Build Flexibility Into Your Homework Policy
EducationWorld is pleased to present this professional development resource shared by Dr. Jane Bluestein, an expert in relationship-building, positive school climate and effective instruction.
Any teacher who has ever given out homework has certainly encountered a student the next day saying, “I don’t have my assignment.” Whether pitiful or indifferent, this admission often places us in the unfortunate position of asking why, which puts us in the even more unfortunate position of having to determine whether the student’s excuse is creative (or pathetic) enough to warrant an extension or excusal (or, perhaps just as often, a lecture or punishment).
It took me a woefully long time to break the habit of asking “why,” and it might not have happened unless one of my students told me that a tornado had taken his paper out of his lunchbox! Regardless of your feelings about the value of homework (or its lack thereof), should you decide to give homework, it will be worth your while to develop a policy that eliminates excuses and minimizes stress to you and your students.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Consider the value of the homework you give and make sure that intentions go beyond simply wanting them to practice or be prepared for the next lesson. Keep in mind the importance of engaging (and maintaining) a love of learning and a curiosity about life and the world beyond the subject itself. Some of the best types of homework assignments are those that help the students apply what they are learning, or challenge them within the range of their actual abilities and resources.
- Keep drillwork to a minimum. If doing five problems will adequately strengthen and reinforce a particular skill, why assign 20?
- Keep tabs on how your students are doing with a particular skill. To whatever degree possible, match assignments to student needs and abilities. If I can’t do long division problems in class, how successful am I likely to be doing a page of them after school?
- Be realistic about the amount of time your assignments will require. Many researchers recommend about 10 minutes per grade level per night—total! If you’re only one of your students’ teachers, remember that other teachers’ assignments will be competing for their time.
- Offer students choices to engage their autonomy and individual learning preferences. Allow students to pick a certain number of problems on a particular page, for example, or to choose between the problems on two different pages. Some students will be perfectly happy writing spelling words a certain number of times each; others will learn better by using the same words in a story or puzzle.
- Because students can indeed have a bad night, rather than relying on excuses, build some flexibility into your policy, right up front. You might want to run your idea by an administrator or department chair, and ask parents to sign off as well. You’ll get a lot farther with their support. (And parents will appreciate not having to write excuses.)
Here are some of the policies other teachers have shared with me. Try using these strategies to build flexibility into your homework policies and avoid having to ask for (or deal with) excuses:
- Requesting that a certain percentage of assignments be turned in on time: “You are responsible for 37 out of 40 of the assignments you’ll be getting this semester.” BONUS: Giving extra credit for any of the extras that are turned in, even if late!
- Giving some token for one free “excuse” which does not need any explanation for its use: “Here is a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, which you can use if you forget your homework any time during the semester.” BONUS: Not requiring kids to actually SHOW the card to get off the hook.
- Giving kids a break after a certain number of assignments are completed: “If you turn in completed homework 10 days in a row, you can have the next night off (or you can do the work for extra credit).”
- Having a specific date for assignments to be turned in. (Similar to deadlines used in many college classes, this strategy may work best for specific assignments or projects, or with advanced-level classes and self-managing kids.) “As long as you get your homework in two weeks before the end of the grading period, you’ll get credit for it.”
- Not counting one or more missed assignments, or the lowest score on a series of assignments or quizzes—for example: “You can drop your lowest grade each semester.”
- Extending daily deadlines beyond the end of class, giving kids until the end of the following day to turn in work: “You have until the 3:30 bell tomorrow to turn in this assignment.”
- Getting away from using punishments, penalties, or other negative consequences for not doing homework and offering positive outcomes instead. One school saw a change in students’ attitudes about homework—and a big shift in the amount of work being turned in—by simply shifting from giving a minus when the work wasn’t done to giving a plus when it was.
- Not requiring homework at all but instead, giving extra credit for any that is turned in. (One teacher increased his percentage from 10% to 85% of assignments completed, simply by using this strategy.)
Discussions about homework can become pretty heated, and both pros and cons are worth considering. I do believe there is a way to find some balance and sanity, a way to accommodate kids’ needs for free time and skill practice. Let’s do our homework to find out what the research says and bring mindfulness—of the demands on kids’ lives and time, as well as their future academic needs—to the choices we make about this important issue.
Help for Homework Hassles
Homework: A Place for Rousing Reform
Special Theme Page: Homework
Also from Dr. Bluestein:
Is Your School Emotionally Safe?
Accommodating Student Sensory Differences
Tips for Positive Teacher-Parent Interaction
The Art of Setting Boundaries
The Beauty of Losing Control
Stressful Student Experiences: What Not to Do
Copyright © 2012 Education World
How to Cheat on Homework or Online ClassesInternet Search for Homework Answers, Free Help, How to Send Homework by Email, How to Cheat at Online Classes
My view of homework help (homework cheating):
As a tutor, I try to ask students to learn the material and ask me questions that they are having trouble with. However!... I understand that most students taking college algebra, physics, or chemistry will seldom use the information in those courses and I would rather see someone get on with their life and get a job than get held back. Does a guidance counselor ever use the formula for an ellipse or convert grams to moles or calculate the trajectory of an arrow shot from a bow at an angle of 33.2 degrees above the horizon with an initial speed of 42.8 m/s? NO! So while some people might look down on homework help or homework cheating, I don't see it as a huge sin and those who do can jump in a lake (with piranhas!).
I warn students that they typically need to know the material to pass their class exams, so please don't view this as a complete "get out of jail free card". Also turning in A+ homework and getting F's on an exam is a give-away that you are cheating. Be careful!!!
I offer one of the least expensive homework help services that I know of at about $25/hr. See details on the homepage: www.tutor-homework.com.
We offer homework help in math, chemistry, and physics" as well as statistics homework help.
Just email homework questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or TEXT (no calls, please) 918-850-5925 (David).
Various Methods of "Homework Cheating":
If you are at this page, I'm sure you're aware of the power of doing a Google or Yahoo search. And you probably also know that if you're searching for the answer to a specific question, just type double quotes around your search query.
For example: suppose you are searching for an answer to this question...
How long does it take for a car traveling at a speed of 50.0 miles per hour to travel 300 feet?
You can copy and paste the question into a search engine and you will get back thousands, possibly millions, of results, many of them trying to sell you a new car (ha ha). To narrow your search, put double quotes around the question.
Sometimes the words of the question might stay the same, but the numerical values might change. For example the 50.0 miles per hour in the question above might be switched to 55.0 miles per hour, so you might try a search for only the text part in double quotes.
For example, (with double quotes): "How long does it take for a car traveling at a speed of" "miles per hour to travel"
Free Help - you get what you pay for.
There are also many Q & A services on the internet that will do your homework for you. There are some free services that will help you with a few questions, but if you have a lot of questions, you will have a tough time finding someone to "help" you through them all for free. One service for quick answers is answers.yahoo.com. Most of the people who answer questions there are trying to help you to learn and will not just do your homework for you! And there is no guarantee you'll get the right answer to your homework question.
How to copy homework questions from your book or website and email them to a tutor:
It is a real pain just typing your questions to email them to a tutor, and if there are a lot of mathematical formulas and/or diagrams, this is next to impossible!
Instead what you should do is scan your questions, saving them as a pdf or jpg file (and perhaps insert the jpg files into MS Word). If you don't have a scanner, your school might have one in the computer center. Or you could try a copy shop like Kinko's or something (although Kinko's is overpriced and if you can find a small independent copy shop you'll likely get a better deal). Save your file as a pdf or jpg, but make sure the file isn't too large. 250 to 300 kb per each graphic should be fine. Emails don't usually handle file sizes of more than 4 or 5 megabytes.
If your homework is online you can either use "copy and paste" or a screen capture. See details here for screen captures: Copying Questions for Homework Help. Screen capture is often the preferred method because if your website questions have a lot of graphics, "copy and paste" will not work because Microsoft just hasn't figured out how to copy a webpage into MS Word so that all the graphics get included. Also copying any tables from a website and pasting them into MS Word typically eats up computer memory like mad. So to keep an information in your question from being lost (like graphics getting dropped when you do a cut and paste) and to make sure MS Word doesn't get hung up on the tables, doing a screen capture is often your best bet!
Screen capture not working?
If this is the case it's likely that the online class website designers know how to block this command. However there are screen capture programs made that can override this. It's a lot of trouble, but there it is. You just have to know how to outsmart the computer. The quick and easy way around this is to take a picture with your phone.
Using a Secure Browser?
If your school makes you use a secure browser (Like Respondus Lockdown Browser) when doing your online work so that you cannot Google or email or chat with a tutor, then you might need to use a 2nd computer. You might be able to take a picture of the exam questions on your computer with a camera and then text or email the pictures to a tutor.
Cheating at online classes:
If your class is one of those that are entirely online -- even the exams!-- from your own home, then cheating is easy! Some students give out their login names and passwords to tutors or homework help services and ask them to take the class for them. I don't recommend this!!! In fact I've known students to be ripped off by these homework help services and if the student tries to get their money back, the "tutor" threatens to tell the student's university! Also, if a website administrator sees that the login IP address came from India or even from a state or province far from where you live, you can get caught! I've never heard of this happening, but it's possible. What I would recommend is that you login from your computer and send the questions to a tutor through email or instant messenger. This takes a little more time, but is a bit safer.
You can also use Skype or other programs so that you log in, but the tutor does the work. This is the SAFE WAY to do it!
If you do decide to pay someone to log in for you and complete your class, only pay a little bit as you go... DO NOT PAY THE ENTIRE SUM TO ANY TUTOR OR HOMEWORK HELP SERVICE!!... unless you just like getting ripped off. In fact, I know of a student who paid a very large sum to a tutor, only the tutor did not do the work and when the student asked for his money back, the "tutor" said he would tell the student's school if the student tried to get his money back. Also, credit card companies usually do not refund for services not rendered, they only do that for goods (like not getting something your ordered in the mail.)
Be smart and know the tutor you are dealing with -- call them, speak to them.
If you need help from me, my number is 918-850-5925 (Tulsa, OK) and my name is David Roth. I prefer text b/c I am often with a client.