With no #blogsync over the summer, I’ve not written anything ‘classroom-y’ for a while. So I thought I’d share this tip while awaiting the September blogync topic.
One of the problems of my first year in teaching was getting students to do homework. More specifically, I struggled keeping tabs on students who didn’t do the homework, which meant I didn’t give consequences for failing to turn it in, which then meant I got even fewer pieces next time around.
In my second year I therefore devised a plan. First, I gave out all homeworks on brightly coloured pieces of paper that students wrote on and turned back in. All my classes started off with a silent individual task. I therefore instilled in students that at the beginning of homework hand-in day they put their brightly coloured paper on their desk before beginning their individua lstarter task. That way I could quickly glance around the room and quickly see who did and did not have their homework out. Anyone without their brightly colourer paper had a ‘homework excuse note’ dropped on their desk. This was to be completed immediately.
At an appropriate time during the lesson, I would then go around and collect a piece of paper from everyone. You either handed in your homework, or your homework excuse note. That was your choice. No “But miss I just need to get my usb…”, no “i’ll bring it at break”. If you had something to say, you said it on paper, or otherwise you gave me the homework. Even if students didn’t have a reason, I would ask them to write “There is no reason” and then take that from them.
If a child managed to get their homework to me before the end of the day (most usually after lunch) I would let them fish their excuse note out of my file [I had a box file for each class where I kept the homeworks] and then replace it with their work. Otherwise, the excuse note stood.
Before going home, I checked through the homeworks and marked in my gradebook who had not done it and then sorted out consequences accordingly (as you’ll see on the slips, I used ‘credits’ and detentions). As with my detention system, the main benefit of the homework excuse note is that the students must write down their excuse. Doing so means (a) they are less likely to lie, and (b) you have a permanent record that you can show to parents/department heads if necessary. Having everyone hand in something on the day also meant I could keep an easier record of who was absent. If I didn’t have anything then I knew a student hadn’t been there and this made managing my records much easier.
In general, it worked like a dream. But a word of warning: With my two KS3 classes (I mostly taught GCSE) I didn’t give homework regularly and hence I was less consistent with its enforcement and the whole thing was less effective. The system is reliant on you making the whole thing as routine as possible. For the first few weeks you need to reinforce all its parts (the coloured paper, the notes, the handing in). Also, you always-but-always must implement the consequences. Do it relentlessly for a few weeks though and the benefits will pay off. After a while it became automatic with my Key Stage 4s (so automatic that the kids would try and circumvent it “why do i have to fill this in, why not just give me a detention slip now?”) and gradually the homework rate went up and up and up. By the end of the year there were students religiously handing in homeworks who I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get any from.