The time balance never seems quite right. I don't have the perfect answer, but have noticed certain methods working better at certain times, and at least thought I could share some of the strategies I have tried.
As I struggled through each of these, I found the last strategy (the split end) to be the most versatile. It's also one that takes a certain classroom culture, so it may not be right for everyone. Here are the methods that can work in different situations. I doubt I am alone in this struggle, but who knows! Maybe it's just me. Either way, I hope that trying one of these will help you feel that you are finding a better balance with homework review.
Calling out Names
How it works: The teacher calls on one student at a time to provide an answer, moving quickly through the rows. Students put a star beside problems that they would like to ask about at the end. After going through the answers quickly, and correcting in red pen, there is a chance to ask questions about any problem that students are not sure why they got it wrong.
When it's best:
How long it takes: Once you get into questions at the end, this can drag on longer than I like sometimes. I have been known to cut them off and transfer the rest of homework checking into a split end strategy (see below) when I start losing a few bored students, but others still have questions. Either way, keep the verbal answer portion moving quickly. It should only take 3-4 minutes, unless you assign more than 30 problems.
How it works: Each student gets one problem assigned to present. The teacher can assign the names along with the homework problems, or can choose randomly when it is time to present each problem. The student comes to the board, solves the problem, and explains his/her method. Points can be assigned based on the presentation (as an assessment or simply as a participation grade). This method is great for helping students understand different approaches to the same problem.
When it's best:
How long it takes: This one can be the most time-intensive, but also can have the biggest payoff, for both the presenter and the class. It's so beneficial for kids to see a different method, and a different explanation other than the teacher's. Allow about 5 minutes per challenge problem.
How it works: Students silently and quickly look over an answer sheet that is displayed or projected on a screen at the front of the room. Each self-corrects his or her own work in a different colored pen. You can leave time at the end for questions.
Even for classes that I usually do a different method, I pull this one out for special days when we have shortened classes. It is super speedy when you are in a time crunch, but want to make sure everyone at least knows how they did and what to study.
When it's best:
How long it takes: Potentially under 5 minutes (plus any time at the end that you reserve for questions)
How it works: On a day that students are working in learning stations, one station is the "teacher station," where a small group goes over the previous night's homework with the teacher. Additional follow-up example problems should be on hand for extra practice together with any type of problem that the students in a particular group are struggling with. Students can ask questions in a small group setting and work together and with the teacher to clear up confusion on the lesson.
When it's best:
How long it takes: 10 minutes, repeated with each small group, while others work on independent learning stations around the room. This time is really maximized for big benefits because the time is intensely spent on each group's individual needs, and you have each student's full attention because of the small group setting.
How it works: After spending a few minutes taking questions and going over the most needed homework problems, stop the homework review altogether. Begin the new material, and proceed with your lesson as planned. If additional homework time is needed at the end of class, allow students to split into two groups. Those who "get it" move to the back of the room to begin a teacher-specified task. Those who would like additional help with the previous homework or lesson (or need more review) move to the front of the room to work at the board with the teacher.
I started this differentiation strategy after realizing that some periods I would spend almost 30-40 minutes going over homework, and never get to the lesson I planned because only a group of 5 students needed me to go over every single problem.
Once we developed a culture that worked for this, everyone was happy! As long as no one is embarrassed to be in one group or another, they all feel that they are winning. I was surprised at first to realize that the attitudes were not what I expected. Those that need help feel that it's a privilege to get extra time with me, and those who don't need it feel that it's a privilege to go work on something else instead of sitting bored and feeling held back. It made me wish that I had tried this sooner.
The reasons that I had always avoided splitting this way were far outweighed by the benefits. And the challenges that I expected never came, because each student felt the freedom to decide what they needed. I've tried this in middle school and high school, with great results and positive feedback from both groups of students.
I always let students self-select their own group. If I see someone consistently making a poor choice of which group to join, I address it privately with that student outside of class time.
The students love this method, because everyone gets what they need. The group in the back can get deeper into a critical thinking activity, work on an enrichment activity, or sometimes work ahead. I vary it from one class to another. I keep these groups flexible, because during one lesson, a student may be ready to move on, but in another topic feel totally lost. Once students get used to the "split end" structure, they love it and gain confidence. They also take great pride in self-assessing themselves correctly for each lesson, and knowing which area of the room to head to in order to set themselves up for success.
When it's best:
How long it takes: anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes (It's not really worth splitting and getting re-settled for less than 10 minutes, in my experience)
I have had some success with mixing and matching these. It helps to add variety and keep homework checking from becoming tedious. Depending on the type of work, the group of students, etc. I have changed up my methods from one day to the next. This helps to keep the kids on their toes and accountable.
During any option, I also check homework for completion, and grade on a 4-point system, which you can read about here.
As for myself, I am feeling like I will never be fully satisfied with any one solution to going over homework that works well for every class and every topic, but my goal here is really to share as many options as possible. These are the ones that I have tried, but please share what has worked best for you in the comments! I'd love to collect more strategies for our math teacher community. Thanks so much!
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