Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homework Super Bowl - Sunday Funday

Let me preface this with a famous little quote from my favorite team...


We will get back to that later...

I am probably one of Rick Wormeli's biggest fans.  I have seen him numerous times and believe in his philosophy of education.  He, in my opinion, is pure genius!  His book, Fair Isn't Always Equal, fully changed my view on how homework and grading should be done in a classroom to benefit all students.  If you haven't read it, ORDER IT!!!!  (I am not paid to endorse his works nor do I know him personally!)

From reading his books and listening to him speak, I have changed every aspect of homework in my classroom.  I use to grade all of my students daily work, record their grade and then hand it back once I finally got through the pile.  The students then immediately threw it in the trash.  It could not have been a worse system!  I slowly changed over the next few years and had students grade their own work.  I would then collect, record and hand back.  Still, not a good system.  The students were just seeing how many problems they solved incorrectly and then that was it.  Better, but not good.  Then I went to the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction in Las Vegas given by Staff Development for Educators.  It was a life changing experience!  This is where I first saw Rick Wormeli speak.  I was in awe.  So much so that I purchased all of his books, read them and changed everything!

This year is the full implementation of what I believe is the best way that I can deal with homework in my classroom.  The students are assigned homework, not every night, and definitely not on Fridays.  When they come in the next day, I put the answers on the overhead and they check their own work as I walk around.  They record their number correct and percent at the top.  I then allow 4-5 minutes for students to redo these problems.  They do them in a different color and I walk around and make notes and such on my labels (this is my next blog!).  The students that received a 100% or finish correcting quickly will work on the challenge problems on the board.  After the 4-5 minutes, I go over the challenge problems with all of the students so everyone can benefit from it.  They then turn in their homework so I can record it.

Now here comes the Super Bowl reference...wait for it....wait for it.....

When they are turning in their first homework assignment, I break out into this random story to take them by surprise.  I ask them what would happen if we were to form a team and go straight to the Super Bowl.  Of course there are the answers:
we would lose!
we would win!
I don't know?
I make a big deal of it and explain how these big men would chase us and pummel us to the ground.  We would look like idiots out there without plays and running wild on the field.  They would destroy us, we would leave with broken bones, bloody noses and some would even be left laying there waiting for the ambulances.  If we were lucky enough, some of us "benchers" would leave without a broken bone.

I ask them what we could do to perhaps survive this traumatic experience.  We come up with the answer of practice.  I explain how we could devise plans to have us run through these large men, perhaps leaving without as many injuries.  This is where the importance of homework comes in.  I explain how a football team must practice in order to make it to the Super Bowl.  They must work and work in order to get there.  The homework is like practice.  It truly doesn't count in my gradebook.  However, I am the coach and must make sure that all students are learning and doing their best.  I record their score in my gradebook, however, they do get 5 points for completing the assignment.  Even if they have their worst day and get sacked, they still were there and get the 5 points.  I keep track of their percents for coaching purposes, but they get the points for completion.  In our district, homework is only 10% of their overall quarterly grade, which makes this work.  I still collect, make notes and give feedback.

It was amazing how this went.  They truly worked on their corrections, asked questions and even asked me if they could call me Coach K!  8th graders....I was shocked, they were awesome!

So from there, I explained how homework is like practice, which leads to quizzes.  These are the formative assessments that help me to make sure that they are truly on track.  Quizzes are equivalent to the games that the football team play in order to make it to the Super Bowl.  Games count, they provide rankings for the teams and in the classroom they help me to form flexible groups, provide further assistance and help me to create meaningful, differentiated activities and assignments.  The Super Bowl is the equivalent of the final concept test.  They are prepared, have done the practice, played in the games that have gotten them to the big game successfully!  THEY ARE READY!!!!  DA BEARS WIN THE SUPER BOWL!

I will see how this year goes with this fully in place.  I have also started using ISN's and they will be recording in there what their grade was and why they did how they did.  I am excited to see how this will improve student learning.  It seems like this is effective for all of my level of learners and I am excited to see progress.  If there are any bumps in the road, or our quarterback dislocates his shoulder, I will let you know!

SIDE NOTE:  Now, this is not always the case.  For some of the homework assignments, especially with the lengthier algebraic equations, I will give them the answers at the bottom of the page.  They will then utilize it to check their answers at home.  I require them to show their work.  I know the students that can do them in their head, you pick up on that automatically.


  1. Nice post! I have a similar system in my class, but we do "graded practice" in class, where I can watch them not cheat! :)

    I use a similar analogy about watching my daughter play soccer, do you think I would be any good if they put me in the game? Why not? Because I haven't practiced!

    What is ISN?

    Looking forward to your labels post!

    1. An ISN is an Interactive Student Notebook. Probably one of the best things that I have ever done with my students. I read about them on the blog Everybody is a Genius, link below. It is a great way to reach all learners and specifically those that do not take notes very well. Everything is organized and the students can easily look back for reference. I have had many, many positive comments from all different types of learners. It is well worth the planning and effort!

  2. Great post!
    Fun to read. I like the idea of not assigning homework every night because I do feel like if we go over homework everyday, we run out of time during the class.

  3. I also use this same type of Homework System. One of my favorite tools to help make correcting homework an activity is to put 1 or 2 mistakes on my answer key. Their job is to correct their homework in pairs and discuss. If they find a discrepancy with each other or my answer key then they have to prove it to each other. I then take this skill and add Answer Keys to assignments with mistakes - this adds to the challenge and still works on critical thinking.