by Harry and Rosemary Wong
A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate
Ready before it happens---that’s the hallmark of an effective teacher. Barbara De Santis is one such teacher who is ready before her students walk in the door each morning. For those students who do not do their homework, Barbara De Santis has pink slips ready for pick up and completion.
Chelonnda Seroyer uses pink slips, too, and she has a high percent homework turn in rate.
Both of these effective teachers and their procedures have been featured in past teachers.net columns. Barbara De Santis shared her first day of school script in “Effective Teachers Are Proactive.” Chelonnda Seroyer validates “The Power of Procedures” in the February 2005 column.
Barbara and Chelonnda use the pink slip technique to give students an opportunity to explain why they chose not to do their homework.
In their classrooms, students are not allowed to sit passively and not turn in their homework. They are required to take responsibility for their actions by completing a pink slip when homework is not turned in. The students are warned of this procedure on the first day of school.
Click here to see the pink slip.
The students are told that there is no penalty for filling one out other than the loss of credit for their homework assignment. However, they always ask, "What happens after we get so many?" or "What are you going to DO to us if we get one?"
Chelonnda tells her students that she will not be DOING anything to them. It is simply a procedure that allows them to offer an explanation and allows her to document why they do not have their homework.
She does tell them that she will show the pink slip to their parents and the administration, if necessary, during conferences about their performance in her class. She gets affirmation that they understand the procedure and moves on.
Origin of the Pink Slip
Barbara De Santis learned of the pink slip technique when she heard Chelonnda Seroyer speak at a meeting. Chelonnda, in turn, said she “stole” the technique from a fellow teacher, Karla Hensen, at Liberty Middle School in Madison, Alabama.
The original form was called the "Personal Responsibility Card." It was a 3½ x 5 inch card and it had the same information that the pink slip has.
However, Chelonnda found that the card was difficult to file and it did not stack neatly with the other homework papers. So, with a good friend, Grindl Weldon at Locust Fork High School in Blount County, Alabama, they resolved to revise it.
Someone had given Chelonnda a pack of pink paper (“Teachers will accept anything!” she says.) and she didn't know what to do with it. So, instead of wasting it, they opted to reprint the information from the "Personal Responsibility Card" and put it on the "Pink Slip."
It worked wonderfully because it was an 8½ by 11 inch piece of paper that was easily distinguished from the rest of the stack. This made it easier to sort and file immediately.
Chelonnda’s Pink Slip Experience
Although the students are fully aware that she will use the pink slip during conferences, Chelonnda says that she is often amazed by what they will write down.
One student said that he did not do his homework because his grandmother
died and he had to go to her funeral.
Shortly after that, the administration orchestrated a conference concerning this student's poor academic progress. Guess who showed up at the conference . . . the grandmother!
Another student wrote,
"I was at home and I sat down to do my work and then I realized that I didn't have a pen or a pencil. So, after looking for a total of 15 seconds, I chose not to do my work then, but I would get to it later. I lied. I didn't do it at all because I forgot. THE END."
Shortly thereafter, his father called to inquire about the zero that his son received on this assignment. Chelonnda read his son’s statement to him and there was absolute silence on the other end of the phone! He quickly thanked her for her time and said that he would have a talk with his son!
Chelonnda and Harry regularly present their classroom management techniques to the teachers of the Miami/Dade County Schools.
At one of these sessions, a teacher shared that he had been using the pink slip. He had a HORRIBLE time with students not turning in their work. He used the pink slip. He said that the first week he used an entire ream of paper. The next ream lasted him the rest of the school year! His homework turn in rate improved drastically!
At a similar type of session in New Jersey, a principal said that he asked his teachers to use the pink slip. He said that their homework turn in rate increased from 45 percent to 85 percent!!
Chelonnda says that she currently has a 92 percent homework turn in rate.
And, it gets better each year!
Barbara’s Pink Slip Experience
Barbara De Santis shares how she has used the pink slip:
- It provides excellent documentation at parent teacher conferences. When the parent swears the child has completed the assignment, the pink slip is produced in the child’s handwriting. End of discussion.
- They are great resources when writing progress reports. Information from the pink slips can be sent home every week for parental review and signature, if needed.
- In her class, she uses them to withhold reward activities. Excessive pink slips means the student cannot go to a special program or cannot participate in a class activity.
Barbara started to use the pink slips last school year and has shared that she plans to spend time this year analyzing its efficacy during the school year. She says that she wants to see if she can identify any recurring problems. She plans on involving the students in the analysis of the problems and have them make recommendations for improvement and success.
Before you use the pink slip as a threatening devise, do as Barbara De Santis plans to do this year. Analyze the problem. It may well be how the homework assignments are being assigned.
How to Improve the Homework Turn-in Rate
- Wait until the second or third week of school to assign homework that is to be done at home. During the first week or two of school, assign homework, but do it in class. Teach the students the procedure of how to do the homework. When you have assessed the student’s ability to do the homework correctly, then assign homework to go home.
- Start the homework in class and then send the students home to finish the homework is a variation to use when you sense students may have a difficult time with the assignment.
- Tell the students what the homework is and what the purpose is of the homework. The homework must be correlated to the objectives of the lesson. If not, the students will ask why they have to do the homework. The students will suspect (as well as the parents) that the assignment is just busy work masquerading as “homework.”
- Make the homework consistent in style and clear in purpose. A consistent style also helps to reinforce the routine of completing the assignment. This is the same as routines that must be done in life such as washing the dishes, calling an elderly parent, or picking up the kids, but if there is a routine, it makes the task that much easier to complete.
- Give homework that is a positive, enriching experience. It should be an opportunity to reinforce the day’s learning.
- Indicate the probable length of time for completion somewhere on the homework assignment. Just as you like to know the length of a song on a CD or the length of a movie on a DVD or at a theater, you can improve homework completion rate if the students know the time it will take to do an assignment.
Bear in mind that some students are shuttled between parents or caregivers. Others have parents or siblings to take care of or have a part-time job, so you can help them to schedule their time by indicating the length of the assignment.
Do the first few homework assignments yourself. Ask yourself the important question: If I were the student, could I complete the assignment in a reasonable amount of time, with success, and what will I have learned or have reinforced from having competed the homework assignment?
Procedures for Orchestrating Homework
Dedicate a place in the classroom to post assignments. This can probably be the same place where the daily schedule is posted.
As soon as the students come into the classroom, have them place their homework in a designated spot on their desk (a procedure) and begin their bellwork assignment.
While they are working, work the class—visiting with each student, asking about their homework, maybe even their life. Daily contact right at the beginning is an easy, but meaningful way to build a relationship.
Homework must be corrected. If they see that homework is assigned, but not looked at, they will logically stop doing the homework, even with the best of students.
The purpose of homework is to reinforce or provide more practice for the class objective and lesson. You don’t grade practice, so don’t let homework become too much a part of the student’s grade, if at all.
Check the homework for completion or correctness, initial or stamp it, and note the completion in your grade-record book. The students want and appreciate the immediate feedback.
Bear in mind that certain students have parents who help their children with their homework, provide a designated study place, and even have procedures at home for where and when homework should be done. These students obviously have an advantage over the students who do not have these, which is not their fault.
Help the students to organize their homework. This also helps the parents to organize helping their child. To do this, perhaps you can have a permanent HOMEWORK FOLDER provided for each student. The homework goes home nightly in the folder and is returned the next day in the folder. The homework or the folder is placed in the designated place on the desk.
For those students who may be homeless, have parents who are barely making ends meet, or have no place to study, place a sheet or two of binder paper in the folder. It would even be nice if an occasional phrase were written, heart were drawn in the corner, or a “thank you” written in the bottom corner.
Make use of a school or district homework hotline, if one is available. If students are absent a procedure is for them to check the hotline for the current homework assignment.
For younger children, have a place for the parents to initial that they have seen the homework folder. This way the student cannot claim that there is “no homework.”
Before you assign homework, check your school’s policy about homework. It may be highly prescribed as to what you are to do and not to do.
Some students may need weekly, rather than nightly homework. This may be better for gifted and more mature students. Some students may be very active in school or have outside of school activities and will appreciate this flexibility.
The most effective time to assign homework is during the lesson; otherwise it has no relevance to the student. The other effective time is at the end of the lesson when the homework can bring summary to what has been learned and provide transition to the next lesson.
Effective Teachers Share Their Success
Effective teachers never cease to learn – especially from each other.
You’ve just read how a simple technique observed by one teacher got enhanced and then “stolen” by another. What it really is is collaboration. Effective teachers sharing what works with others.
In high performing schools, teachers who take a collegial approach to decision making and are willing to share with one another produce students who reach high academic standards.
It’s quite obvious that classrooms where homework turn in increases from 45 to 85 percent are producing students that are achieving more. And this is with one simple technique – a pink slip.
Imagine the achievement levels of students if we opened our classroom doors, our file cabinets, our boxes of techniques and shared with each others. We thank those who have done just that with us, shared with us what has worked for them, so we can share it with others. You are truly helping to elevate the profession and increase student achievement.
Call it sharing; call it stealing; call it research; call it collaboration, call it collegial learning. It’s an endeavor we all must practice. No one school or individual has all the answers. And no one answer fits every question. It’s a process one goes through to find what works best. Our ears, eyes, and mind must always be alert for what others are doing and how it is working for them.
Make a commitment this school year to share with a colleague, the staff, in a professional journal, at a workshop, with us what is working for you and how your students benefit from it. You will become a member of a much larger profession and grow greatly in the process. And the real winners will be the kids for you’ll bring to the classroom new insights, greater depth of understanding, and an endowment for their success.
We depend on each other for the creative solutions to our problems and the inspiration to find solutions for those we serve—our students.
The effective teacher never ceases to learn.
Make September a month for Sharing.
For a printable version of this article click here.
Email Harry Wong: email@example.com
Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
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Browse through the latest posts from the Classroom Management Chatboard...
How to Use1. Create the Student Responsibility Form
Decide what behaviors you will want to address with your form. Some teachers use forms for missed homework assignments only. Other teachers choose to use them for certain types of off-task behavior. If you choose to use the Student Responsibility Form for more than one behavior, list the possibilities on the form. Check off the behavior before you hand the form to the student. Make a place for the student to explain why he or she demonstrated the behavior and a place for the student to sign the slip, indicating they acknowledge the infraction.2. Set expectations
Once students have been taught procedures and expectations, they should be taught about the Student Responsibility Form procedure. Not following the set expectations means receiving a notification, just like students would receive when they have a job. It’s important that students understand that the teacher will show forms to their parents and administration, if necessary.3. Decide on consequences
Decide and explain how students will be penalized as they accumulate Student Responsibility Forms. For example, three forms for off-task behavior could result in parent contact. Receiving a form for not completing a homework assignment could mean that 5 points will be taken off the weekly participation grade.4. Distribute the form
Any time a student fails to meet a classroom expectation, hand him or her a Student Responsibility Form. Allow the student time to complete the form, explaining why he or she chose not to follow the classroom expectation.5. File the form
Collect and place the form in the student’s file or in a filing system of your choice.
When to Use
Use Student Responsibility Forms to encourage accountability for behaviors you are trying to reduce in your classroom:
• Missing homework assignment
• Not having necessary supplies
• Not participating in class
• Distracting other students
VariationsPink Slips - or Other Color Slips
Some teachers use colored paper for the Student Responsibility Forms and call the forms by that color. Pink is a popular color, so teachers can say they are issuing Pink Slips for behavior that is keeping students from the business of learning.Parent Signature
You might decide to give further weight to the forms by having students take them home to be signed by a parent or guardian.Class-wide Motivation System with Student Responsibility Forms
Depending on why you are issuing forms, you might want to have a competition between classes: the class with the fewest amount of issued forms each six weeks earns a reward. Or you could have a weekly class reward: if no Student Responsibility Forms are issued during the week, the class receives a reward.
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