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One Teachers thoughts on Zero's aren't Permitted (ZAP)

Updated on December 6, 2012
Homework starts in Kindergarten - Do little ones deserve a zero for not turning it in?
Homework starts in Kindergarten - Do little ones deserve a zero for not turning it in? | Source

Schools are headed there, are you prepared?

As a teacher I have seen many changes in education, different ways of thinking, waves of bright moments where we all buy in to some new fangled idea. The district I worked for was all about this particular writing program for years, all we heard over and over again was this lady's name. Then one day poof she was gone and so was the program and we were once again allowed to think for ourselves.... until something new came along.

So here it is the new wave of making sure that children pass in school. Do we fail children because they don't do their homework when they master the material without doing it or do we buy into the new system that allows kids to not do homework on their time but rather on ours.

Different Methods of ZAP & Why Schools buy in

One way that we don't allow zeros is by simply ignoring homework grades. Many schools are starting to see the injustice in students who do not have the support at home to complete homework and assignment outside of school. These students may or may not struggle in school but their home life interferes with them completing assignments in a productive manner.Does homework really matter and should it even be assigned? As a math teacher the jury is still out on this one for me. I am not sure that the end of homework is the answer, but I do believe in less homework. My class homework is always less than 15 problems, ussually closer to 10.

Another way of making sure the homework gets done when the students does not complete it outside of school is that they have to complete it in school whether during a detention time or during lunch. For some kids staying after school to have a quiet location to complete the work is something they really need but does it solve all problem, the answer is no. That same child also might be expected to be home at a certain time to take care of younger siblings, which is also probably the reason the work isn't getting done in the first place.

Another reason homework doesn't get done is the over committed student. You know the ones that are in every activity or are in one very demanding activity. These activities they have invested their lives to and at a certain age they believe it is more important than school. I get it because I have been on that side too. I was a dancer from a young age and by the time I hit high school I was at the studio 6 days a week. I also coached gymnastics when I first started teaching and I know the pressure those girls where under.

How I as a Teacher Change to Make it Work

There are a few ways to make sure your students are on track and that the new policy doesn't affect your classroom. I have done these at various levels of school and depending on the students and the class they worked.

The daily quiz. I stopped taking homework grades. After all it didn't really matter if my students did their homework or not, right? So I changed the way I taught slightly to make sure my student knew their math and were on the right track. My students were assigned 10 problems a night homework. When they came to class the next day they always had a 5 problem quiz, an open notebook quiz. The students could use their notes and homework, but not their textbook. Three of the problems were new basic problems and two problem were from the homework. It goes like this

Problem 4 - What is the answer to #4 on last nights homework?

So if the student did their homework it is right there and they just copy the answer. If they didn't do the homework they have no clue and the highest score they can get on the quiz is 3/5.

Okay it is a bit like cheating the system, but guess what my students always did their homework.

Another way is to just stop giving homework. A bit drastic I admit, but everything becomes classwork, you give plenty of time to finish it in class but if they don't they have to finish it later. You can give zeros for unfinished classwork under one of the schools I worked for just not for homework.

MODIFY MODIFY MODIFY - this is what I do most of the time. I meet the needs of my kids and know them and their situation well enough to know why the work isn't getting done. Whether it is lack of understanding, time constraints, or something completely different, knowing my students and their needs helps me decide what is right for that student.

Remember What the Goal is

Remember most teachers didn't go into teaching to give and grade homework. The goal is to teach students and have them become successful members of society. I want my students to be successful, I want them to learn, and I want them to have high expectations for themselves. In the long run it isn't about homework it is about doing what is right for the student.

"No other profession would be possible without teachers" - quote from the documentary Mitchell 20


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    • gmarquardt profile image

      gmarquardt 3 years ago from Hill Country, Texas

      Homework usually does not work well in my classes, as few students have any sources at home to study a foreign language. And you are right, we didn't get into education to grade copious amounts of paperwork. True evaluations are long term ... like ten years down the line long! This was a good read that allowed me to reflect for a while. Voted up and thanks, keep writing!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      For years I felt compelled to give homework. My concern was often for those students who did not have a chance ot get it done because of other factors that had nothing to do with school. Families who are trying to survive on the most basic level often find homework is lost in the shuffle. And to me, that is ok. I never ever said anything about not having homework to a child in front of anyone else. WHen I could, I allowed children to come to my room early to work on homework for anyone's class. Then two years before I retired I taught kindergarten. And guess what??? Homework was required. O I made a homework calendar for the month...about things that would not require a lot of hassle...

      I always felt that if I was doing a really good job of teaching that homework would not be necessary. Being in school was the child's job..not going home to do hours more. I always told parents in elementary grades k-3 that if homework was taking longer than 20 minutes for my class that the child was taking too many breaks. I so agree that we are there to produce citizens who can function not to dole out/check homework. Thank you for sharing this.

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      I would like to think that after year of teaching and achieving national board that I know how to teach math, that is a broad statement. My classroom does not require vast amounts of homework a night. My students explore the concepts in a way that they make meaningful connections to the subject and know the why and not just the how. They explore, touch, hypothesis, discuss, and truly learn the concepts I am introducing to them.

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      Interesting thoughts Wesley, I know I didn't have the home support for homework. Math was the only subject that got done. Projects I didn't have a clue where to start. Punishing kids for not doing homework isn't helping them learn the material. My smaller assignment are that way for a reason and I usualy give a short amount of time at the end of class to start so many kids don't even have homework.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 5 years ago from LA

      Math is a subject that I presume NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO TEACH. And that is my opinion. That being said, the current teaching techniques demand homework because that is the only way to develop math skills. These skills require doing a good amount of various problems every single school night. Unless the classroom includes didactic material to manipulate, providing concrete understanding of abstract concepts, forget NOT DOING HOMEWORK!

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 5 years ago from Wuhan, China

      No homework?!?!

      As a child I almost never did homework. I also rarely did classwork. I was one of those annoying children who was able to pass tests because he knew the material but who put in little to no effort. There was only one class that this hurt me in, math.

      I was barely passing through most of my school years. I had mostly As and occasional Bs on every test that I took (except in math) but I was still close to failing most of my classes because I didn't have the grades from class and homework. I also had some attendance issues.

      As a child I would have loved a system that only gave grades based on tests. That's actually how much of the system in China works, except they still have to do the homework. They also have much more homework than we do in the states. I often look at the students here and think that children in the US have little to complain about. They at least have more than an hour a week to watch TV and just be a kid.

      I'm not saying that homework is bad. I've grown to see the value of homework. However much of what I've read on the subject recently leads me to believe that much of the homework that students have is superfluous. My current belief, based mostly on what I've read recently, is that homework for each subject of study should take no more than 15 minutes each day.

      My understanding is that after 15 minutes you reach a point of diminished capacity. Attention fades and any material that is reviewed during this time will be less likely to be retained.

      The fact that you give ten to fifteen problems each day for homework fits into this. I'm guessing that this is intentional. It makes it more likely that the students will complete the homework. It also makes it more digestible.

      Now that I think about it I can remember my math teacher assigning every odd numbered problem in a section containing over a hundred problems every time she assigned homework. Yeah, ten to fifteen sounds a lot better.