Why is homework assigned?
- Homework allows students to review and practice classroom learning.
- Homework prepares students for upcoming lessons and evaluations.
- Homework establishes good study habits in the early grades.
When will homework be assigned?
- Homework will be assigned every night (Friday’s homework will consist only of incomplete class work from that day or week, and will be assigned on an individuial basis).
- Assignments given Monday through Thursday should take 30-45 minutes to complete. Friday assignments will vary by student; most students will have no Friday work.
- In addition to regular assignments, students should be reading independently for at least 20 minutes each night.
What are the student’s homework responsibilities?
- The student will record all assignments in a homework notebook.
- The student will contact this website if the homework notebook is forgotten.
- The student will make his/her best effort to complete homework before asking for help.
- The student will complete assignments neatly, in pencil, on appropriate paper.
- All work will be completed by start of class the following school day.
- Messy or improperly completed work will be done over.
What are the teacher’s responsibilities?
- I will provide clear directions when assigning homework. I will give adequate time for it to be recorded in the homework notebook.
- I will assign homework which I believe can be completed independently by students.
- I will update the homework on the website regularly.
- I will check and return homework promptly.
What are the parents’ responsibilities?
- Parents will help their child to schedule a time for homework each day (the sooner after school the better).
- Parents will find a quiet, well-equipped place for their child to work.
- Parents will read over the homework notebook each night to see that all assignments are completed. Parents do not need to check for correctness.
- Parents will praise their child for completing homework, and will contact me if there are problems.
What will happen if students do not do their homework?
- Students without homework will not be ready to participate in the next day’s lessons.
- Students without homework will be unprepared for tests and other assessments.
- Students without homework will be assigned the grade of zero for the work not done.
- After repeated offenses, students will be required to do the work during their recess time.
If there is a legitimate reason why a student is unable to finish homework, I ask that parents send me a note on the day the homework is due stating the reason it was not completed. I do understand that even the most conscientious students are sometimes unable to complete assignments.
All students are to record assignments in their Homework Notebook (also called the HWNB or Student Agenda). The notebook should be used as a checklist when loading backpacks to leave school and when loading backpacks to leave home in the morning.
Each night, parents should read over the assignments and check to be sure that all have been completed. Parents do not need to check the correctness of homework!
Parents wishing to write a note to the teacher can do so in the HW Notebook, but should remind their child in the morning to show that note to the teacher. Students can also write notes to themselves, such as reminders for books to come home, since they will be glancing at the reminder prior to leaving school.
At a recent conference, a group of highly experienced teachers training to be staff development facilitators brainstormed the question, “What are the components of a well-managed classroom?” They defined classroom management as the manner in which a teacher organizes and controls materials, lessons, activities, assessment, space, students, time, and content in order to maximize student learning.
The following components were selected as being essential to effective classroom management:
- Efficient use of time
- Clear expectations and goals
- Colorful and pleasant environment
- Warm and inviting ambiance
- Respectful and polite behavior
- Organized and sequential tasks
- Achievement focused
- Student participation
- Success oriented
- Predictable yet rewarding
- Teacher knowledge
Notice that this list does not include the words discipline or punishment! That is because most educators agree that if the right components are in place in a classroom, off-task behavior will be minimized and in many cases eliminated. It is easier to prevent inappropriate behavior from ever occurring than to deal with it once it has started.
If we as parents recall incidents of “misbehavior,” they can usually be traced back to a root cause, and that root cause is often one which could have been avoided. Children rarely misbehave without motive. Too often we focus on the misbehavior and an appropriate punishment, and we fail to seek out the reason for the misbehavior.
When you seek a doctor’s aid for a medical condition (such as a rash) she doesn’t spend the visit simply deciding what to do to treat the condition. Instead, a great deal of time is spent asking questions such as:
- “When did this first begin to bother you?”
- “Has it happened to you before? When?”
- “Is there a history of this in your family?”
- “Have there been any other problems in this general area?”
- “Have you recently changed your diet, your exercise routine, your daily schedule?”
- “Have you been in contact with someone who had this same condition?”
She will then take a closer look at you physically, and perhaps suggest further tests. Even as she scribbles out a prescription, she may remark, “Let’s try this first. It should clear you up. If you’re not feeling better in ten days, we’ll move to something stronger.”
There are several lessons to be learned. First, we need to ask a lot of questions about a student’s inappropriate behavior, and several of them are surprisingly similar to those asked by the doctor above. Second, we need to admit that what we’ll try first may not work as a solution, and that additional steps may be required to accomplish what we seek. Third, we need to realize that often, in the context of the classroom, we will only be able to treat symptoms of a problem. Actually “curing” the problem may require additional time and resources.
We should also keep in mind that some misbehaviors are more serious than others, and demand more immediate or more involved response from the teacher and school.
Positive Behavioral Interventions
According to a radio report, a middle school in Oregon was faced with a unique problem. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints.
Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors.
He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it into a toilet, and then cleaned off the mirror.
Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirror.
For teachers and parents, the good news about behavior management is that the possible solutions are almost endless! And as the above anecdote illustrates, often our toughest problems can be solved in the simplest ways.
Positive behavioral interventions, and other ways to positively prevent misbehavior before it ever occurs, are the strategies and structures which are put in place in our classroom day by day and lesson by lesson.
While playing chess with a student one day during recess, I captured his rook (a valuable piece). The student immediately slid one of his pieces over to recapture that square, but the resulting vacant square (which his piece had previously occupied) left him wide open to be put into check.
We later debriefed the game. I said, “When I captured your rook, the first thing you thought about was getting revenge. You acted out of anger, without reflecting on the consequences. If you do that in life, if you react to situations without thinking ahead, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes that you could have avoided. Next time, check out your options first. I know you would have found a way out if you had looked.”
Clear expectations for student behavior must come first in a well managed classroom.
In our class I begin the school year by saying to students: “My responsibility is to teach. Your responsibility is to learn. Neither one of us can let anything get in the way of our assigned responsibility.” After some discussion about the word responsibility, I present the five classroom expectations:
1) Follow directions the first time they are given.
2) Raise your hand to ask or answer a question.
3) Remain seated unless you have permission to be up.
4) Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.
5) Treat people and objects the way you would like to be treated.
I provide these same expectations in writing, with a number of blank lines below each. I ask each group to brainstorm at least two reasons why such an expectation exists. Once this is done, each group presents their ideas, and other students are invited to share additional reasons why the particular expectation might exist.
Once all groups have presented their ideas, I then offer to remove any rule which the class feels is unneeded. By this point, of course, they have convinced each other, and themselves, that these rules exist for a very good reason.
I will discuss the Classroom Management Plan and Homework Policy with students on the first day of school. Please know that I do try to handle all problems, academic and behavioral, within the classroom. At times, students might be required to fill out a reflection form. Should I feel the need to enlist your help, or to make you aware of ongoing problems, then I will contact you immediately.
Methods of Intervention
Minimal Interventions: the simplest, least intrusive ways to prevent problems.
When misbehavior does occur, I practice several methods of minimal intervention. These subtly correct misbehavior and allow learning to continue without interruption. More importantly, these methods teach students to monitor and adjust their own behavior, and avoid embarrassment and hurt feelings.
1. Praising the correct behavior.
When a student or group of students is misbehaving, I will comment upon the correct behavior being demonstrated by another student or group. Since attention is often what students are seeking, the first group will adjust their behavior in order to likewise receive the teacher’s attention and praise.
Often, moving closer to a student will stop misbehavior. The student realizes that, if the teacher is close, incorrect behavior will not go unnoticed.
3. The Pause.
Pausing midway through a sentence and glancing at a disruptive student is often enough to stop inappropriate behavior. Students are more likely to misbehave if they feel somewhat “anonymous;” this simple tactic lets them know that they have been noticed.
4. The Practice.
Here, I require that students model (practice) the appropriate behavior if a procedure or task was done improperly. For example, if a student is talking in the hallway, the students is asked to return to the classroom and then to reenter the hallway. A smile or thumbs-up confirms for the student that the task was successfully completed.
5. Visual Cues.
A show of fingers quickly informs a student that he/she is breaking a rule. The second or two that it takes a student to recollect which rule they’ve broken is usually enough time to “break” the misbehavior itself.
6. The Quiet Signal.
The Quiet Signal is used by the teacher to regain silence in order to give further directions, or to continue work at a quieter level. Students themselves will often give the Quiet Signal if they sense the class is becoming too noisy for productive work.
Entry TasksUpon entering class, students are expected to organize themselves and begin independent assignments quickly. During the first two weeks of school, students are taught and practice the following Entry Tasks.Homework is not automatically turned in. Students are often asked to compare their homework with members of their group; in this way, small errors can quickly be fixed, and the student can refresh his/her memory as to the content of the assignment.
The “DO NOW” assignment might be additional reinforcement of a task from the previous day, or it might be skill practice in math, geography, handwriting, or spelling. The DO NOW may also lead students into the first new learning of the day, by asking them to list in their notebooks what they already know about a given topic.
Student Work Space and Supplies
In order to ensure that all students are well organized and well equipped, parents can help to see that:
- All supplies listed in the supply list are kept well-stocked;
- All personal items (jackets, lunch boxes, etc.) are clearly marked inside with student’s name;
- Backpacks are checked daily and kept free of clutter;
- The Keep/Return Folder (Take Home folder) is checked every night for parent notices, papers to be signed or corrected, etc.;
- A quiet, well-lit workplace is provided at home for homework, and all necessary supplies are stocked there.
In the classroom, the teacher sees that:
- All desks are routinely cleaned;
- Student belongings are stored properly each day;
- Returned papers and notices to be sent home are placed in student Keep/Return folders each day;
- Students are given access to classroom supplies in the event they are lacking glue, markers, pencils, crayons, etc.;
- Students’ privacy is respected, and that other students are not allowed to look through bags or borrow materials without permission;
- Loose papers are placed in appropriate folders, and that absolutely no loose papers are placed in bags or lockers.
Classroom Management: In Closing
In 1970 J. S. Kounin wrote and published a now-famous book titled Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms. Defining effective managers as those teachers whose classrooms were orderly, had a minimum of student misbehavior, and had high levels of time-on-task, and ineffective managers as those whose classrooms lacked these qualities, Kounin found that effective and ineffective managers did not differ greatly in their methods for dealing with disruption. Instead, effective managers were found to be much more skilled at preventing disruptions from occurring in the first place.
School SuppliesThe supply list for every student in Mr. Schoch's Sixth Grade Reading/LA class includes:
a box of at least 18 sharpened pencils (no mechanical pencils; save those to use at home)
two 100-page composition notebooks (with sewn-in pages, either college or wide ruled); NOT spiral bound
a two-inch thick three-ring binder (stiff backed, not the inexpensive floppy type)
100 pages of lined notebook paper (either college or wide ruled)
5 tabbed dividers for the binder
two two-pocket portfolio folders (without fasteners)
Confidentiality and ProfessionalismInformation shared with me regarding your child will be kept in the strictest confidence. Any written notes and/or records pertaining to your child will be available for your review. There are no “secret” files kept on any student in my class.
Likewise, I would hope that any “sensitive” information about a student in our class, or about a family of a student in our class, would be kept confidential by parents and students alike. Often a child will share frank information in class; this information may later find its way to other ears. Please help me in my efforts to protect the emotional security of our students.