by Matthew Beyranavand, K-12 Mathematics and Science Coordinator, Chelmsford Public Schools:
The holidays are now over and you just completed a well-deserved vacation from teaching. While trying to plan some New Year’s Eve activities, it is a good time to reflect on the first half of the school year and to rethink a few things in your classroom. This is also a good time of year to try some new things to support student learning. Here are some ideas you can try in January.
Why do you give homework in your class? What purpose does the homework serve? These are two very tricky, but important, questions to think about. The thoughts and research are mixed on this topic about homework, and it is important for each teacher to give this some thought. If you do assign homework on a regular basis, consider a few things:
- Does the homework align to the daily lesson? It is important that the work done at home reinforces the learning that just took place. Having students attempt new or difficult problems alone without the assistance of the teacher present is a recipe for failure.
- Make sure that the students are not viewing the homework for the first time at home. Spending the last few minutes of class previewing the homework and even having students solve the first problem is one way to increase homework completion.
- When assigning homework, it should not be longer than 10 minutes in elementary school, 20 minutes in middle school, and 30 minutes in high school, even in honors classes. Students’ health and well being are being affected by the amount of homework they do.
Rethinking How You Grade
At the beginning of the term, a student failed an assessment on adding fractions, but by the end of the term, she had mastered the skill and aced the summative assessment. Based only on these indicators, how would you grade this student on the report card? The majority of teachers would calculate some sorted of weighted average of the assessments as the grade, but it is time to stop averaging grades. The important aspect is that by the end of the term or year that the students have learned the standards and concepts for the course. Students should not be penalized if it takes them a bit longer to move to proficiency, and teachers should be encouraged not to use this against students when determining grades.
Incorporate Growth Mindset
Growth mindset has become a prominent new term within education, but how much do you really know about encouraging a growth mindset with your students? The With Math I Can campaign has some of the best resources for the classroom, school districts, and for home. The work of Jo Boaler and Youcubed also provides extensive information for teachers who are beginning to implement growth mindset into their classroom or teachers who are looking for new ideas to support or supplement the growth mindset strategies they're already using in the classroom.
Understanding all of the new technologies in the classroom is a big job, especially with new apps and programs being developed every week. Many teachers welcome new technologies into their classroom to improve student engagement and understanding of the topics. If you are not a teacher that currently embraces technology in the classroom, this could be your New Year’s resolution. Your students will appreciate it! You can listen to a podcast episode, join a Twitter chat, or just talk with other teachers in your school to find out what they are doing.
Dr. Matthew Beyranevand is the K-12 mathematics and science coordinator for Chelmsford Public Schools in Massachusetts. Through his website, Math with Matthew, Matthew provides visitors with podcast episodes, music videos, educational resources, and a video blog. After years as a middle school mathematics teacher, Matthew transitioned into school administration. He is leading a department of over 80 middle and high school math and science teachers. As a graduate instructor of mathematics and education courses at University of Massachusetts Lowell and Fitchburg State University for over 30 semesters, Matthew has become an expert in the best-practice techniques for instructing both new and established teachers. His first book Teach Math Like This, Not Like That will be available in Fall 2017.