16 October 2012

Tip Tuesday: 5 Effective Ways to Get the Homework Monkey Off Your Back

File this one in the "admittedly a smidge more work, but with a big payoff" category, readers.

I'm speculating here, but I'm guessing unless you teach at some super competitive private school or only have AP/Honors super students, you've got more than your share of homework hassles. So you've probably tried one, several, or all of these tactics:

  • smaller assignments
  • leaving books at home/class set in the room
  • only worksheets
  • no homework - only classwork
  • flipping the class - video note-taking at home, practice at school
I've found two things about the effectiveness of this strategies for my classroom - lots of students think they'll be effective, and none of them really ever are at motivating the homework-ne'er-doer to do his assignments. Haven't you heard some (all) of these?
"My book was in my locker and I had to catch the bus."
"I lost the worksheet."
"I had too much other homework to do."
"I didn't write down the page number."

Have I riled up enough frustration yet? :) Here's 5 strategies that I've found to legitimately give more of my students more opportunities to complete their practice (because sometimes they really do want to get it done but need opportunities that fit into super busy teen lifestyles)

1. Get a classroom social media account and tweet/share an update on the day and the page numbers for bookwork or any handouts.

I have a class Twitter account, Facebook page, and have previously used Edmodo. Different students like each one for different reasons, I guess, so I wish I could advise you to just pick one, but that would go against my experience. The best I can say is that you're safe with Twitter/Facebook, and you should use a third-party client like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to manage both networks simultaneously.

2. Use a Dropbox account to create a shared folder and give all of your students access to the folder. Drag any rubrics, worksheets, notes, or project outlines that you want to share with your students to the folder, save the stuff you want hidden in a different folder for that class.

3. Get a Google Voice number for students to text (to your email) whenever they get stuck on something. They're more likely to use it because they don't have to TALK to you, and its more convenient for you because you can fire off a response in between checking your friends' Facebook updates. You can also connect this number to the phone in your classroom - when parents use this number to call that line, you can send it to voicemail and then listen later while checking your email, at school OR at home. My students like this one a lot.

If your district is on Google Apps, this is especially convenient because they'll have automatic monitoring access. You can communicate knowing you're probably well within your district's policies. (But of course, you should still confirm that.)

4. Use a document camera to put up a shot on your projector or SMARTboard of the practice exercises or reading passage from the text book that students can quickly copy into their notebooks or snap a picture of with their mobile devices.

5. If your school has some form of a LMS (Learning Management System) in place, utilize it to post homework pages, notes, practice tests, or assignments. How often are you glad that companies and the government dump everything you need to know on the web? Can you imagine still limiting interaction with the DMV, IRS, shopping, or contacting your bank/utilities exclusively in person or by mail? Imagine now, that you've never known a world where the web wasn't the way we paid our bills, looked up information.

Extra Credit -
If you're feeling overwhelmed at the thought of converting everything you're currently doing by hand to  digital media that you have to put online and manage, have your students do it! Knowing that their notes will be seen by others will help your special helpers with summarizing and note-taking skills, and the students get more ownership of their classroom. I often hear kids say to each other, "Hey, text me that later," even without these procedures in place.

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Thanks for sharing!