Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homework Policies

I have tried so many different things in my classes regarding homework and I have finally found strategies and policies that I am currently comfortable with. I am a strong believer in homework. I was always a good student myself when I was in high school, but I really only did my homework because it was expected of me and I didn't want to disappoint. It wasn't until I got to college, where homework was optional, that I finally understood how important it was to my understanding to get some practice with different concepts, mostly because at first I wasn't doing the assigned homework and therefore wasn't doing as well on tests :(

In my classroom I grade homework based solely on completion because I want it to be based on effort. Students can earn a check plus(100), check(80), check minus(60), or zero on each homework assignment. In order to earn a check plus students must have attempted every problem they were assigned. At the beginning of the year, I usually get a lot of flack about this because if a student doesn't do even one problem, they earn a check instead of a check plus and they don't agree with losing 20 points because of one problem. My answer to this is to ask them if they deserve a 100 if they didn't do the entire assignment and they usually agree that they don't. They usually still whine (which is when I just point to my "Be a winner, not a whiner" poster!! haha), but quickly learn that they must put effort into each problem.

My faaaaaaaaaavorite part of my homework policy is how I handle students that don't quite understand the assignment, but are still trying and therefore deserve a check plus (to me it really is all about the effort!). I explain to my students at the beginning of the year that their homework assignments are meant to help them learn and that I still want it to be of value even if they were struggling. If they don't understand a part or parts of their homework assignment I ask them to write a meaningful question  for each problem they struggled with (none of this "I didn't get it" or "I don't know" stuff is allowed...1) because those aren't questions and 2) because in order to help them "get it" I need to know what about "it" they don't get). This year I am going to use an idea I saw for smart questions on pinterest this summer.

I really really love this because it gets them thinking about what parts of the concept/topic they aren't understanding and serves as a reminder for them in class when we're going over the assignment what they were struggling with. Now during class, I (or one of their peers) can help to answer their questions as if I (or they) had been sitting next to them while they were doing their homework and doesn't make the assignment a complete waste for them. This also allows me to differentiate the true "I didn't get the homework" and the "I didn't get the homework" that really means "I didn't do my homework".

Other key pieces to my homework policy:
1) I do not allow homework to be handed in late. Immediately after checking their homework we go over it as a class. I explain to the kids that I'm not going to accept an assignment after they have just been given all of the answers during homework review. Sometimes this makes me feel bad for the students that would truly complete the assignment late, but I have yet to come up with a way to be able to tell who completes their assignment during homework review and who does it at a different time.

2) Once a student has missed three homework assignments in a quarter (consecutive or not) I contact home. I think this is so important because many times a parent isn't even aware that their child isn't completing their homework so I like to keep them in the loop and they are usually very grateful. I keep track of missing assignments by highlighting each missed assignment with a different color. The first zero is yellow, the second is orange, and the third is pink (my department members make fun of me because I'm so crazy about color coding things).


  1. I am so wishy-washywith mine. Your plan here is really nice. What kind of load do you give them for HW?

  2. I really like how thorough your policy is. One thing I thought of when it comes to late homework, what if they came into tutorials and worked a similar assignment (simply change numbers in problems) to be able to get a maximum of even a 70/75?

    Our district policy says the student has 2 days to be able to turn in an assignment for a max of a 70. Granted when they get a 42 back on an assignment that would have been a 60, they aren't too happy about that. Helps them learn quickly.

  3. thank you for sharing! I was having trouble with students copying work after the fact. I am instituting a new policy for late work. If they want credit, they have to do the homework with me after school. I think I am going to borrow some of your ideas as well.

  4. I count HW on completion too, and I LOVE your "meaningful question" piece! I think that may just be the missing link for my policy. Thank you!!! Can't wait to try that part.

  5. Hi, I enjoyed this post. It matches in some way what I read in Leslie Laud's book [] which I read this summer. She suggests students address each Q they couldn't do by saying what steps they took to understand - e.g. notes, textbook, online search, contact friends. Then say what they did understand and where they got stuck. I've prepared a pro-forma to hand out when it occurs - do your kids actually fill them in well?

    And as a UK teacher, can I ask what is the purpose of the scores, 100, 80 etc. Is that something the official that students expect? I never tell the students a score except for 6 weekly tests, as I kind of thought it had been shown they don't motivate all (e.g. Are these scores something to do with the mysterious 'exit slip' - now what is *that*

    Thanks again, a nice article

    1. Mathematics Man,

      Thank you for coming by and for letting me know about Leslie Laud's book...I'm going to look into it! As for my kids they do usually do a pretty good job asking questions on their homework. At the beginning of the school year it is a little tough for them, but throughout the year they do learn better what my expectations are and what kind of questions to write.

      The purpose of the 100, 80 an 60 are just percentages that I decided to use for their homework. My first year teaching I was using 100, 67 and 33 (to correlate with all complete, 2/3 complete and 1/3 complete) but students were receiving really low homework averages and I didn't want them to be discouraged since I want their homework to be a learning experience. The students don't actually know what a check plus, check or check minus correlate to, that was just something I mentioned in the post for readers to understand my policy a little more.

      I found this description ( of an "exit slip" for you. Apparently here in America we just really love giving things cute names! ha

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I can't stand the concept of homework as a grade to be perfectly honest. Last year, my department removed it from the grades completely and it was amazing. I would assign problems that I recommended from the kids. No grades or homework checking, thought I would go over the assignment with them if they needed it. At first some students weren't doing it as expected, but once they saw their test scores, they realized how important extra work is. This conversation was priceless! We also included the possibility of improving on passed tests if they failed. The other piece of this is having a tremendous amount of assessment for the kids that wasn't graded. I probably gave a quiz every other day that they graded for each other so they were always giving feedback.

    I have since moved schools due to moving across the country and I am back to homework in the grade book and so far I hate it even more now that I know the glories of not dealing with the paper work and actually holding kids accountable along with not letting them feel like homework is busywork which most do in the traditional system.

  8. Would they receive a check plus if the wrote appropriate questions for the ones they didn't know?

  9. Good job,Lesley!Must say,it always interesting to read your posts,you are good writer!Keep working,me and my colleagues from Evolution Writers wish you luck!