Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts on homework...

I just read a blog by Justin Tarte that George Couros passed on entitled 'Thoughts on Homework' intended to create an open dialogue between teachers. I feel compelled to respond as I put a lot of thought into my students' homework assignments because I hated homework myself. I believe that if you are going to extend, or create learning experiences through homework, there has to be a motivation beyond the grade of the assignment for the student to participate and learn from the assignment.

Next week is our first week back. Early in the week, I will introduce their semester long homework assignment Budget Challenge. This is an online bill-paying simulation that is practical, engaging, competitive, and replicates the responsibility needed to stay on top of bills. Students check their email daily for bills, manage their virtual savings, checking, and retirement accounts, and earn points in a competition against their peers and fellow schools assessing their capability of managing virtual money.

One of my first lessons is goal setting. I use imagery in the activity, a technique highlighted in the article 'Time Travel. The Key to Financial Security' written by Dan Kadlec earlier in the year. As opposed to discussing artificial goals such as graduating, going to college, getting married, etc - - my activity is designed to engage the students into imagining how they want to live their own lives in much greater detail. In this activity, I ask the students to close their eyes, imagine they are 35 years old, and I then guide them through a long series of prompts such as "You are walking into work. What does it look like? What kind of people do you work with? What do you wear to work everyday?" They consider what their home looks like, how long their work hours are, what they can afford to do for fun, etc. The intention is to guide them through every detail of a day in their life in the future that they most desire. Immediately after the exercise, the students write each detail down.

For homework, the students are to draw a picture or find a picture that best illustrates a vision of that life. The next day the picture is checked for completion. In class we learn how to establish short term, intermediate, and long term SMART goals designed to get them to that ideal day at age 35. Finally, I tell the students to take the picture home and put it somewhere in their home where they can see it everyday so they have a picture of what their life goal is, inspiring them everyday to work toward their goals.

These are just two examples of how I use homework. Stacey Roshan introduced me to flipping, which I will use from time to time, and I love the extended learning opportunities created by Khan Academy.

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