Sunday, December 9, 2018

Simplifying and streamlining homework processes

One of the things that I really struggled with last year was keeping up with student homework, and more particularly, with grading homework that was turned in late. This is the first time I've had to wrestle with this, because at the college level I did not accept late homework since I had all assignments listed in the course syllabus on the first day of the semester. (I dropped the lowest few assignments from each category to allow for people being sick or forgetful.) Last year I tried to stagger due dates, but it felt like all I did was keep up with who was missing what, and I spent hours each week filling out slips telling students that they were missing assignments, and then going back and checking to see if they completed the assignments later (most of my assignments are online, and I don't get notifications for completed assignments).

This year I realized I couldn't continue to maintain that workload, so I tweaked a few things to make my life a little easier. The first thing I did was make all homework due on Fridays. That's easier for me, because I can go through once a week and put in grades, and it's easier for my students, because there's never confusion about when things are due. Everything is always due on Friday. Another thing I did was to stop giving out missing homework slips. I teach 9-12 Spanish, and at this age, they are capable of going into PowerSchool and seeing that they're missing homework, especially since I'm putting grades in right away every week. If they dip down into the D-F range, I have them stay after school to do missing homework (part of my school's policy). Other than that, I remind them to check PowerSchool and submit missing assignments, but I'm not taking on the responsibility of telling them multiple times that they're missing things. Probably the best thing I did was to start having students email me when they complete assignments that are late. Most of our assignments are online, and I don't get notifications when things are submitted. Last year I spent hours going through late assignments checking to see if people had submitted, but this year, I put the burden on students. If they submit assignments on time, I will put their grades in and they don't need to notify me about submitting things, but if they submit late, they need to email me so that I know that they've submitted something that needs grading. I tell them that I will not go back through assignments to check for stragglers, so it's the students' responsibility to tell me when they've submitted something. I also make it a requirement that they email me rather than just telling me in class, because otherwise I'll have 20 students tell me that they've submitted 10 different assignments, and then I still have to go through all of the assignments to find who's turned in what because I won't remember who completed what when I have a chance to sit down and go over late homework. The last thing I started doing this year is putting in 0s immediately when I enter homework grades. Last year and at the beginning of this year, I marked things as missing and/or late, but I wasn't putting in 0s. The result was that students didn't turn in missing assignments, because most of them only respond to a drop in their grade. It has saved me a lot of time to put in 0s immediately, and it lets students know immediately that they're missing something in a way that they actually notice. It has resulted in much faster completion of missing assignments, and shows students immediately what happens to their grade when they don't turn things in.