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September 6, 2010

What is the purpose of homework?  Should all students have homework?  Is it a necessary part of the 21st century classroom?

This year I am evaluating all my typical pedagogical decisions.  Homework has traditionally been a daily part of my student’s lives.  Last spring, I started analyzing the homework I distributed, and why I chose what I chose.  In some cases, the homework fit perfectly into the pacing of the class.  In other cases, I realized I was giving homework because I felt like I had to give homework.  Basically, homework for the sake of having homework.  The worst part was some of my students could see that their homework was arbitrary.  Not this Year!

This year, I am only giving homework when it is purposeful.

1.  I am not going to feel pressure from parents to give useless homework assignments.

2.  I am not going to plan my homework assignments  a week in advance.

3.  I am not going to feel that every student needs the same homework assignment.

4.  I am not going to feel bad if I give one student homework and not another.

Homework, just like every other decision in the classroom, needs to have purpose!  Homework needs to be given to help struggling students, or enrich what has already been taught.  I want to make homework an effective tool in my classroom.

How do you use homework?  What have you found is an effective method for choosing an homework assignment?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 1:05 am

    This is a wonderful idea! I am not currently teaching, but I would be interested to know what criteria you are developing for yourself to determine when homework should be assigned. Will you only give assignments the same day, based upon how you feel classroom discussion or in-class work went, or will you plan to assign something the day or so before if the students seem to be struggling with concepts?
    Also, how do you think parents will react to some students receiving more homework? I’d love to know how you’ll approach assigning homework to some students and not others, because I agree that it’s a wonderful idea. My worry with implementation is that, if other students are aware of how much homework their peers are being assigned, it could be a source of worry that those students are seen as ‘underachieving’ or even ‘slow’ by their peers.
    Sorry I have nothing to add about using homework beyond the daily assignment model, but I look forward to seeing what others say!

    • September 6, 2010 1:10 am

      I do not have all these answers yet. I do not know that I will have homework assignments ready as we study different topics but I will only give them when necessary. My response to a parent is that we are suppose to teach the students as individuals based on their learning ability, so why should homework be any different.

  2. September 6, 2010 1:17 am

    Last year I could get away with not assigning homework every M – TH because I had a partner teacher who did.

    I told parents at back to school night I believe spending time with their family is more important than homework. That their child should not spend more than 40 min on their homework. 20 minutes will be reading anything they want. My guys are heavy into graphic novels this year.

  3. September 6, 2010 2:41 am

    I agree with your affirmations. This is clearly one part of an overall overhaul of your practices. Why should we ever assign something just to assign it? Assignments — homework or classwork — that aren’t meaningful are a waste of time, in my opinion.

    My (high school English) students’ homework usually consists of reading (a section of a book due by a certain date) and/or writing, projects, and occasionally finishing work begun in class. I tell their parents at Open House that I don’t send home worksheets as homework. I’ve never had parents complain.

    Ironically, I stumbled upon this site earlier today:….and as the mom of a 1st-grader who has at least 30 minutes of HW a night, which in essence is MY homework (since I have to make sure it gets done), I’m almost sold…

  4. September 6, 2010 2:42 am

    Oops. Will you change that link for me? The ellipsis is breaking it. Sorry. 😦

  5. Erica permalink
    September 6, 2010 2:47 am

    Kudos! This is the kind of reflection that will be really powerful.

    In the Responsive Classroom training over the summer we talked about effectiveness of homework – especially if a kid didn’t “get it” during the day. . . how is it going to help them to go home and keep doing it wrong?

  6. September 6, 2010 4:24 am

    I’ve abolished homework as traditional school defines it. I see homework as something not to assign but to inspire. Here are a series of blog posts I’ve written on the subject.

    • September 6, 2010 10:54 am

      Thanks Man. Keep these types of posts coming my way. What do you teach?

  7. Karla Kirtley permalink
    September 6, 2010 2:46 pm

    I think the whole homework issue regarding elementary kids needs to be overhauled. The operative word is “purposeful”. Re-educating parents is also key. There are many parents who believe that if a child does not have homework then a) the child is not being “challenged” in school at all, and b) we teachers have no higher expectations for the child. I can learn more about a child by what he or she performs in class than by any project or assignment that comes from home.
    And that, quite simply, is what I tell parents. Homework is practice for skills already learned in class, to polish and perfect those skills so that they become second nature to the child.
    On the other hand, there ARE times when I will hand out a “challenge” question or assignment specifically because I know that the child WILL get the parents involved, which is the point. It requires some parent/child learning together, and illustrates the “purposeful” aspect of what homework should be.

  8. Erica permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:12 pm

    from 100 years ago. . .

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