Tag Archives: homework

Homework Ideas for a New Year

Last year I wrote about how I was going to start lagging homework in my AP Calculus class. To recap real quick: problem sets covered the information from the prior week, assignments were given out on Mondays, solutions were posted on Thursdays, assignments were due on Friday, feedback (but no grade) was given over the weekend and returned on Monday, if students did the work (and corrections) they got full credit.

Overall, the process worked well, but I still dealt with the majority of my class waiting until Thursday evening to work through the problems (which meant I never had kids in tutoring sessions or class asking questions on current homework assignments). In order to combat this phenomenon, I’ve decided to chunk their weekly homework assignment into daily portions that will be checked and stamped for effort at the beginning of class each day. Assignments will still be collected and responded to on Fridays and solutions will be posted for them on Thursday. I know this seems somewhat punitive but was the only solution I could figure out. If you have any other ideas of how this could work, it would be much appreciated!

Here’s an example of what an assignment will look like:

Before School Starts To-Do List

I have just under two weeks before I have to go back to work for two weeks of staff and student orientation, professional development, and team building (we don’t start school until the Tuesday after Labor Day, summer Eric loves this idea, 1 week till the AP exam Eric hates it). So, getting some sort of a to-do list down is probably a productive use of a blog post.

  • Create year plans for all 3 preps (and pray that I don’t get a 4th prep added at the 11th hour). I just try to get a general idea of where I need to be throughout the year on an Excel document, nothing earth shattering here.
  • Edit syllabi for AP Calculus and General Physics (I got AP Physics rewritten today).
  • Tidy up my classroom procedures and policies.
  • Edit concept/skill lists for all 3 courses. I use SBG in all my classes and right now AP Calculus is the only list that I feel confident in rolling out at to start the year.
  • Rewrite my unit 1 packets for AP Physics and General Physics. Thankfully, I’m using prewritten materials so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, there are some small things that didn’t work well last year that need to be tweaked.

In the weeks following I’ll probably add new things that come up and strikethrough stuff that I complete. What’s at the top of your to-do list?

15-16 Recap: AP Physics

Yesterday, I wrote a post a reflection on AP Calculus, today I’m going to take a critical look at how my AP Physics class went this past year and how I can improve it for the upcoming school year.

Just to give a little background, I teach AP Physics 1, a course that just finished its 2nd year of existence. College Board decided to split what was AP Physics B into 2 separate courses, Physics 1 and Physics 2, each course representing 1 semester of college course work. The exam is now very light on computation (when I’ve taken AP practice exams, I have not needed a calculator) and heavy on deep conceptual understanding of physics principles and scientific thinking.  I use the Investigative Science Learning Environment, created by a team led by Eugenia Etkina and Alan Van Heuvelen, approach in my physics classes, which helps students build these skills, not just computational skills.

What Went Well

  • I was able to cover all the topics in the Course Outline, which I wasn’t close to doing in year 1.
  • I gave my students an awesome final project, which led to some of the best work my students have done since I began teaching high school.
  • I had my students get familiar with using physics probeware and data analysis software early in the school year.
  • I allowed students to struggle through the process of breaking down misconceptions and building up correct ideas about how the world works and why things are the way they are.
  • As the year went on, I got better at writing assessment questions that really dug down into their conceptual understanding of a topic.
  • I assigned reading from the textbook and had students do some good reflecting about what they learned from their reading.
  • I stopped class one day, did no physics, and sat in a circle with my students discussing something that had come up in chapel earlier that day (I teach at a private Christian school and we have chapel once a week). One of my (highest performing and academically minded) students has mentioned this to multiple people (including in her graduation speach) as the most important classroom moment of her high school career.

What Can Improve

  • I spent waaaaaaayyyyyyy too much time on kinematics, which ended up putting us in a real time crunch at the end of the year.
  • On the final project, some students worked with a partner who clearly didn’t keep up their end of the partnership, so we ended the school year with some mild resentment between students. Next year, I need to either make it individuals only or add in some sort of group/partner accountability/evaluation piece to the project.
  • After introducing students to the probeware and software, we used it very little.
  • I still don’t trust students to do what they’re supposed to do all the time, so I intervened too early and too often in their discovery processes (I think part of this has to do with time, we have 52 minute periods, and I always felt like I was falling behind my year plan).
  • I just threw a bunch of AP exam review at them with a month left, but didn’t spend a ton of time with them on how to prepare for or what to expect from the exam.
  • My homework was a mess, inconsistent in both it’s frequency and quality.
  • I need to do a better job of organizing the class, from how we spend class time, lesson sequencing, homework, and assessments.

15-16 Recap: AP Calculus

As promised, this is post #2 today to make up for missing yesterday. This one will actually be about teaching, but since I apparently can’t do anything the easy way, I’ll be doing a series of 3 posts about what went well and what could be improved upon in AP Calculus (both AB  and BC flavors), General Physics, and AP Physics. So today, let’s start with AP Calculus. Lot’s of stuff to ponder, as I write this, I’m seeing that a few of these need some more unpacking, thankfully it’s #MTBoSBlaugust!

What Went Well

  • I lagged homework in AB (one of the few things I’ve written about in the past and something I need to write about more in the upcoming few days).
  • I posted full solutions to homework assignments in AB the night before the assignment was due and most of my students turned in fully corrected and annotated assignments on time.
  • I had students do 3 full 6 question FRQ exams and a full 45 question multiple choice exam prior to the actual AP exam in May. Gave them a lot of exposure to the type of problems they were going to see on the real exam and what they needed to spend the weeks prior to the exam focusing on.
  • I improved my pass rate.
  • Students did a lot of really good group work on VNPS.
  • I wrote a lot of good problems throughout the year to dig into student’s conceptual understanding.
  • I wrote some good notes and activity structures throughout the year.

What Can Improve

  • Students had difficulty transferring what they learned from lessons and the more skill based, formulaic problems they saw in their homework to the conceptually deeper AP style problems I gave them on assessments, midterms, and finals.
  • I’m not totally happy with the sequence of topics right now (might need to pick Jonathan’s brain more about the reasoning behind his sequencing).
  • By the time the third FRQ rolled around, a few of my students thought it would be useful to just memorize a bunch of FRQ solutions available on the internet (their ability to do stuff like this but not complete a simple homework assignment on time is staggering) and hope that they showed up. Luckily for them it did. Unluckily for them, those same problems weren’t on the AP exam (shocker!) and they got a 1 since they didn’t really study and prep.
  • I had a 4 person BC class that I structured more as an independent study course than a normal course. They were pretty productive most of the year, but didn’t do as well on the AP exam as they could have if they pushed themselves more throughout the year.
  • I had some students walk into an assessment (I use SBG), put their name on their paper, turn it in, and say they were going to reassess it next week. This is the first time this has happened in 4 years. Needless to say, it brought about a crisis of faith in the system and led to some long talks with these students about personal accountability in a high stakes class (due to the subject matter difficulty and exam at the end of the course) that sometimes feels like a low stakes class (due to reassessments).

 

Homework! Oh, Homework!

Recently I came across Henri Picciotto’s writing on lagging homework. To say that this idea piqued my interest is an understatement. It had me up well past midnight last night trying to figure out how it would work in my AP Calculus classes. It fit so nicely with what I had been reading in Make It Stick (like this book needs any more publicity on the MTBoS) on spaced practice that it’s at least worth a shot to begin the year. So here’s what I have so far.

In class students will work through a new topic for a day or two, depending on the complexity. Whenever they’re done with the topic they’ll do an exit slip during the last few minutes of class as a check for understanding. They will then have the opportunity to self evaluate by placing their exit slip into one of three folders: Got It, Kind Of, Not Yet. I’ll give a quick pass through these and make sure I agree with their self evaluations. The following class period I’ll spend the first few minutes working with the Not Yet group on some remediation, while the Got It group works on extension problems and the Kind Of group works together on fixing their small mistakes and then moves on to the extension problems.

On the first day of each week, the class will get a handout due on Friday. That handout will cover material that was taught the previous week. So during the first week of school, in class they’ll be learning about evaluating limits, but at home they’ll be doing precalculus review problems. During the second week of school they’ll be learning about continuity, but their homework will be on the limit evaluation problems from the week prior.

I want to be able to give written feedback (without a grade) to my students on their homework prior to them taking an assessment on it, so that will have to come on week three.

So the work flow will be something like this:
Week 1 In Class → Week 2 At Home→ Week 3 Assessment

Classes don’t start for me until after Labor Day, so I have time to tweak and rework these ideas so your thoughts, comments, and questions would be really helpful.

Here’s the handout I’m planning on giving students explaining the system to them: