A New School Year – New Possibilities

Image by:   Scottchan

It’s already been one week into the school year and I’m finding myself reviewing goals for this year.  After spending time on Twitter this summer, specifically following #mathchat,  #elemchat, and #cpchat hashtags, I’ve decided to implement a few ideas this year.  I’ve included two of the ideas below.

Homework ≠ Grades 

I’ve been tackling the issue of the role and value of homework over the past few years. This topic has been debated by educational experts for a number of years.  So why am I so worked up over this?

Many years ago I remember grading every student’s paper (homework, test, quiz, etc.) that crossed my desk.  Most teachers at my school would do this, so I thought I should as well.  I would assign a fraction and percentage for each assignment (example:  14/18).  Homework was a certain percentage of the student’s grade, as well as tests, and other in class assignments. Generally, the homework grade often inflated the overall grade for the student.  This idea made me uncomfortable and made me question the value of homework.  Over the next few years I incorporated exit cards into my instruction and began to research the value of homework.  The more that I’ve researched the topic and value of homework, the more I’m finding that it needs to contribute to the learning process.  Homework shouldn’t be assigned or perceived as busy work. The more that I read over the summer, including @yourkidsteacher‘s post and @alfikohn‘s post, I decided to try something a bit different this year.

Homework is not part of the student’s grade, but it’s still part of the class.  Not giving homework to my students isn’t really an option.  To be proactive, I communicated to the community that I would be giving feedback and not grades on the homework.  In an effort to bring more direct feedback to the students, I decided to use the check / minus method, which I blogged about a while back.  The review checkpoints are a form of an exit card that the students will complete after being taught a specific concept.  The review checkpoints will be given 3 + times per month and would count towards their overall grade.

After reviewing the homework, I give specific feedback on the student’s paper.  I’m planning on having the student review their homework pages and feedback on a regular basis.  The new homework policy is still in the refining process, but I feel as though the students/parents appreciate the feedback and find it more useful than a stagnant 13/15 on the top of their homework sheet.

Special Projects

I’m already planning on a special project for every grading period. My students have created Podcasts, Photostory projects, mathematician biography reports, and hosted a math concept fair in the past.  Some of the projects were better than others, but the students always worked in collaborative groups to complete the projects.  I’d like to incorporate more math projects this year.  I believe that the learning (academic and social) that occurs during math project sessions benefits all students.   When asked, students often list the math projects as one of their favorite activities in math class. This is also a non-traditional method to assess student learning.  I generally use a rubric to assess a special project and it’s part of the student’s grade.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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