Tag Archives: homework

The ‘Oops Card’

Sometimes you search and search for inspiration to write…other times it simply arrives home in your son’s pencil bag.




The Oops Card

Hmmm…this was a hard one for me to swallow. I agree that kids make mistakes, and have ‘oops’ moments. Actually, we all do and perfection is just not possible or desirable for that matter. If we are perfect, what’s left to learn? In my opinion, communication is everywhere and in everything. Let’s take a closer look at what this card says to students.

This card considers a late homework assignment. Homework is obviously graded, yet formative work should not be scored. Why create a high stakes learning environment by grading everything? Why make a judgement about proficiency when this is a check point during the journey? Do we want kids to be concerned with points and perfection or with learning? Learning is risk taking which has the potential for failure. How do we want students to view this process?

According to the card, the late homework must turned in the following day to receive any credit. A zero is stated as the punishment or repercussion if the procedure is not carried out. Tardiness with work is a behavior (although not a preferred one). Including this in the grading process makes students nervous and fearful of making a mistake. Do we care when students learn or that they learn? Afford students the opportunity to make mistakes. Talk with them about how to make a better decision in the future. Help them get there.

Is a student responsible if they don’t use the card? My son did not use his card last quarter even though he missed one assignment. Does this say that he is irresponsible or simply that he is a child who can forget things at times? Let’s face it, middle school students forget sometimes. As long as it is not a consistent problem there is no need to worry or penalize a student. Did I want my son to use the card? No, but the choice was his. I was proud of his decision.

Oh, the monster of extra credit. Awarding students extra credit at the end of a marking period for not using the card has absolutely nothing to do with their academic achievement. Even so, what would 15 points do for a student who has been very compliant with homework throughout the quarter? My guess is not much. Would it help with a student who consistently struggles to turn in work on time? Nope. I adamantly disagree with extra credit for so many reasons that it most likely warrants an additional blog post.

Cards like this do not communicate the importance of learning to students. They switch the focus to compliance, points, scores, and grades. According to the card, it is acceptable to make one mistake per quarter, and it must be resolved in one day. After that, perfection is the expectation. This is not realistic. This is not learning.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments and continue the discussion.


Much ado about homework

Homework. It is such a contentious topic in education, and a very personal one for so many teachers. I frequently get asked about the homework policy in my standards based classroom. The truth is, I don’t even use that word in my classes. So technically, I don’t have a homework policy. I do however have practice policies.

But before we tackle what practice looks like for my students, I think the bigger question is – What is the purpose of homework? Isn’t it to practice? Isn’t it to inform future instruction and further formative work? If so, does it matter where and when it is done as long as the students are progressing? I don’t think it does. Obviously, we need to practice skills, understandings, and concepts on the journey to mastery, but how much does each student need? In my humble opinion, the answer to this question varies for each student. There is no way for me to assign the same practice each day to everyone and get the same results. Students need differentiated practice no matter whether it is done at home or in the classroom. Building appropriate student choice into the practice routine increases engagement and ownership of learning for our students.

So, what does this look like? In my learning environment, practice is happening all the time. Practice can be orderly or chaotic. Sometimes we do whole group practice; there are occasions when we all need to practice a certain skill or concept. Whole group practice also builds community, and this is an essential component in developing a culture of learning. Other times, we practice in small groups. Small groups provide for more student voice and space to build collaborative skills. Individualized practice is a great opportunity to see where each student is in relation to the standards. I can give valuable descriptive feedback for growth and help them increase their proficiency levels. Varying practice modes ensures that we are reaching all of our students in the manners they learn best.

So let’s get back to policy. How much practice do I assign? The students and I determine how much is appropriate. I don’t mandate that the practice be done at home or at school – that is for my students to decide. You may be wondering at this point if any of my students would practice at home then? The answer is yes. They practice at home when it is necessary. Do all my students choose the right amount of practice? Of course not – this is when I step in as the professional in the room. I have a 1 on 1 conversation with the student to see where their practice is lacking. But then it is up to them. They have to decide that the practice is valuable and will contribute to their growth, and I can’t do it for them. They are in high school and need to be provided opportunities to make their own decisions. We need to trust our students.

What about when they fail? The student made a decision about practice that didn’t work out and now what? Well, it is time for another conversation and more practice. Maybe the answer is something the student couldn’t fathom, but now they are more open to different ideas. The standards we have in place in our classrooms are worth the work and struggle our students put in to achieve them. It is valuable to have the few that made poor decisions go back and complete additional practice. Once additional practice is finished, the student and teacher can reassess proficiency levels. This teaches them responsibility. Students must accept their decisions and learn how to recover from failure.

Do I live in a perfect world where eventually I get all my students to complete enough practice to achieve mastery on all their standards? I wish, but no. My goal is to get as many of them there as possible by working with them to achieve their goals. Our students want us to work collaboratively with them and yet need ownership of their learning. It is a tricky balance to maintain, yet this is how we best prepare them to be lifelong learners. It is a sloppy journey with many setbacks and stumbles along the way, but  so important for our students. We make such a significant impact on the learners our students become.

So, does it matter what we call it, homework, practice, formative assessment? The title doesn’t matter so much as what we do with it. Practice must be differentiated, respectful, student owned, relevant and needs to inform future instruction and practice. Let’s make sure it is meaningful and valuable for our students.

What are your views on the H word? Leave a comment and continue the conversation!