Monday, September 27, 2010

Homework Poison

Holy definite integral, Batman! My students are actually doing their homework; and they're actually showing effort and doing them properly! WTF, mate?

Last year, I had pretty simple homework policy: there was no homework. I had tried giving homework at the beginning of the year and the return rate was pretty pathetic. To be fair, transfer high school students have lives beyond the life of a stereotypical high school suburbanite. They work to support their households. Some of them have kids of their own to take care of. As an alternative to homework, I gave a mini quiz at the end of class everyday (yes, very Teach for America-like), which was supposed to pressure students to focus in class. It did work (well, sort of): I had an ~80% average for daily quiz grades.

Unfortunately, no homework also meant no retention. So by the time the Regents exams came along in January and June, the students who weren't letting the material sink in properly ended up failing. Miserably. Seriously, I could have easily submitted some of their answers here. Only the students who truly absorbed the material and studied on their own time passed.
Note: To be fair, there were also some lucky idiots who did not take class seriously, but also passed. Apparently, the Algebra Regents exam isn't rocket science (shhh!). Guessing a whopping 13 out of 30 questions correctly on the multiple choice guarantees you a passing score of 65. We have high standards in the state of New York.
This year has been different. Not only do we have quizzes everyday, but I've also been dishing out homework nearly everyday and the return rate has been beyond my expectations
FYI: my expectations were zero.
I try to keep the number of homework problems to five. My logic is that they should be able to complete homework assignments on a subway ride back home. The goal is to get them to think about what they learned in class, outside of class. Now, I have students who come in late and the first thing they want to do is interrupt my class and show me their homework. Students who were absent are coming to class, finding their homework from the days they missed and desperately trying to get my attention when they finish.
"Yo Mista, can I turn this in late?"
At this point, I really want to thank the New York City Water Sanitation Department for putting whatever they have been putting into the water supply this year. Some "get-your-homework-poison" no doubt...

Things weren't like this last year. Or maybe I hadn't set the homework expectation properly at the beginning of the year. Whatever it is now, I'll run with it. Literally. I've been waking up every other day at 5 AM to work out, do pull ups and push ups. Things running smoothly had put me in a good mood. Here's to a good start so far.


Mr. T said...

amen brother!

and screw you for being able to wake up early and exercise!

Alpha Za said...

Odd thing, the teachers that I actually did Homework for (you may have heard how little of it we actually did whilst in school) were the ones I actually liked enough to make an effort for.

It's a healthy relationship, and you're probably filling that void their not getting elsewhere.

Continue testing that relationship, and you'd never know where it might lead.

What are the final percentages of kids actually turning their hw in? rought est.?

Yo Mista said...

@ Alpha:

Avg. grade for students with 75% or more H/W completion rate: 84%

Avg. grade for students with 65% H/W completion rate: 71%

Avg. grade for students with 50% or lower H/W completion rate: 62%

Keep in mind the "avg grade" bit only includes daily quizzes and homework assignments. Haven't had a test yet...

Anonymous said...

subway ride back home vs "completing" homework at the lunch tables.. same difference


Yo Mista said...

@ Anonymous:

All of my Algebra classes are actually before lunch...

So, if my students are "completing" their homework at lunch the day OF - more power to them!

...Taking the initiative, I like it.