Several years ago, before I started flipping my Algebra class, my school district revamped the entire Algebra program for all teachers throughout the district. We were all required to follow the new program completely.

One part of the new program was a change in how students’ grades were assigned. The district decided that each student’s grade should reflect their performance on the summative assessments, or chapter tests, only. While homework, classwork and other formative assessments were to be assigned, no points for these assignments were allowed to be used in calculating students’ final grades for the course.

Obediently, I began that school year by explaining the program changes to my students, including the changes to the grading policy. What I experienced was a classic example of a breakdown in communication. The message I sent was not the message my students received.

My message was that homework would be assigned each day and the homework would not count for points. The students apparently took this to mean that they did not need to do any homework, which is exactly what they did!

The important information I took away from this experience is that fourteen-year-old students will more likely do their homework if value (in this case, points) is given to their efforts and they will likely NOT do their homework if no value is given.

When I first flipped my Algebra class, I knew that I must assign points for watching the homework videos if I wanted the students to actually do the homework. This has worked very well for me and my students.

We begin class each day with the students working a few warm up problems from the previous day’s topic while I check everyone’s notes from their homework videos. I give 4 points if their notes are complete. I do not accept incomplete notes at all, so no partial credit. I direct students with no notes or incomplete notes to classroom computers to finish their assignment while the rest of us begin the activities for the day.

In the online grade book, I weight the homework category as only 5% of the overall grade. This still validates homework for students and has little impact on their overall grade.