessment.  My normal homework participation is about 40%.  I had students today who completed 4 problems for the first time the entire semester.  Okay, it is day one… let’s see right?!?!  I have to say I felt different after class too!  I KNOW that my kids understand the topic.  I KNOW they are prepared for the Prove it sheet tomorrow.  I KNOW they will not ever do “homework” again, because I actually tricked them into doing it 🙂 

In our current TAP cluster cycle we are looking at data driven decisions.  Where does data fit into our classrooms?  What questions can we derive from data?  Does data have a home in our school?

I can honestly say that I look at data as a calculator in a math class.  It is there if you need it, but not to be the end-all-be-all.  We need to know how to use data, when we should use data, and if we even need data to make a decision.  Just like I tell me Algebra 2 students, it is not a wheelchair for you to ride around in.  Your calculator is just a walking boot when you sprain your ankle (okay I have a class full of jocks…they get it).

I need to look at compiling and analyzing data in my Geometry and Algebra 2 class, but my Algebra Enrichment class is so adaptive to being data driven.  First, they take Acuity as a predictive assessment on the Indiana ECA.  I can run reports, look at weakness of individual students or even the class as a whole.  Then there is Aleks, where I can pull up an individualized chart to see in what areas students are struggling.  Though I can do an entire class, there are so many topics in Aleks, I would need to know what I am looking for exactly.  I also see value in SBG and the ability to look at data with our weekly quizzes.  Are student progressing, are they passing at a consistent rate, etc.

We talked about barriers today too, but I have drank the kool-aid and see value in compiling, analyzing, and implementing decisions based upon data.  Find my students weaknesses, and the weaknesses in my lessons.  By doing that, I can be a better teacher.