Session Notes: Homework with Rick Wormeli

Homework: Practica Tips on Its Role and How to Get Students to Do It

Rick Wormeli (rwormeli@cox.net)

MY NOTES IN ALL CAPS

RICK AND I HAVE CORRESPONDED PREVIOUSLY AND HE EVEN JOINED OUR STAFF BOOK CLUB VIA SKYPE FOR A CHAT ABOUT HIS BOOK “FAIR ISN’T ALWAYS EQUAL”.  HE’S A FANTASTIC PRESENTER AND SOMEONE WHO REALLY KNOWS HOW TO PUSH EDUCATOR’S THINKING IN NEW DIRECTIONS.

-This is a 3 hour presentation crammed into an hour…hopes the discussion will continue after folks leave. If it stays here, it’s a major “time suckage”

TALK ABOUT APPROACHABLE. RICK GAVE OUT HIS HOME NUMBER AND JUST REQUESTED YOU NOT CALL BETWEEN 5 AND 9 PM, AS THAT’S THE TIME HE’S A DAD, BAND PARENT, SPORTS PARENT. WHERE ARE THE OTHER PRESENTERS WHO DO THIS KIND OF STUFF?

-How would your day be diff. if you didn’t assign any homework?

  • Hobbies
  • Read for enjoyment
  • Exercise
  • Not chasing kids down hall looking for homework

-How would students lives be different w/o homework?

  • They’d get really good at video games
  • they’ bug their parents
  • Research shows they get involved in other things after a short amount of time and get involved in face to face activities (sports, service, Scouts, etc)

-Homework is not to keep kids busy. NO Homework should be the chronic default. Don’t feel there has to be homework every night.

-Only do homework if it advances kids beyond where they were had they not done it.

-Messy lesson plan books are a good thing. You have to respond to the kids you have in front of you…planning homework weeks in advance is unresponsive teaching.

-Think of coaching: some need batting practice, some need fielding, some running, some weight lifting…why do we give all kids the same homework?

-Homework is called Practice in Rick’s classroom to remove emotional baggage from the term.

-Workload should be Time and Energy to complete the task…not the number of problems.

  • You get better at thinking about different assignments for kids to practice their learning

THIS IS DIFFICULT FOR TEACHERS TO DO…AT FIRST. TAKING THE TIME TO MAKE HOMEWORK LESS “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” IS SOMETHING THAT COMES WITH PRACTICE.

-Five purposes of Homework

  • Practice
  • Interaction
  • Application
  • Extension
  • Preparation

HOMEWORK IS NOT A FINAL DECLARATION OF MASTERY. IT IS ALSO NOT ABOUT LEARNING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME.

-Practice makes PERMANENT. Practicing something wrong all night makes it 10 times harder to undo and relearn.

-Confabulation – the brain makes up stuff to get a full picture…wrong practice leads to confabulation. Double check student understanding before assigning practice.

-Homework should be 100% autonomous…if they need parents help, they weren’t ready for practice.

-Homework is formative…done in route to learning

Inappropriate purposes of homework;

  • Appear vigorous and demanding
  • teach material the first time
  • keep students busy
  • assess student’s final, summative mastery of a topic

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT EVERY TEACHER NEEDS TO HEAR. HOW MUCH OF THIS DISCUSSION IS GOING ON IN TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS?

-Alfie Kohn _ Teachers shouldn’t operate  with the assumption that homework assignments will make up for ineffective lessons.

-Have students sign contract to either:

  • Do every homework assignment for 2 weeks
  • Do none of the homework for 2 weeks
  • Same test
  • Kids who don’t do homework will often be more focused in class so they can “prove they don’t have to do homework”
  • They still learned…just in class rather than at home.

-If a kid is failing a course due to homework, you’ve messed up in your grading methods.  Homework should not be enough of the grade to cause failure.

-How does building a diorama teach students about literary devices, reading, writing, theme, critical analysis, novel structure, or anything else about literacy?

-Assign physical exercise for homework, but don’t grade it 😉 Gets more oxygen into the brain than a worksheet or other assignment

-Learn to practice activities without “stuff” Could you teach the concept in an empty gym? That’s a sign of a creative teacher.

-For all subject areas the max TIME of homework should be the grade level with a zero added to the end…example, 7th graders should have 70 minutes of homework total across all subjects

-Middle school kids do not control their own schedule. They are at the mercy of the schedule imposed on them.

-Assigning homework and giving a zero for not doing it tells the kid it wasn’t worth doing in the first place.

-“If we sat around and deliberately tried to come up with a way to further enlarge the achievement gap, we might just invent homework”

I LOVE THAT ALL OF RICK’S WORK OBVIOUSLY BUILDS ON HIS PREVIOUS WORK. I’M HEARING LOTS OF THINGS THAT CAME FROM “MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE” AND “DAY ONE AND BEYOND”.

-Grade against standards, not the routes and processes students used to get to mastery.  What do they know and what are they able to do? If it’s not in the standards description, it shouldn’t be graded.

-0% is the amount homework should count toward final average in a perfect world…For example, if homework counts 5%, and a student never does it, they can still end up with a 95%, which is an A in most places.

-Group projects should not be summative assessment, since you can’t tell who has the mastery and who does not. Included it in the 5% along with homework and other formative assessments.

THIS ONE IS A BIG NEW ONE FOR ME. ANOTHER OF THOSE THOUGHTS THAT MAKES TOTAL SENSE, I JUST NEVER HAD IT.

– Prime the brain for homework…what will they get out of the experience, what will they encounter as they go through the experience…has an effect size according to Marzano of .80 where not priming has effect size of .31 or less. That’s a huge difference in learning.

-Graphic Organizers – Create a skeleton upon with students build the flesh and blood of knowledge.

-Structure, structure, structure helps the adolescent mind.

-Have everyone turn in a paper, regardless of whether or not they did the assignment…Assignment for those who don’t turn it in: Name, date, assignment, AND Parents Names and Daytime phone number…then you can call or have student call while you’re standing with them. Gives clear documentation during parent meetings.

-When kids get feedback on homework within 1 to 3 days they internalize it.

GREAT SESSION! KEYNOTE TO FOLLOW!

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4 Responses

  1. I have been saying this my whole career. It is nice to see it validated. I constantly struggle through “rigorous” homework assignments with my SPED students that teach them nothing but to hate the subject, homework and the teacher.

  2. Thanks for the great notes above. I’m on a school board and also the parent of 2 girls – junior and sophomore in high school. Rick Wormeli did a workshop for our local educators and our principal was raving about him so I googled his name and came up with this site. I appreciated the notes above and wish I could bring Rick back again for the high school teachers. My sophomore is very social, full of life, bucks the systems, comes to the aid of those she sees are being treated unfairly, looks at things with common sense – yes, she’s a rebel but she’s smart too and has missed some homework assignments that resulted in a zero. Ok, I can live with that. But, I’m having a little back and forth with her math teacher about homework that she did do. My daughter completed a 3 page packet but because she didn’t have it out on her desk and wasn’t “prepared” for class, the teacher gave her a zero. I pointed out to the teacher that I felt being prepared for class and having homework completed were 2 different things. But she doesn’t see it that way and maintains that she’ll continue to get zeros on completed homework unless she is in the class, sitting in her seat, homework on desk, pencil and notebook ready to take notes. I’m very frustrated. Any suggestions or constructive thoughts I can pass along to the teacher or should I just let it go??

    • Hi Julie, excellent question…it’s tough trying to talk to a teacher about their grading policy. I actually gave a few suggestions in a follow-up post now at the top of the blog

      http://wp.me/ppkPQ-80

      Check back on the above post over the next couple of days, hopefully some others will add their insight and suggestions as well! Good luck!

      • Thank you for respondingI appreciate it. I went back and forth with the teacher but she wouldn’t budge, such is life sometimes. We’ll see how the rest of the year goes.
        Thanks again,
        Julie

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