18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 9. Homework

Good things can be hard... Naomi's Photos
Good things can be hard…
Naomi’s Photos

This is part nine of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 47: Check homework has been done

Oh yes, yes and again yes.

Whether or not you should give homework, how much to give and in what format are issues I’ve explored a lot on this blog. I’m still conflicted over these issues, even though Alfie Kohn was kind enough to refute the advantages I found and explain why I shouldn’t be giving homework  at all (“Squaring Alfie Kohn’s Reply with my Reality”) .

But that’s not the point of this tip.

If you do give homework, the students have to know that you care if they have done it. Most students will not work if their work goes unnoticed.  Penny Ur emphasizes an important distinction between checking to see that the homework has been done and checking the actual quality of the work.

I’m not the one to reflect on the various strategies suggested in the book for managing the issue of checking homework in large classes. I don’t teach large classes.

When I give homework, I check it. All of it.

Do you?

P.S: Those classes of adults that I taught? With the 38 students? I didn’t know any better (and hadn’t read the book!) so I took their homework home and checked it. All of it.

4 thoughts on “18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 9. Homework”

  1. I love this series of reflection posts, Naomi, such a great idea! Homework has always been an issue for me and my attitude towards it has changed over the years. In fact, I wrote a post on how I see homework just a few months ago. If you’re interested, you can see it here: https://mariatheologidou.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-difference-between-writing-answers-and-doing-homework/
    Now, about your question I always check homework has been done the right way and not the fast, robot-like way. I’m not interested in students’ scribbling down answers without reflecting on both the process of finding the answer and their own knowledge. I agree with you about showing students that homework hasn’t been assigned because you love tormenting young, innocent souls. It’s a sign of care as you said and a chance for students to connect learning the language to what interests them in the world around them.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Maria. I read your post – I see we are both in agreement!

  2. I always check that hw has been done. Always. With most of my classes populated by close to 40 learners, and sometimes more, this is time consuming no matter how I do it. Often, while my pupils are doing a task, I just walk around the room and look to see that the work has been done. I mark it down in my grade book. Frequently, I collect the pages and just skim through them, correcting glaring errors and giving occasional feedback. Rarely, I do a thorough check. The kids never know how I plan to check so they usually do all the work. Nothing is graded. I write a ☑ for done, a minus sign for not done, and I change that into a ➕ when they complete the work late. Then when the time comes for a grade, I count how many times I checked hw during the trimester. Then I decide how many completed assignments is 100. I always allow for 2-3 or even 4 incompletes depending on the number of items checked; nobody’s perfect! The grade is the percent of completed tasks and this is 10% – 20% of the trimester grade. Most kids get 100%.

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