Homework…Piles and Piles of Papers

Before I started school, I had talked to the other members of the math department and found that almost no one in the department collects their students’ homework every day. This seems logical since we’re math teachers and we are assigning homework just about every night. I have 111 students, and that’s just a lot of papers.

During the first week of school I was just assigning review worksheets as homework so I didn’t collect them. I also didn’t make a big deal about it if a student didn’t do them. Yes, they got a 0 for the assignment, but they didn’t count towards an Incomplete in the class.

(Side note: my school has implemented a policy this year that if a student is missing an assignment, they receive an Incomplete for the class instead of a grade. Yes, even one assignment.)

During Chapter 1 of the textbook, which I started during the second week of school, I went over the answers to the homework in class and collected it every night. My purpose in doing this was to help them understand that homework is important and I expect you to turn it in every day. I’ve emailed parents about missing work and tracked down students multiple times to tell them what they’re missing and that they need to get it turned in.

Many of my students weren’t turning stuff in, and the logistics of catching each and every one of them to tell them what they were missing was a nightmare.

My mentor teacher suggested a different strategy, the one he has been using in his classes since the beginning of the year. He walks around at the beginning of class (during bellwork) and checks the homework. He just looks to see if it has been completed. If the student doesn’t have the homework, he makes them write it on a Missing Assignments Log (that he created and the students keep) and show him that they have written it down. Then he moves on to the next student.

I’ve started using this same strategy since we started Chapter 2, and it’s fantastic. The biggest advantage to this system is the most obvious – guess who does NOT have to be in charge of keeping track of which of my 111 students are missing assignments and what exactly they’re missing? That’s right – ME. Instead of coming up to me and saying, “What am I missing?” they can now just look at their Missing Assignment Log and know right away.

My workload has decreased drastically this week. I even went home last night with NO work to do at home. (I stayed at school about 2 hours after the end of school, BUT I didn’t have more to do after I got home.) I was sort of confused, too. I thought first-year teachers weren’t supposed to be able to go home with no work! Is this allowed?

More importantly, I actually have more students doing the homework now. I think this is because I walk around and actually check in with them verbally about each homework assignment. They are held immediately accountable for not doing it because I ask them, one-on-one, where it is. I’m not emotional about this process – if they say they don’t have it, I ask them to write it on the Log and I have to see that it has been written down. Some of them are even making up the work they’ve missed, although others need some more nagging encouragement.

I’m thinking next year I’ll start not-collecting-homework-and-filling-out-Missing-Assignments-Logs right from the beginning. I didn’t need to kill myself during the first chapter trying to keep track of all those papers. (I will still collect homework occasionally, and I did a Homework Quiz at the beginning of this chapter – they copy 2 questions from their homework onto a separate sheet of paper and that’s their first quiz. That scared them sufficiently.) I’ll kill myself with other stuff, like grading their chapter tests. That was a painful experience.


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