Happy November! We've made it through August, September, and October, that's a fourth of the school year. Yippee! Now if you're like me you probably had some students in the last two weeks of the first quarter struggling to turn items into you for a grade. I always remind my students to earn a grade you have to give me some kind of work to get it. There are always a handful that need an extra push to get across that finish line at the end of the nine weeks grading period. Hopefully these helpful tips will make the second, third, and fourth quarter go more smoothly for you in regards to homework completion.
1. Reinforce: Set the expectation of that night's homework for your students every day. Make the homework assignment visible on the board for every student to see. Refer to the homework assignment at least three times during the class period. Even ask three or four students to repeat what the homework assignment/expectation is for that day.
2. Encourage: Have students use their planner daily in your classroom as a bellwork assignment. After you take attendance walk around the room and put a stamp on that day's homework in their planner. Reward students on Fridays, every other week, or at the end of the quarter for writing their homework in their planner. A reward for this could be a grade, ticket for a raffle, or candy.
3. Workload: Make sure you are assigning the appropriate workload to the students. Too much or too little will send the wrong message. If students are overwhelmed they will not complete it, and also if there is not much students may procrastinate and do it all at once the day before the end of the nine weeks. Make it manageable. I usually assign 10-20 problems per homework assignment. If the skills are more difficult and time consuming I assign less problems, and if the skills are easier and take less time per problem I assign more. Consciously think about the assignment and how much time it would take a student to complete it before you assign it. A good time rule is that homework should never take longer than an hour or less than twenty minutes for a middle school student.
4. Accountability: To make my students accountable for their efforts and grade in Math I send home an informal printout Progress Report two times a quarter. I send the first one home the third week and the second one home the sixth week of the quarter. I highlight all missing assignments and students are required to turn those assignments in and have a parent signature by a certain date to receive extra credit (10 points usually). Students love extra credit! This is one assignment that is super easy for students to get extra points for if they already have it all done and it helps other students SEE what they are missing.
5. Reward: I use a reward ticket system in my classroom. Students who complete a homework assignment earn a ticket. They put their name on the ticket and place it in that class period's bucket. On Fridays I pull tickets (usually 10 students) and those students get to pick a piece of candy from the candy box. I cannot tell you how well this system works! Students love it in all middle grades, six through eight. I have yet to teach a class that didn't give a hoot about the ticket system. *Also if a student gripes that they are never picked, remind them "How do you get picked?" Yes, when you do your homework. "Have you done your homework?" They make a tangible connection with this demonstration when they see others physically rewarded for something they know they should be doing!
6. Done: To go from not completed to a finished homework assignment for Math class can be daunting task for some students. Create a "Done It" or "Fabulous Homework Finishers" wall in your classroom for students to write their name on. Create self confidence in students that have completed their homework. Create a classroom climate of accomplishment and work finished. Confidence is contagious and students that encourage others to do their homework will only help you reach your goal of ALL assignments turned in!
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