The #slowmathchat discussion on Twitter got me thinking about what I assign for homework, why I assign it, how it has changed over my career and where do I think it is going? I started as most teachers do at the beginning of their career. After correcting the previous day's assignment, which consisted of me at the overhead (dating myself) demonstrating what was expected on each problem, I would then give a brief lesson on the day's new topic. After the lesson I would write the day's assignment on the board at the mid-point of the class period. Whatever did not get finished in class, was to be completed as homework.

I relied on my sense of humor, engaging personality and excitement for learning to keep my students interested each day. While I still use those aspects to my advantage, they are not the cornerstones to engagement in my class. Lessons have evolved to inquiry-based activities and investigations. Learning comes from student talk and not teacher talk, and thus I needed to change the homework assignments. They became hand-selected purposeful problems to practice previously learned concepts and not to finish the day's learning.

Usually on Monday and Tuesday we investigate new concept(s) in class and I assign specific practice from the concept(s) we investigated on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday I start to assign problems we investigated on Monday and Tuesday. The homework assignments typically are "naked math" and we work on "real life" in class. Naked math are straight up math problems, no words. This continues with each set of problems scaffolded in difficulty to the class's progress with a concept. Once the skills have been mastered, I will assign "real life" problems for homework.

Depending on the concept(s), the typical assignment is 4-8 problems. I find that 10-15 minutes of hand-selected purposeful practice improves skills, improves confidence, reduces frustration in students and provides access for all learners.

## Monday, March 23, 2015

## Friday, March 20, 2015

### Stack It!

Whether students are turning in assignments for credit, turning in assignments for feedback, or turning in assignments to be checked for completion, the process used by a teacher needs to be fluid and be an effective use of the teacher's limited time. Some teachers use baskets, folders or drawers. I have found the best use of my time and space is Stack It!

I am a firm believer that students learn more while working productively in groups, so my classroom systems and procedures are designed to maintain the group productivity and allow me to reach every student, hopefully on a daily basis. After my students finish the correction process, which is no joke and will be laid out in a future post, I say, "Stack It." These two words are a set of procedures for my students that should take 60 seconds to complete.

Step 1: Finish your last correction and make neat stack of assignments on the table group. Neat means all facing up and the same direction.

Step 2: Put your pen away, take out a pencil and a clean sheet of graph paper (all of my assignments are completed on graph paper). If we were working an investigation the previous day that had not been completed, students would take this out instead of a clean sheet.

Step 3: Put a heading on the paper, put the pencil down and wait for instructions for the next activity/investigation.

The transition time from corrections to work is a time-sucker for new and veteran teachers alike. Practicing this process with students and maintaining the 60 second expectation saves a great deal of learning time.

Then as students are working on that day's activity/investigation, I am "forced" to stop by every group and "grade" the previous assignment. I put "grade" in quotes because my policies change from year to year, or class to class. At times credit is helpful to motivate students, other times just feedback on their work is needed, or I just keep track of who did or did not compete the work.

No matter what I stop by every group, look at their work and use what I see to guide my instruction in the coming days. If I am giving credit, it is usually given for effort toward learning. In other words, did they attempt every problem? Did they write sentences when asked? Did they make corrections and not just change answers? If the answer is yes to all three then credit is earned. If one or more is missing, partial or no credit is earned.

All in all, Stack It saves time, "forces" me to stop and talk to every group, everyday and informs my instruction.

I am a firm believer that students learn more while working productively in groups, so my classroom systems and procedures are designed to maintain the group productivity and allow me to reach every student, hopefully on a daily basis. After my students finish the correction process, which is no joke and will be laid out in a future post, I say, "Stack It." These two words are a set of procedures for my students that should take 60 seconds to complete.

Step 1: Finish your last correction and make neat stack of assignments on the table group. Neat means all facing up and the same direction.

Step 2: Put your pen away, take out a pencil and a clean sheet of graph paper (all of my assignments are completed on graph paper). If we were working an investigation the previous day that had not been completed, students would take this out instead of a clean sheet.

Step 3: Put a heading on the paper, put the pencil down and wait for instructions for the next activity/investigation.

The transition time from corrections to work is a time-sucker for new and veteran teachers alike. Practicing this process with students and maintaining the 60 second expectation saves a great deal of learning time.

Then as students are working on that day's activity/investigation, I am "forced" to stop by every group and "grade" the previous assignment. I put "grade" in quotes because my policies change from year to year, or class to class. At times credit is helpful to motivate students, other times just feedback on their work is needed, or I just keep track of who did or did not compete the work.

No matter what I stop by every group, look at their work and use what I see to guide my instruction in the coming days. If I am giving credit, it is usually given for effort toward learning. In other words, did they attempt every problem? Did they write sentences when asked? Did they make corrections and not just change answers? If the answer is yes to all three then credit is earned. If one or more is missing, partial or no credit is earned.

All in all, Stack It saves time, "forces" me to stop and talk to every group, everyday and informs my instruction.

## Monday, March 9, 2015

### Save Time, Increase Reflection with Go Position

In those last few moments before the bell rings, teachers want to sum up the day's learning, hint towards the next day's activities and have students reflect on their learning. Maybe not all three in one day, and maybe you have other priorities in the last few minutes, but educators across grade levels, content areas and years of experience all want to squeeze this last chance for learning for all it's worth.

The "Go Position" is a method that has been in use in various forms for years and can save time and increase student reflection. Here's how it works. With three minutes left in the class period say, "Go position." These two words are actually a set of procedures the students need to carry out in 60 seconds. The time limit goal will not be met the first few times you use it, but after practicing and 5-7 times in use, the students will get the hang of it. The set of procedures are critical for student success and continuity.

Step 1: Upon hearing "Go Position" students will finish their last thought on what they are currently working on and then add the day's assignment to their daily planner (hard copy or electronic).

Step 2: Students will secure handouts, assignments and other important documents by clicking them in the rings of their binder or placing them in the appropriate location in the student's folder.

Step 3: All pens, pencils, rulers and other supplies returned to their "home."

Step 4: Students "pack up" their belongs. This could be a backpack or merely stacking binders and books on their desk.

Step 5: Students will give full attention to the teacher.

The teacher should now have 2 minutes remaining in the period to review the day's learning, provide direction for the coming day's learning, or have students reflect on their own learning. This can be done as a whole class, in A/B partners, in groups or as individuals. The options are endless. The important part here is that the Go Position has provided the time, without the distractions of students clicking binders, writing in planners, zipping pencil pouches or finishing their last problem. By using the Go Position, teachers have an opportunity to have a greater impact in those last few moments of class.

The "Go Position" is a method that has been in use in various forms for years and can save time and increase student reflection. Here's how it works. With three minutes left in the class period say, "Go position." These two words are actually a set of procedures the students need to carry out in 60 seconds. The time limit goal will not be met the first few times you use it, but after practicing and 5-7 times in use, the students will get the hang of it. The set of procedures are critical for student success and continuity.

Step 1: Upon hearing "Go Position" students will finish their last thought on what they are currently working on and then add the day's assignment to their daily planner (hard copy or electronic).

Step 2: Students will secure handouts, assignments and other important documents by clicking them in the rings of their binder or placing them in the appropriate location in the student's folder.

Step 3: All pens, pencils, rulers and other supplies returned to their "home."

Step 4: Students "pack up" their belongs. This could be a backpack or merely stacking binders and books on their desk.

Step 5: Students will give full attention to the teacher.

The teacher should now have 2 minutes remaining in the period to review the day's learning, provide direction for the coming day's learning, or have students reflect on their own learning. This can be done as a whole class, in A/B partners, in groups or as individuals. The options are endless. The important part here is that the Go Position has provided the time, without the distractions of students clicking binders, writing in planners, zipping pencil pouches or finishing their last problem. By using the Go Position, teachers have an opportunity to have a greater impact in those last few moments of class.

## Tuesday, March 3, 2015

### How My Group Roles Keep The Learning Train Moving

Describing the group process in my class is easier when I use an example of the type of work that is group-worthy in my class. Group-worthy is key here, as skill practice from a book or worksheet will not deliver the desired result. Group-worthy tasks require students to share information, ask questions, press each other for reasoning and have multiple ways to think about the problem.

For example, I will show a video of four friends going to the movies. They buy tickets, popcorn, candy and in my state there is sales tax. The video will show someone dipping into his or her wallet of cash for each purchase. By the end of it, students are asking how much did all that cost? (After they ask what movie they were going to?) I feed them the information a little at a time, and they share that information with each other and progress as a group. In my experience, the ideal number of people in a group is four.

Here is how the process works:

Reader: This person reads the material from the text or the handout. The reader makes sure that everyone is working together.

No one likes to be reading out loud and have the people at their group talking. So the Reader makes sure everyone is listening when they read directions, prompts or questions. If they see someone starting to zone out, they gently bring them back to the group conversation using one of several sentences stems we have practiced in class. Once the information/question has been read then:

For example, I will show a video of four friends going to the movies. They buy tickets, popcorn, candy and in my state there is sales tax. The video will show someone dipping into his or her wallet of cash for each purchase. By the end of it, students are asking how much did all that cost? (After they ask what movie they were going to?) I feed them the information a little at a time, and they share that information with each other and progress as a group. In my experience, the ideal number of people in a group is four.

Here is how the process works:

Reader: This person reads the material from the text or the handout. The reader makes sure that everyone is working together.

No one likes to be reading out loud and have the people at their group talking. So the Reader makes sure everyone is listening when they read directions, prompts or questions. If they see someone starting to zone out, they gently bring them back to the group conversation using one of several sentences stems we have practiced in class. Once the information/question has been read then:

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