I am really pleased by how smoothly homework choice went this week. I followed my plan and had students set a simple class goal on Monday: “to have a good homework routine and have fun.” Then, students brainstormed how they could achieve that goal. Students wrote plans like “find a quiet spot,” “start immediately when I get home,” “do my homework at ____ [name of after school program],” and “set a timer.”
Instead of assigning the Thursday Night Reflection for homework, we did our reflecting as a class Friday morning. Before we began, I brought us back to the equation, “effective effort + ____ = _____.”
Volunteers filled in the blanks, and students shared what the equation meant to them.
Then, I explained the reflection checkboxes, and everyone checked either “Yes,” because they met the goal, or “Not yet,” because they needed to put in more time or effective effort. Only one student in my class chose “Not yet,” because they felt they needed more time to establish a homework routine (it goes without saying that this is a very earnest, very hard-working student!).
The best part was when students wrote their reflections. I was really curious: would they be able to identify why they were successful?
Here are some typical examples of what I found:
“I was successful because I did my homework seriously. My favorite part was solving the word search. I was proud of my effort when I did Scholastic News.”
“I was successful because I used my math strategies! My favorite part was the word search!”
“I made a good choice when I did my homework before watching TV. I was successful because I always checked my work. My favorite part was when I did the math pictures and the word search.”
And this one just makes me smile:
“I was successful because I did my homework at ____ [name of after school program]. My favorite part was I got to do homework instead of something boring.” [emphasis mine]
I happen to know that they do some really fun stuff at this after school program, so it’s delightful that this student still considered homework the most fun of all.
Having fun was a theme that ran through the reflections. At the same time, every student demonstrated that they were at least beginning to understand effective effort. They had thought carefully about what they chose to do and how they chose to do it. Even more impressive, they were aware of this thinking and able to express their metacognition in writing.
By the way, it took me only 15 minutes to read, grade (via checkboxes), and write a few comments on 23 notebooks. How often does it take 15 minutes to give valuable, individual feedback to your whole class?
Now, I’m really looking forward to Monday, when we will brainstorm goals for our Goal Banks (p. 12-13 in the Homework Notebook) and choose individual goals for the first time. I’m going to keep it to just one goal per student; that will give everyone a clear focus throughout the week. I will also help students to choose achievable goals, given where we are in the school year and the choices that will be available.
— a. fox