I totally need help.

Like a lot of it 🙂

But seriously– I have a question for all of you departmentalized teachers out there (upper elementary-high school).  One of my bigger struggles since I have started teaching is HOMEWORK.

My first year I taught in an inner city charter school. It was a start-up school AND I was a 1st year teacher. We had a block schedule and I saw my kids for 6th grade science every other day. I never gave homework because no one ever did it.

The next two years I taught math and social studies and science. My big concern was math homework. I assigned it almost everyday. Nothing that took FOREVER to do, but meaningful review from the days lesson. My problem? It took me forever to check every individual kid’s homework, record it and go over the answers. Plus, it was the same kids never doing it and unfortunately parent communication did very little.

I tried the ever popular “Homework Book” method last year. I was so excited about it. I thought it was perfect for my middle schoolers…even with intense modeling and monitoring, it didn’t really work. It took longer for them to fill in the book than it took for me to check– and those days when half the class decided homework wasn’t worth it? 20 minutes into class and the kids were still filling out pages and missing instruction.

So obviously I have a dilemma. Not assigning homework is not an option. Does anyone have any advice? I don’t want to spend half of my 40 minute period checking and going over homework. This year I was told I will have a lot of students who will not do homework. I need to figure out a system that works for me, but I am struggling to come up with something new. Any advice would be MUCH appreciated 🙂 I like the idea of offering choice, but then, how do you go over the answers without taking forever?

Sorry this post is all over the place! I am hoping on of my amazing teacher friends can help– or shed some light on what YOU do in your classroom and what works!


18 responses to “HELPPPPPP!!!

  1. I like using edomodo or schoology for homework. I can start discussions there, provide problems, and then leave the answers the next day. The students who complete the homework get full credit and those who do not get no credit. I use homework as a way to offer remedial assistance and to challenge those who are ready to move ahead. Another great thing — they can work with their friends and talk to their classmates. It is really a “Facebook” way of doing homework. I also ask my students to create their own problems, questions, and comments and display them. Studying for a test and don’t get a concept? Ask your friends!

  2. Our teacher have struggled with this for years. First, the total amount of homework a child has in all subjects shouldn’t take over the number of years a student is old (that is at least a gauge to go by). Saying that, there are two very different schools of thought. Homework should just be a practice of something to get it well-rooted in a child’s mind. It should be something you know they CAN do, so that should reduce the need to check every child’s paper every day. As a teacher, I simply gave checks to show that the child attempted the homework and did the majority of it. Of course, it it looked like gibberish, that didn’t count. Then I tried to show the students that they could only help themselves by finishing it and getting credit for completion (a lot easier that getting an “A” or “B” every day)., It doesn’t always have to be problems on paper. It could be reviews with card games, etc. That takes more preparation, though. The opposite camp says that if homework is worth assigning, you must carry through. This probably means the cooperation of other teachers you work with, or even the entire school. In this scenario, the student stays in from play, in detention, after school, etc- whatever it takes- until the work is finished. This would certainly make you think hard about what is truly worthy of assigning. I am not sure which is best. The second just gives me a feeling it is the “right” thing to do but I generally went with the first idea.

  3. I don’t have any advice to give, but I’m looking forward to reading the responses. School starts for me in 3 weeks, and I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to handle homework.

  4. I teach middle school math. Everyday in class, students take out their homework while working on their warm-up activity. I go around and just quickly check that it is done. Students receive either a 2, 1, or 0 as their homework grade that day. (A 2 is given for complete work done in pencil with all work is shown. A 1 is if it’s in pen or no work is shown. A 0 is if they don’t have it at all.) I then show the problems and the solutions on my Smartboard. Students check their own work and raise their hands if there are any questions. I do any problem that their is a question about. Normally, it’s only 3 or 4. The process doesn’t usually take more than 7 minutes. Hope this helps!

    • Katie, I really like that idea… I may try that as well….

      • Thanks, homework is 15% of my students’ average each marking period. Since I check it daily and immediately show the answers on the Smartboard, there is no opportunity to make up missed homework for credit. My students learn fast that a couple of 0’s will start to affect their averages!

  5. My way is a mix of the two schools of thought discussed by Debra. I give a quick check on some pages, and use the rest as a spiral review in class. This way mostly works for me–perfect would be 100% work returned, 100% of the time.

    I teach math and science; math homework is assigned weekly, science–rarely. The components of my homework management are: the math workbook pages for all the lessons of the previous week (about 8 – 10 pages in a 5-day school week), Homeworkopoly, and consequences for missing work–students do not have the option of late work credit.

    Except for absentees, I do not credit students for late homework–partly to instill responsibility, and mostly for my sanity. Since my district mandates a 10% credit for homework/projects, students who submit work–perfect or not, as long as I can see they tried– get an easy credit.

    Students who want to be hard cases get consequences in their gradebook, and miss recess. I also send a form email/note home, and remind the parents that I do not credit late homework. This policy is written in my beginning of the year letter.

    Every so often, I arrange to have some of my ‘project’ students to have lunch in the room and a heart-to-heart. I have to coordinate with their homeroom teachers to do this. I show one child at a time, his/her GradeQuick gradebook, and demonstrate how homework affects the grade. Even third graders understand after I do this with them. (This doesn’t work for students who do not care about what grade they get, or who still get good grades due to good test scores–I haven’t found a way to really address this yet.)

    1. Students who submit ALL their homework pages, at the end of the school week get a turn on the game board, and a credit of 10 points in their grade. It’s not a big deal to me that all the answers are correct, I just want them to try.
    2. Since I assign about 10 pages a week, each page is counted as 1 point. My choice to just give whatever workbook pages go with the lessons for the previous week as homework reflects my concerns on copy quotas, lack of class time to complete each lesson’s 2-page work, and my guilt about just putting a cursory check on half of the pages.

    Each lesson’s workbook pages has a spiral review and the lesson’s practice.
    3. Practice pages get a quick check. I really only look at 1 or 2 key problems.
    4. I take note of the students who did not get these, and gather them during guided groups for review of the problems.
    5. Each day, I gather the students who missed the key questions or missed turning in homework altogether, for a guided group review.
    6. I tackle only one lesson from the previous week each day. This is always my first guided group of the day.
    7. I do not check the spiral review parts, the students do. On Monday, I return last week’s submitted homework. The students will keep this in their Math folder for the week.
    8. Last week’s spiral review pages, become this week’s daily warm-up. One spiral page each day. A quick 5 – 10 minute go through.
    9. I write the lesson number on the board, the students check their work. If they did not turn it in last week, but brought it to school, they can still check it, but I am not giving them any credit.
    10. At the end of the week, students remove last week’s homework packet (now corrected) and bring it home.
    11. I tend to keep practice activities for review lessons within the classroom. I occasionally send home a practical activity for students to practice, such as measuring their bedroom window to the nearest half inch, or finding the perimeter of their closet door.

  6. Check out Whole Brain Teaching ( for the info on the Universal Homework Model. It gives some ideas for incentivizing homework. Homework is always a bug-a-boo of mine. This year I’m going to have 3 “levels” of assignment. 1 Star Homework – do all the starred problems (mandatory) – maybe 5-6 critical problems including one word problem. 2 Star Homework – do half of all the problems including the starred problems. 3 Star Homework – 100% of the assignment sheet. Class earns points for rewards based on the total effort of the individuals. This doesn’t solve the grading, recording issues however. I will have students trade papers or grade their own – the 5 critical problems. I will explain any that were difficult. I use a check sheet to note anyone who did not return work. I’ll look over the work later in the day. It can be very time-consuming…..

  7. I am going to give them their math problems at the beginning of the week we will have a few minutes to answer questions each day. They will turn it in on Friday. Those who do not have it will not be allowed to turn it in late, but will have to do a weekend assignment. Just an idea.

  8. Hi Kate! I love your blog! I have been teaching for 18 years and I change my homework policy almost every year – always a struggle! I am going to start using edmodo this year so I was glad to see the post about that. I have also used Homework Quizzes. The students are assigned homework during the week (that you check with them during the next day’s class – not spending too much time). On Friday, give a quiz where they have to do one problem from each of the homework assignments. They look through their homework binder (spiral, etc.) find the problems and COPY them(showing work) onto their quiz. If they did their homework, corrected it in class and stayed organized they should get 100% everytime. That is not always the case, but the parents cannot really argue with the rationale. They are very easy to correct. I usually give four problems on quiz – divided the paper into fourths. Thanks for all your great tips! My girlfriend and I are just starting up a blog this fall and we have very high standards because of you!

  9. Hi Kate! I love your blog too! Your posts are so cute! I hope you don’t mind me posting this link, but it’s much easier than writing my feelings on this topic in this little comment box. I teach sixth grade math (I’ve also taught 7th-9th math). I’ve taught for eleven years, and had always struggled with the whole homework thing. Needless to say, I don’t any more. I just think too much emphasis is placed on homework. The emphasis should be placed on “do they know the material or not” and “do they have the depth of knowledge that they should be getting”. I can usually tell that by walking around the room while they are playing the reinforcement games. Here is a link to a post I wrote about it. For the Love of Teaching Math

  10. I enjoyed reading all of the responses. I am going to try the Homeworkopoly system in my middle school this year. I plan on making a packet for Mon-Thurs HW. Each day is worth 5 points (the fab five). At the beginning of the year if 75% of students bring in the HW each day, then the class will move their marker one space. If less than 75% bring HW, then the marker won’t be moved. The HW must be corrected in color when it is turned in on Friday. I will grade it over the weekend, then we will move the marker on Monday. I plan on moving up to an 85% HW return rate. Once we have made it around the board once, I will provide some kind of reward for the whole class. I still need to fine tune some of the rules – absent students, reward after passing go, reward for 85% completion for the previous week.

  11. Love your blog! Thanks for sharing.
    I know homework can be a pain-here is my advice. I teach 6th grade math and first I fought for longer class times. I now have a 90 minutes. As a rule I always plan for appx. 20-30 min of in class time for their assignment. This results in the majority of the class either finished or mostly finished. Of course some students will only get about half completed. Their class assignment only becomes homework if they do not finish it. We always grade the next day in class and I use the SMART Board to show the answers and solutions. We then go over any questions they may have before we move on since math skills build on each other. Any student who makes below a 75% on an assignment receives a study guide with problems to practice the skill again and earns points to bring up their low score. Their unit assessment scores shows this works. I make sure parents are aware of this as well. With that said there are still a few students who were perpetual offenders and I would contact parents and refer them to our Check and Connect Program with our Americorp workers. Our district implementing assessment for learning so eventually classwork/homework will not even be a part of their grade. Hope this helps!

  12. I teach 7th and 8th grade math. My system is similar to Katies’s above except students get up to 3 points for each homework assignment. (3: complete with all work, 2: only partially complete/work missing, 1:less than half complete or no work shown). One of my colleagues uses the same system and every year we consider going to 2 points. We are just concerned that there isn’t much wiggle room. If students do the work it’s pretty easy to get full credit, but what about those papers that are better than 50% but don’t deserve a 100%? We also don’t give credit for missing assignments, but I am considering allowing partial credit. My feeling is that the assignment needs to be done. The skills are being built upon and the student will be assessed on them. If I do this I would possibly limit the number of late assignments accepted to 3 per marking period. Of course this would entail some additional record keeping on my part, but a student is unlikely to complete an assignment if s/he is going to get a zero anyway. My students complete a 5 minute check while I check Homework. We then go over the 5 min ck and HW. It seems to take longer than it should and I am looking for ideas to tighten it up. Other thoughts I have had about HW: -collect and grade only a select few problems, -select a different class each day and collect and grade (Wondering if students will take it more seriously if they know it’s going to be more thoroughly looked at, but still trying to keep the paperwork under control!)

  13. Hi Kate:
    I too love your blog. I always struggle with the homework issue. I teach 6th and 7th grade intensive math. Intensive math is for the students who performed below grade-level on out state’s standardized test. Thanks for posting the homework question as I got a lot of great ideas from the teachers who responded.
    I have a question for you and anyone else who may want to respond. I love foldables and what I call “fancy notes” and I have gotten some great ideas and new twists from your blog. The problem I have is students not keeping the items, losing them, misplacing them, throwing them away… and in general not having the notes or foldables when needed. How do you handle this? How do you handle students keeping a folder or notebook in general so that they have the information available when needed? Is there a good, consistent way to have students keep an organized notebook? I have struggled with this and tried different approaches, but have not had consistent success.

  14. I teach 7th grade math. We have tried many different ways over the years to make homework easier on us and the students. I like the way we did it this past year. We give out and explain the homework on Mondays. It is generally self checking (by coloring, riddle or simply a grid with all the answers in random order). It is due on Friday. If it is completely done it is 100 anything else is incomplete. If they complete it and turn it in it is a 70 else it is a zero. The weekly quiz is 20 questions, 10 of which come directly from the homework(from the previous week to give yourself time to look them over and collect late ones). The homework questions are strictly “What is the answer to question #2 on page 1 of your homework?” It keeps the kids accountable. You don’t have to grade each question because it is graded on the quiz. The kids learn quickly that not doing their homework affects their grade. And I am not spending my weekends grading homework. Hope this helps.

  15. I teach 6-8 math and this is my first year with all 3, but did teach 6th last year. My school has the program Renaissance Place, there most common product is Accellerated Reader (where students read a book in their reading level and take a 10 question mulitple choice test for points). Another program they offer is Accellerated Math…it’s AMAZING!! I don’t have to grade papers anymore! It is a scan tron program that I run comletely from my computer. I teach my lesson and then give them an assignment over what we just learned. They do the work, fill out a scan card and scan it in my room…results come immediately as well as another assignment over another objective (if they did well) or more practice problems if they didn’t do so well. I love it because I don’t have to grade, but even more because the kids care about the grade and get to see immediately what they missed, we then talk about where their struggles were and they go on to the next assignment that was automatically printed when they scanned. It is great for differentiated instruction because I can assign objectives from lower levels for those students that need more review over past material and I can assign more advanced students higher level objectives.

    I still use a book some and do worksheets but overall my class is directed by Accellerated Math. The kids love it (when they get a 100% they get to press the Staple “easy button”) and even do extra work at times. It is a lot of work to get started and really figure out what methods work for each teacher, but well worth the hours of set up versus the years of grading! Best of luck!!

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