How I got my students to do homework…

There are many issues that contribute to the problem of students not doing their homework but I have a consistent turn-in rate of about 95%, and I don’t teach honors classes.  Besides home issues I can do little about, I believe the three biggest reasons why my incoming students have histories of missing assignments are:

a)  not wrapping their minds around the importance

b)  wishful thinking

c) parents not understanding how they can help

I came into education when my sons were pretty much grown, after years of frustration with teachers who would not post their assignments online.  The only way to know what was actually due, was when it was too late to do anything about it.  So the first thing I did as a new teacher was to put my lesson plans online including date, topic, assignment, and links to worksheets, videos, and instructional materials.  It is handy for my students, their parents, and for me, too.  Please feel free to email me for a link:  lane.walker@fhsdschools.org

I start off my year explaining to parents and students why math is so important, why it is worth the work, and how parents can get involved, even if they don’t know how to do the math.  I used to host family meetings for all 120+ families before school began, but last year Twitter Math Camp took priority.  So I made video links here that explain:

Algebra I

Algebra 3 (for students who struggled with Algebra 2)

Students often forget there was homework assigned even though there is homework every night with very rare exceptions…and it is posted online.  They get carried away with other pressing priorities.  I think it helps them be more mindful knowing I stand at the front of the room, count it, and make sure everyone has fulfilled their responsibility.  They know I am willing to take the time to email their parents when their homework is missing because I care for them.  They know I have much more exciting things to do than tattle. My #1 priority is to make them feel loved and cared for; and they accept that when I tattle, I’m trying to help.  My turn-in rate for paper homework is over 95% for almost every assignment.  I only grade homework about every 10 days, but knowing it is completely random keeps my students on their toes.

Almost all of my new students arrive with histories of not turning in homework and turning in homework (even test reviews) with very poor accuracy.  Khan Academy helps cure that because they can’t finish if they are not accurate.  For paper homework that makes it into the grade book, I notice papers that stand out in quality and assign grades of 11/10.  Many of my students use highlighters and go to great lengths to earn that extra point.  It’s almost funny to see an 18-year-old light up when they pull that out of their mailbox.  They become competitive about it.  They  are also learning what quality looks like.  For a student who turns in poor quality homework, I scan it and email a copy with a copy from an exemplary product so they understand what quality looks like.  Their parents get a copy, too, as I am obligated to keep parents informed of communications with their students. My students cannot use “I did not get it” as an excuse, either.  I explain that in a recent blog, “I Stopped Wasting Time Answering Questions.  Making expectations high, reachable, clear and accountable makes a huge difference.

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