Sunday, February 10, 2013
Math Homework- It shouldn't be readiness only!
Welcome back! Let me first apologize for not posting in SO SO SO long. Time has just caught up to me. My district like so many others has been on the Common Core kick and thus we are having meeting after meeting about that which in turn is taking away time that I previously have had during the day and so I'm having less time to plan lessons. I also volunteered to coach my little guy's basketball team. (2nd and 3rd graders playing hoops, now there is something to see.) In addition, it just seems that I'm wanting to spend more time making my lessons more interesting, more engaging, more everything including what today's MSSUN FUN post is about differentiating, especially math homework. So on to the post
I find that differentiating math homework is an important role that we as teacher need to do. Unfortunately for me, most of my differentiation of math homework tends to be solely for readiness. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that that is actually the case for most teachers (at least from what I've seen.) It seems that when most people talk differentiation that is the main area they are talking about. For myself, I tend to make two or three "levels" of homework where I do different things to adapt the difficulty. I might make the problems easier or more difficult by changing the numbers. For instance on an adding fraction homework sheet, I might have the lower level doing problems with denominators of 2,4,6,8, and 12 while the higher level would work with all sorts of integer numbers. I also at times have students who struggle with word problems not because they don't know the math but rather because they can't really read the problem. In this case, I try to rewrite the problems and level the homework not with easier numbers but instead with easier to read word problems. For longer assignments and projects that students do as part of homework, I try my hardest to make the whole thing is fit to their readiness level. For instance, our end of fraction unit project consisted of a project making a recipe book where students changed the recipe size by multiplying by a fraction. (Thanks to Becky Goerend (@MrsBMG) for this great project!) For students who were struggling with the concept of fractions, I had them double, triple, and halve the recipe. For more confident students, I changed the fractions to more challenging numbers such as 5/6 or 1and 2/3
The one thing I most certainly do not do when I differentiate homework for readiness is to give the more struggling students less problems and the students who understand more problems. I want the kids to know that the homework is important for them to practice the skills we are working on in class and because they don't really get it doesn't mean they do less or because they do get it doesn't mean they should have to do more and more because they can.
I need to be better at providing some differentiation through choice. I have at times given students options of different homework which I've tiered for readiness but I don't think I've done it enough. It's surprising because almost every time the students opt for the homework that I would've given them anyway. They really do have a good idea on their readiness level. The other way I use choice during homework would be on longer assignments. For instance, in class we use choice boards at times. Sometimes, students are wrapping up a part of a unit and they have to finish their choice board activity for homework. The choice that they have been given in class then simply roles over as their homework.
The other area that I do NO differentiation for during homework is learning style. In class, I'm able to provide the visual learners with stuff to do, the auditory learners with activities, and the kinesetic learners the appropriate learning opportunity. However, I don't really know how to move this into homework. Since we are a 1 to 1 school, I could probably incorporate the lap tops and have kids use Audacity or some such program to podcast answers, use Smart Notebook for the artistic to "draw" me some responses, and so on. It seems daunting to move to such an idea because of the time it will take, both to create the varied assignments and to spend time providing feedback on them. (I don't grade homework, I like to provide some comments to the students on it instead.)
I'd be interested in hearing from others about what sort of way they differentiate their homework, especially for learning style and for choice. Looking forward to the conversation!