What About Homework?

This entry addresses both our homework policy guidelines and our procedure for correcting homework.

HW Guidelines:

  • Frequency. We give one homework assignment every other day, to provide flexibility around family schedules.
  • Time Limit: Each HW has a total of a 25-minute time limit. We believe most of students’ learning should be done IN the classroom. Homework should provide a little extra thinking and reflecting time. It should provide feedback TO THE STUDENT on how they’re progressing when they work independently, and what they need to keep working on. After spending (a focused) 25 minutes on HW, students can stop, without penalty for not finishing. We make a point of observing student speed in the classroom, to determine whether their HW really reflects 25 minutes of effort.
  • Points: If homework is sloppy, does not show honest effort, or does not show work, it loses points. If it seems the child has put in good effort at the appropriate levels, but not finished in the time limit, no points are deducted.
  • Levels: The 3 levels of HW are “Concrete/Pictorial”, “Transfer to the Abstract” and “Challenge” . This reflects the Singaporean philosophy of how children learn math (Concrete -> Pictorial -> Abstract). It is explained in the attachment “HW #1 – For Parents”.
  • Parents: We discourage direct parent supervision of HW, since the HW then no longer provides feedback to students on their own mastery. Additionally, parents (meaning well!) will provide their child with a shortcut algorithm, for example for adding fractions. This “short-wires” the learning process for the child. Yes, the algorithm is faster than the visual/conceptual approach, BUT it does not transfer as well! It does not transfer to difficult word problems, or to rational expressions in algebra. If we only teach the four ‘shortcut’ algorithms for fractions, many students confuse the rules. (“Is this the one where I flip one fraction upside down and then add the tops only…? … Every middle school and high school teacher has heard questions like this!) The visual/conceptual approach takes longer, but it gives students something to fall back on. They’re better prepared for middle school and high school when they leave us with a solid conceptual understanding of fractions!

 

Attachments:

HW#1 has 3 parts; the students’ homework, an Info Sheet for Parents (it goes home with HW #1), and a solution key for teachers.

For students: HW#1

For Parents: HW#1

Solution Key: HW#1_

HW#2: Includes HW assignment, a solution key,  and an example of student work.

HW#2

HW#2_key

IMG_9560

HW Correction Procedures:

We feel it is important to return HW the day after it was handed in. We only mark with a check √ for correct, or an  χ for incorrect.  It is important that the students find their own mistakes. We hand out a “HW Correction Sheet” for students to use when correcting. Attached here: HW corrections

An example of a student’s corrections:

IMG_9561

Important messages we want to reinforce with students:

  • We will not take off points for mistakes, as long as they are corrected. Students can lose points for not correcting.
  • Corrections must show work, to explain how the problem is done correctly.
  • Corrections must include a “Note to Self” on what they can do to avoid that mistake in the future. (“Draw a model”, “Always simplify”, “Just count the shaded boxes”…)

Reflecting on their mistakes is very difficult at this age. Students tend to focus on getting down  the “right answer” rather than finding the source of their own mistake. Their reflection might read “Don’t make careless mistakes”, which says nothing about the actual source of the mistake.
We share our own correction examples. We call on brave students to share their correction examples (this is always a marble in the recess jar!) This is a long process, but an important one.

 

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