I am struggling this year with getting kids to complete assignments. Teaching math means kids need to practice skills on their own in order to cement in their brains, the processes learned. We usually spend the first day/s on a topic, working together, usually using small whiteboards, practicing the process, the steps, the how-to of our new skill set. But at some point, students must work independently to make those skills stick with them in long term memory.
I try to give time in class to work on the problems assigned. There is a two-fold reason for this - #1, I want students to have me or others as a resource should they run into problems. I want to be able to look over their shoulders, sit next to strugglers, help them through the rough parts. #2, Students often do not complete work once they leave my room.
Hence, my struggle. I try to give a reasonable amount of independent work, what I think it will take the average 7th grader to complete in the alloted time in class.
Unfortunately, there are students who work slowly and need more time. That might be because they process slowly, needing more time to think about what they are doing. Those are the kids who work steadily, determined to be successful. They are using class time wisely, asking for help, using the resources made available to them. They will plod their way through, step by step by step.
Others that do not finish are the ones I struggle the most with. These are the intentional dawdlers. They just simply waste time. Regardless of the task in front of them, they tackle it with as much enthusiasm as a snail slithering across a cold sidewalk.
Unfortunately, just cutting an assignment in half for either of these groups is probably not the answer. The first group, the slow processors, need more problems than the average student to grasp what is being taught. They need practice, practice, practice to get it right, to make it automatic in their minds. Much like the star basketball player who spends hours to master those shooting and dribbling skills, these kids should be spending MORE time instead less time, if they ever want to be math stars.
In the second group, the pokey group, some of these kids could probably grasp the concepts with fewer problems, and for those, I do not mind adjusting an assignment. However, usually, it is so difficult to assess whether or not they know what is going on or not, I am reluctant to do that!
What's the answer?? I am not sure.. I can sit with the individual students, trying to prod them to work faster, but with some of them, that is like torture, for them as well as me.
There has to be a solution...
.....parents forcing kids to do homework? Maybe... but often times, there are legitimate reasons kids don't do schoolwork outside of school.
....more time in the school day to work on math skills? sure, but what is going to be taken from their schedule to make time for this?
..... some other option I have yet to discover? probably....