I currently teach five DIFFERENT classes everyday. I have three levels of science class and two levels of math. Five different preps in a seven period day. The other periods are not always free periods either. They are filled with recess and lunch duties, covering for study halls, IEP meetings, and all the other random stuff that pulls you away from the classroom and prepping for classes. Because of this, I don’t have a lot of extra time to spend on grading. I especially don’t have time to grade every single little assignments students have. Even with small class sizes (which I have this year), just grading math homework would take a lot of my “free” time. However, I assign math homework almost every day!

I think math is one of those classes, though, that students need to practice in order to understand what they learned. Often, we do not have enough time in our short class periods to get enough practice in. Therefore, students typically have math homework to take home and finish.

So then we have a dilemma! Students must complete their math homework, but most catch on quickly that they are not asked to turn it in everyday. When you teach middle school students, this is a recipe for disaster! In their minds, not turning something in = don’t have to do it. I needed a way to encourage students to complete their daily assignments without overloading myself with grading.

Enter the “Happy Homework Chart”. During my student teaching stint, a cooperating teacher did something similar to this and I loved the idea. It is a simple way to use positive peer pressure and encourage students to complete their assignments! 

How it works:
  1. At the beginning of every class, students are to take out their homework. While they are working on an intro question or warm up, I walk around the room and check for completion only.
  2. If ALL the students in the class have the assignment completed, we get two stickers on our chart! If only ONE student misses, I still give the students one sticker.
  3. Once students reach 20 stickers (fills one column), the entire class gets a reward!

I call it the Happy Homework Chart because I use happy face stickers. Pick whatever stickers that you like best! To make your own chart, use Excel or Word and create an empty table or chart with however many boxes you would like.

You can also choose whatever reward fits for you and your class. I actually have different “levels” of rewards for each quarter.

Level 1

If students get the first column completed in a semester, I bring in a snack (usually cookies, brownies, etc) sometime during the next week. Food is such a motivator! Just the idea of receiving a cookie gets these students motivated.

Level 2

A second completed column in a semester means I bring in a snack AND students get to play math games instead of a regular lesson.

Level 3

If students can manage to get one more column (or more) completed during a semester, I bring in a snack AND we do no math. Instead we watch a movie, play outside, or do something else fun to celebrate.

I was a little worried when I first introduced this because I thought I would have to bring in snacks every other week. However, there are very few days when every single student does their homework, even with this system. It typically takes about 4-5 weeks before we complete a column (sometimes more or less depending on if there is an assignment everyday or not), so it is definitely manageable. You can always adjust the amount of stickers needed to complete a column.

A Few Other Things to Keep in Mind:
  1. Sometimes students try to quickly fill in numbers right before I walk around to make it look like they finished it. Usually I can tell by looking at their homework if they did this, and if that occurs, no stickers are given, even if everyone else had it done… this usually discourages the problem from happening again any time soon.
  2. I don’t count absences as incompletes. If a student did not receive the assignment because they are absent, it doesn’t count against the class.
  3. Students sometimes have questions or are confused on one or two problems in an assignment. They occasionally don’t do those problems because we always review questions on the homework at the start of class. I often have to use good judgment if they simply did not understand, or if they just did not complete the homework and are trying to pull it off as “I didn’t get it!” I typically tell students to TRY and do something and not leave it blank.

This system has worked well for me, and most days students will at least get one sticker. A quick walk around the classroom takes little time and we can move on to questions. If I want students to hand in the homework, I collect the assignment after my walk through.

I know other teachers have many different methods for encouraging their students in their homework. If you have something that works well for you, I would love to hear it!

Happy Homeworking!

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