Lesson: Homework Strategies

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Lesson Objective

To increase homework completion, skill retention, and creative use of Math

Lesson Plan

 I have had considerable success in getting students to do homework regularly by assigning the same workload every week. On Monday, I distribute a "Bingo Card" with 20 problems divided into 4 rows. Students are taught to complete one row of 5 problems each day, and to turn in the completed card on Friday. There is no homework on weekends, but I do give homework over long breaks. Examples of these are attached. 

The Bingo Card is something I do together with them several times at the beginning of the year and model repeatedly. I am very strict that students should attach a scratch paper (preferably graph paper) with a staple. They should copy and number the problems on the scratch paper, and then show all steps of work to achieve the answer. They should then transfer the answer to the correct Bingo space. 

On Fridays, we play "Homework Bingo" and then I turn them loose to play an assigned game or games, which are always exercises in Math. I have had to be sure to TEACH them how to play games, since they struggle with rules and sequences, but this has worked wonderfully. I play music while they are playing and mostly I don't interrupt them. Homework Bingo is done on the overhead. Students have their completed Bingo Cards in front of them (no writing!) and I have a completed copy on the overhead. We make a drum roll and I reveal one row of answers at a time. Students circle each problem they have correct. When they have a straight row in any direction, they call out "Bingo!" and a prize basket goes around. Prizes are mostly petty stuff from dollar stores, since the prizes seem pretty much beside the point. 

Since my course puts a special emphasis on word problems, there are always one word problem per day on the Bingo Card. If the student gets all of them right, that is a double bingo and they may have 2 prizes. I also write names on the board when they call out and check if they get 2, which they seem to value. 

Students almost never bring in partially finished homework, because they want to play. The week-long time frame also allows for home responsibilities and chaotic lives. It is also clear and consistent and easy to explain to parents, even if they don't speak English. The built-in punishment is that if you don't do yours, you have to sit there doing nothing while everyone else has fun playing. It works. I've used it with middle schoolers and high schoolers and it works. 

You have to talk about cheating-- not changing answers, it won't count for points if all the work isn't shown, etc. The first few weeks you have to be vigilant to see who the dishonest ones are and call them out on it. It's almost completely a positive system because students who don't do the work aren't called out, but suffer a big point loss every time they don't do a Card. They get to have fun the next week when they do one. Also, if students are dishonest, they gain very little, because I don't grade on what they marked as correct. I carefully read every problem on every Card (most weeks) and make comments. I return these for them to read with the next week's Card. If they have an answer but no work, I write "No Work Shown" and +0 on the problem. If they did the work in the correct way, but made a minor error (like 5-4=2), they get +1. If the whole problem is correct they get +2. 

I give vacation homework because I hope that at least some students will practice their skills. Many do because they are otherwise very bored at home-- most of my students don't have video games or computers at home. I "lure" them into the idea by providing them with 2 choices, either of which is worth the same points as one week's Bingo Card. If they don't do it, the penalty is the same as missing any other week. 

Lesson Resources

homework answers   Homework
homework bingo   Homework


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