Homework/study non-compliance

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Caesar753, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 22, 2010

    When I look at my gradebook this year, I'm pretty appalled at what I see. In each of my beginning level classes, between 15-20 students are failing. Given that my classes are in the 45-50 range, this means that 30-45% or so of my students are failing.

    At my school, a 30% failure rate is pretty common in most classes. I'm not so much worried about classes with that failure rate. However, the 45% failure rate really concerns me.

    I've looked at all my assessments and lessons to try to find out how I messed up. In everything I see, I honestly can't find a place where I screwed up. My lessons seem clear and students are able to accurately summarize them upon exiting (I give out exit assessments very frequently for this purpose). The places where my students seem to be failing are on homework assignments and vocabulary quizzes.

    Homework assignments are given once or twice per week and usually consist of completing an activity that we start in class. Because they get started in class, I can monitor whether they're doing it correctly. By everything I can tell, they're doing it fine in class. The problem is that they aren't finishing it and bringing it back the next day.

    As for the vocabulary quizzes, those are short, 10-question quizzes where students are asked to give a word in the target language. For example, I will give the word "water" and students must give me the word "aqua". These written quizzes are based on vocabulary lists that are between 8-10 words long. We get one list every week and a half or so. We go through the words as a class, come up with derivatives, practice spelling them, do partner activities, and make flashcards. Their ongoing assignment is to review these vocabulary words for 2-3 minutes per night, every night. When they take vocabulary quizzes, lots of students are leaving answers completely blank. They have no idea what word to give. They're not even attempting it. When I ask, they tell me that they don't study their flashcards (which is painfully obvious).

    Vocabulary study is a big part of my class. They simply can't learn the vocabulary during class. They must spend time on it outside of class. The fact that they're not doing so is not only causing them to have absolutely zero clue about the vocabulary words (which we actually use when we translate passages), but also to fail the course.

    I don't know what to do. I can work with kids who try and need extra help or a different approach. These kids, though...they just seem lazy. When I look in the gradebook, I see "missing missing missing zero missing missing zero zero zero missing missing missing".

    I'm at a loss.
     
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  3. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Nov 22, 2010

    It sounds as if you are doing everything right. It's just the students are refusing to do their part. It's very troubling to have that many failing students, but sometimes they just have to get that failing grade on their report card to realize "no work" really does mean "you fail".
     
  4. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Nov 23, 2010

    How are these students doing in their other classes? If my students are failing all or most of their other classes, I tend to think that's the student's problem. Since I'm at the middle school level, we'll usually call a parent meeting. The principal also meets with these students to figure out what's going on. If the students are only failing my class, then that's on me to find interventions that work.

    One thing that I've found is that many of my students would rather not turn in anything than turn in work that isn't finished or isn't correct. They don't understand that getting some points is better than getting none at all. Every now and then I have to have them empty out their backpacks and turn in all of the partially finished work. This doesn't help with their understanding of the material, but it does get some grades on the books, and it reduces my failing rate, which pleases the administrators.
     
  5. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Nov 23, 2010

    I gave my students two days of in class time to write a persuasive essay. They could use that time to work on it, ask me questions, pop on the computer to get further info. In my generally good class of 20 I had 17 turn it in on Monday. Of the missing three, two haven't been in class since the assignment was given. In my more social class that I have at the end of the day, very few made any effort at all to work on it during the two days of class time. I circled the room, gave guidance, tried to get them to work and mostly I got "I'll just work on it at home, it's easier for me to write there than in class." Well, no big surprise, I got 6 essays from that class.

    Same assignment, same teaching method, same rubric given out, MORE prompting with the social class, and the results will clearly be that one class will have mostly missing or failing grades. Why? Because they were lazy and decided not to do the assignment. I am not blaming that on myself.

    For the ones who it will take from a passing grade to failing I will be sure to call home. Perhaps that will prompt a few of them to do better next time. That is of course assuming I have working phone numbers, which often I do not. I know you are in a school where often you do not have working number for parents as well. So really, I think you have done all you can. If they choose to not do the assignments and you know you have explained it well and they're just being lazy, I just don't see how this falls as being your fault. If you think you can get a hold of a parent then that would be the only suggestion I have.
     
  6. LastPlaceJason

    LastPlaceJason Rookie

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    Nov 23, 2010

    Just a thought- maybe you need to look at this from the students' perspective. They have several teachers, all assigning some homework every night. Kids go to school all day, then go home and have even more work to do. Even if it is a few minutes -with of work, it is still work.

    I see the same trend in my students. Good students simply stop doing homework. The symptoms they show are classic burn-out. We cram a TON of information down their throats without considering that we're doing too much. We forget the "tragedy of the commons effect"- each kid has five-seven teachers that insist they don't have enough time in class to cover the material, thus justifying encroaching on kids' free time.

    Here's a worthwhile experiment- try banning homework for a week. Don't let kids do homework at home. It will force you to evaluate what you do in class to make better use of instructional time. If you can't cut the material down OR find a more efficient way to cover it, research better pedagogy. Try this- make a list of each unit's (or chapter, lesson, whatever) objectives- the things you want kids to learn. Prioritize them in order. Now eliminate the bottom half. If you can't do it, imagine you were in a catastrophic accident and could not teach your class. The sub is only capable of teaching half of the material you could teach. Which half would be most important?

    Also, it will force kids to be more engaged in the classroom because they have to do all the required work at that time.

    I've tried this for a few weeks now with amazing results. Students' lack of homework motivation is a universal problem that requires an unorthodox solution. I recommend trying a "less is more" approach because the root of the problem is overload- collectively we give kids too much to do.

    Just some thoughts from someone that pretends to know what he's talking about. ;)
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 23, 2010

    I am absolutely mindful of my students' other classes, extra-curriculars, and family activities. I am not one of those teachers who assigns tons of arbitrary work, or even tons of meaningful work.

    My students have a regular homework assignment of studying vocab for 2-3 minutes per day. That's TWO to THREE MINUTES per day.

    For their other homework, that's one or two assignments per week where they are asked to complete work not finished in class. I do not give out copious amounts of work. I assign perhaps 5 or 6 sentences to translate, for example. Three or four of those could easily be done in class if students use their time appropriately. That means that they should only be needing to do 2 or 3 sentences, two nights per week, max. That should take approximately five minutes per sentence.

    So that means that the maximum amount of homework a student should receive in my class ever is about 18 minutes on a given night. Most nights it's just two or three minutes. In a given week, I'm asking for less than one hour of work.

    Honestly, if a student can't commit one hour out of an entire week to homework for my class, then he is far, far, far too committed to other tasks.
     
  8. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Nov 23, 2010

    What a condundrum! Do you have the support of your principal on this? It sounds like the parents need to be aware of exactly WHY the students are failing. Their quality of work is being overridden by the quantity.
     
  9. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    Nov 23, 2010

    My gradebook in one class looks just the same as yours...and their class attitude/behavior shows it. They are not on focus in class (or, judging by their homework, out of class either. (I've tried every trick in the book to help them get on and stay on focus. I can't do much if any groupwork, since they absolutely cannot control themselves and will get off task at the drop of a hat. They are mean to each other, no matter how I've tried to explain/show/chastise them for being that way, so some are just not going to say anything for fear of standing out. When I looked up their other grades at the quarter, most had at least one if not more D's and/or F's in other classes. Since my other classes are all going well, I just don't know what to make of this one. I'm still trying, but it's very discouraging - I sure wish they would try more, too.
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Nov 23, 2010

    Seriously? One hour of homework in a week is an example of quantity overriding quality?

    Even if it was, the kids aren't failing because quantity replaced quality. They are failing because they are doing NO WORK OF EITHER TYPE!

    That's on them - not the teacher.
     
  11. worrywart

    worrywart Companion

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    Nov 23, 2010

    We have similar problems here. It sounds like you are being very reasonable in your expectations!

    The only thing that may help is changing the format of the vocabulary quiz? Do they have the word list available when taking the quiz or do they need to pull the words out of thin air..that would be my only suggestion.

    Don't feel alone...lack of student effort and motivation is a very common problem!
     
  12. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Nov 23, 2010

    I have a very similar problem, at the middle school level. Except, I know that I am one of the few subjects giving homework -- most of our social studies, language arts, and science teachers do not assign homework except for very rarely. Math, they get near daily work, but at most about 12 problems. If I assign more than that, it is because they have time to work in class.

    However, many just won't do it. Ever. Then, after they fail the quiz or test, they expect me to bend over backward to re-teach the material that they didn't do the first time around. And then bend over backward and make time for a retake.

    I recently had classes make a list of expectations: 1 list of what students are expected to do, and 1 list of what they expect the teacher to do. The list of what they expect me to do was a bit sad. They expected me to assign less work or no work, to have more time for them to work in class (which, granted, they weren't getting much, but now that they are, they are wasting it), and to be available more often for extra help before or after school. I pointed out to them, again, that I am there EVERY Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, AND Friday before or after school, unless I am in a meeting (which isn't too often). Seriously!! At least until 3:15 (45 minutes after school is dismissed).

    Our administration is trying to find more ways to help our students ... including making 7th period a study hall in which half of the time is SSR, and the other half is work time. Fine. But they are still not doing the work. So, their grand idea? Quit assigning homework. "If they are not going to do it, and you keep assigning it, you are setting them up for failure." Then they wonder why our math scores keep dropping on the state test.
    ARGH. So, my point is that I do sympathize with your situation.
     
  13. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Nov 23, 2010

    I sympathize. I had a 7th grader this morning (who was gone out of state to a football game) tell me he had PART of the assignment done, which was due last Friday. I asked to see it. He had the odds finished. No work, strangely enough...
     
  14. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Nov 24, 2010

    I feel your pain, myangel and kcjo. I've been experiencing similar problems with my own middle schoolers this past week.

    We worked on rounding, clustering and front-end estimation two weeks ago and the students really struggled with it. I wondered if I should spend more time on it, but the AP (who was one of the middle school math teachers before being promoted) said not to spend that much time on it. This past week, we worked on multiplying and dividing decimals, something that IS very important for the rest of the work they will be doing as well as the state testing.

    I did feel rather rushed trying to cover the material adequately everyday, but still get it completed before Thanksgiving Break. I normally give the kids at least 10-15 minutes of class time to do homework assignments, but that just wasn't possible last week because I was often explaining and re-illustrating the material (as well as covering the HW from the previous night) right up until the end of class. For the first time, I still gave homework assignments that had to be completed at home with very little class time to work on them. Each assignment consisted of about 15 problems, but most of those were very straightforward; multiply these two numbers, divide these two, etc. Of course, I ALWAYS include some multi-step problems as well that require the students to actually understand and set-up the problem so they can show they understand the concept and how to apply it.

    My team-partner gives Homework Passes as part of her class reward system. She asked me at the beginning of the year if I would be willing to honor these passes in my classroom as well. I told her that was fine. This past week was the first time students have used them in my room. Each time, it was when I gave a homework assignment at the end of class. I understand they didn't want to take time to work on the problems on their own, but I also understand they NEED to practice these concepts if they are going to truly understand them. I told them they could use their passes if they wished, BUT the material would STILL be on the Friday Quiz and there would be NO passes allowed for that - so they better make sure they really do understand the concepts I am discussing.

    When I DO give time in class, MOST students use that time wisely, but many of them simply sit around and talk. I'm sorry, if I'm sacrificing part of my instruction time to allow students an opportunity to work on the content, then they had better USE that time for that purpose. If they tell me "I'll work on this later", then there is no reason for me to cut my instruction time short to give them time that is just going to be wasted.

    Not surprisingly, most of the ones who do NOT utilize the time I give them also are failing or in danger of failing with one or two bad grades.
     
  15. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Nov 24, 2010

    I sent out progress reports today. In one class I have about 80% failing. EIGHTY PERCENT!!! With the exception of two students I believe that it is all due to laziness. Amazing how the students who study and come to class are the ones who are passing.

    I do have some students that would probably only get a D if they did come to class and study. They are just bad test takers. Group projects are a bust in that class. I needed some way for the poor testers to get a decent grade. Since 99% of the time I hear from students who do not want to work in class that they concentrate better at home, I created an assignment that has to be done outside of class. The first checkpoint is due on Tuesday. We'll see how that goes.

    This class very rarely gets homework. The only homework I can remember them having is finishing work that they were too lazy to do in class. Not having time at home is no excuse. They had time in my class.
     

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