Prior to reading Chapter 7 of Dean et al (2012), I hadn’t fully formed my beliefs about homework. While I knew it was important to not force students to teach themselves something and only assign homework about things students have learned, I hadn’t done much research into how much to give my first graders. Dean et al (2012) and make three recommendations pertaining to the assigning of homework across the grade levels. First, a policy should be created across a school or a district in order to clarify the purpose and goals of homework for teachers and parents. Second, homework should support what is being learned in class and have a clear, communicated purpose. Finally, feedback should be provided on homework. I used to consider homework to be extra practice for what was learned in class – a chance to better hone the skills discovered in class. I never thought much about the use of homework as a way to give students additional feedback. Instead of just grading correct and incorrect, taking the time to analyze student homework can not only show what “stuck” from their learning, but also help identify student misunderstandings that should be corrected before the error is practiced into habit. While this may seem like a daunting task, Pitler and Stone suggest many alternatives to hours of grading, such as students getting feedback from peers, having students keep track of their accuracy or speed, or keeping a homework portfolio to be reviewed and commented on weekly (2012, p. 215).
As I take control of my own classroom, I have looked into the homework policy for my new school. The school requires a minimum of 10 minutes and allows a maximum of 30 minutes of homework. I would like to assign homework, but to keep closer toward the minimum, in order to ensure my students do get practice with what we’d learned in class without creating so much paperwork for me at a later time, as my students will likely have difficulty keeping track of their own work in portfolios or giving feedback to peers. Sticking to a short amount of homework per night, in addition to their reading, will allow students to enjoy their time at home while still serving as a gradual introduction to class work at home.
In regards to self-assessment on my practice, I would consider myself to be at an overall “2 – Basic” according to the Teacher Rubric from Pitler and Stone (2012). While I haven’t had much opportunity to solidify my homework philosophy just yet, I do understand the importance of the three recommendations of Dean et al (2012). As I establish relationships with parents in the upcoming year, I believe a main focus should be to ensure we are on the same page regarding what homework will look like and why it is assigned.
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Using questions in the classroom can help students think about what they are learning and how it applies to the world outside of the classroom. It can also help students better understand the processes and complexities involved in a concept. When I observed Mrs. L’s 4th grade class on September 16, I realized what a key role questions played in getting students thinking.
When listening to her line of questioning, I found that she hardly ever let a closed question rest. In math, there are typically only “right or wrong” answers, but Mrs. L has them explain their thoughts behind it. The students are shown a problem and asked to respond on mini white boards, as shown in Images 1, 2, and 3. If their work is not shown, it is considered wrong. This technique gives her immediate feedback on where individual students might be struggling, which she tracks on note paper for reference when there is time to conference with her math students or to better plan instruction.
Having the students explain their work also allows Mrs. L to know which key pieces might be missing from their overall understanding of the concept.
Before this summer, I thought that formal assessment such as quizzes and tests would be the best measure of student progress. When I read about the many informal formative assessment methods, I thought they might feel out-of-place and forced. Seeing similar strategies at work in a classroom make the idea of formative assessment less intimidating. Simply asking students to go deeper into content is an excellent way to get them thinking critically and to make sure they are understanding the content.