Happy Halloween to all!
Within the last few years, I have really changed the way I teach, my outlook on homework, grades, and most other aspects of my classroom. To put it short, I rarely give homework. Mostly, I give homework when I feel students need a little more practice on the concept we learned or if I didn’t have a game or activity for that particular topic. I am often labeled by other teachers as “the easy teacher” or “they only play games in Mrs. Kerr’s class.” At first this bothered me. I felt that parents weren’t going to believe in me. I was questioned by parents, and told that students should always have homework because they (the parents) as students had math homework every night. I questioned myself. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if the whole idea worked. I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it …… students are sent home with massive amounts of homework that many won’t do, some will copy from others, some the parents will do it for them, and some (with no parental support) will work their rear off trying to get it done just to turn it in and get them all incorrect.
Here is how almost every one of my class periods run……
1. Bell work, usually five or six problems over what we did the day before. I give them ample time to finish them at their desks. When I can tell that most all students are finished, I draw a name out of my cup (each student’s name is on a popsicle stick). That student goes to the board and works the problem. I do that for each problem on the bell work.
2. Go over the lesson with hands-on manipulatives (for the most part, sometimes there are no manipulatives for the lesson but I TRY for EVERY lesson).
3. Draw pictorial representations of the skill in their math notebooks.
4. Examples of the skill without using manipulatives or pictorial representations.
5. We play a game or activity that allows the students to practice the skill (usually with at least one partner).
We play a game or activity that gets EVERY student up and working. I ensure that ALL students are practicing the problems. When you send homework home, you are not getting participation from all students. You always have students that are completely unmotivated and have no parental involvement at all. I will swear to you that it is an extremely rare day that I have a student that refuses to participate. Even those students that speak no words in class, you know those students who would rather crawl into the walls than be noticed by anybody, will participate and smile and work and have a good time. There is no better feeling than to stand in front of your class and see the smiles, the laughter, and the mathematical discussion that goes on in your class when students are doing these practice activities and games. The funniest then about it is that they are working the same problems that they would be working on their homework assignments, and not really realizing that they are actually working. Another great positive about this is that students are getting one-on-one help from their partner. When playing any of the games or activities, I always require all students to work all problems even when it is not their turn so that they can check answers. There is very little off task time during this game time. They don’t get a lot of time to play these games or activities, so they don’t get bored or tired of it and start visiting or getting off task.
Here is a picture of one of my classes playing a game in pairs.
Here are a list of the types of games we play after each lesson.
Any other game that I get a bright idea for (usually in the middle of the night, the night before causing me to go crazy that morning trying to get it made)
I’m telling you about all of these games and activities because I want you to see that I don’t give much homework, but my students do get a lot of practice, in class, over the skills we learned. I don’t just teach them how to do a problem, give them a worksheet, and then send them on their merry way. I kept thinking that I was the weird one for not believing in homework until a fellow blogger introduced me to a great book that I’ve just started reading called, “Rethinking Homework” by Cathy Vatterottt. I’ve only just begun, but I am completely agreeing with it so far. It is validating exactly what I’ve thought all along.
Yes, I spend a TON of time and resources making these games and activities. That’s why I share some of them with you and I post some of them for sale here on my blog or my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Each game takes me hours to make on the computer and costs money to buy the graphics, and then the time it takes me to put all of it together to actually use in my class. I do it because I LOVE to see the students enjoying class. I love to hear their parents say how much their child loves my math class. I decided long ago that I didn’t want any child to leave my class with a distaste for math, or to say that they are not good at math. It has been my mission to make sure that every child participates and feels welcomed and loved in my class. I tell my students all of the time that learning is not an option in my class.
My mom always asks me if I will use some of the stuff I make next year. My answer is, “I could, but I’ll probably come up with something different next year.” Actually, my problem next year will be that we change from the Oklahoma PASS to common core curriculum. Most of the skills I have been teaching will change entirely. The year after that, I will probably be moving buildings to teach at the high school. I love it. I can definitely say that my job is not boring.
Well, now you’ve seen a class period in the life of Mrs. Kerr’s sixth grade math classroom.
Below are the two newest games I’ve used in my classroom and put for sale in my stores.