But either way… I have to confess…
I don’t grade homework.
There. I said it!
Now don’t throw tomatoes at me! Hear me out on this!
Not only do I NOT grade homework… I barely look over it. As in… I have a checklist of students that I have a parent volunteer or student check off, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t spend hours looking over papers from the night before.
I also don’t “punish” my students for not doing their homework. They don’t sit out at recess, they don’t lose points. Nothing. If a kid tells me he didn’t do his homework, I give a look and ask them to be more responsible.
Ludicrous, I know… You’re ready to aim! But hear me out on this one!
I’m not a fan of homework personally. I’ve written about that topic before (here). I’m a big believer in letting kids be kids. I want kids to run outside and play when they get home, not be slumped over the kitchen table as they brood over their continued lessons of the day. Didn’t they just spend the last six hours doing that?
Also, in the early grades, teachers know the majority of homework is spent with a parent acting as a task manager. Is that work on the paper even theirs? Or worse, I’m punishing a student who goes home to an empty house all afternoon and has to watch their younger sister and possibly cook dinner. How can I be upset with that student?
But, my district has a homework policy and, as the ever model teacher, I assign it. So I justify it by thinking…homework is that it is not for me.
I’ll repeat that again: Homework is NOT for me, the teacher!
For me, homework is for the student and parent. This holds especially true for students in grades k-3. Let’s be honest folks, how many 7-year-olds do you know that are 100% self-sufficient and complete their homework without one look from a parent? Few… if any… And if that was the case, I’d be saddened by it. Homework serves as a connection of the classroom at home. It’s a time for parents to see and be involved in their child’s learning in a way that is meaningful and non-threatening. Homework should serve as a reinforcement of what’s happening in the classroom and a way for those skills to be communicated in the home.
Research on Homework
Let’s talk research, shall we? I know I like cold hard facts. There have been TONS of studies on homework. Here’s a few and their findings…
The Cold Hard Facts…
(2006) examined the correlation between homework and math achievement in forty-six countries. Student achievement was lower in countries where homework counted toward grades, where it was the basis for classroom discussion, and where students corrected homework in class.
(1999) examined the differences in test scores among fourth graders who either did or did not do homework. Her findings indicated no differences in math achievement scores between students in the two homework groups.
Sum it Up…
CenterofPublicEducation.org summed up all those numerous studies on the correlation between homework and student achievement. According to their findings, the research is all over the place and varies with grade, age, and parental involvement. But, some of the research overlapped enough to help debunk a few myths…
Does homework affect student learning?
Myth 1: Homework increases academic achievement.
What researchers say: Cooper (1989a) argues that reviews on the link between homework and achievement often directly contradict one another and are so different in design that the findings of one study cannot be evaluated fairly against the findings of others.
Myth 2: Without excessive homework, students’ test scores will not be internationally competitive.
What researchers say: Information from international assessments shows little relationship between the amount of homework students do and test scores. Students in Japan and Finland, for example, are assigned less homework but still outperform U.S. students on tests (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development 2004). Other studies find a positive relationship in math, but not in reading (Fuchs et al. 2004).
Myth 3: Those who question homework want to weaken curriculum and
pander to students’ laziness.
What researchers say: Kralovec and Buell (2001) note that homework critics rarely question the work assigned but rather the fact that the work is so often performed at home without adult supervision to aid the learning process.
See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Instruction/What-research-says-about-the-value-of-homework-At-a-glance/What-research-says-about-the-value-of-homework-Research-review.html#sthash.oU4HY5FV.dpuf
What to do instead, then?
So if traditional homework isn’t as effective in increasing student achievement, I prefer not to expound too much energy there. See the logic?
So let’s set that tomato down…on the table…(The one you used to spend hours at grading homework)
Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t be assigning homework AT ALL… I think homework in the higher grades is a must. It helps foster independence and self-pacing. Things that college-bound students need to achieve. (More research on that…)
There are definite benefits to homework in the younger grades as well. But we need to be purposeful in our assignments. Homework shouldn’t just be busy work.So here’s some food for thought…Looking at just these handfuls of studies, we can see that homework can help, if it’s done in a positive way.
Cases for making homework meaningful:
Van Voorhis (2003) examined the association between homework and science achievement in middle school grades. Van Voorhis found that students who completed more science homework earned higher science grades on their report cards. She also noted that interactive assignments—those that require interacting with other students or with parents—and parent involvement were important factors in ensuring homework’s effectiveness.
De Jong, Westerhof, and Creemers (2000) Through their multi-level analysis, the researchers found that the amount of homework was the only factor related to achievement—and that
it accounted for only 2.4 percent of the difference in achievement between students who did homework and those who did not. Notably, the frequency of homework assignments and the amount of time students spent on them were not related to achievement.
See more at:
So, the takeaway? Don’t stress over homework. Don’t spend your valuable time grading it and checking it in! Your time should be better spent on more effective teaching practices, like giving meaningful feedback, designing
interdisciplinary lessons, and teaching kids! Instead, use it as a way to communicate to parents at home as to what their child is learning in school. Also, make the homework as meaningful as possible.
Projects, creative writing, research: all great things that can be done at home that add to the classroom experience.
If a child is struggling with completing homework, find out why. Is it because it is too hard? Too easy? Or is it because they are busy taking care of themselves when they get home? Once you’ve figured it out, you can adjust your homework accordingly. Let’s make it a more meaningful experience instead of a dreaded one.
So, I’ll just take that tomato now… and you’re welcome for crossing one thing off your to do list this year. 😉
What’s your take on the homework debate? I’d love to keep this conversation going. Comment below!
Sign up to snag these!
Subscribe to receive all these tools right to your inbox!
Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, a myth seems to persist among students and parents that teachers relish giving out homework – the more, the better! This is especially sensitive when you start talking about the amount of homework elementary school children get assigned. I am was personally surprised when my first grader (now in second) started coming up with ample homework.
Homework can be a divisive issue between teachers and parents, especially if there is poor (or no) communication around the issue. It’s important to keep a dialogue open so that everyone understands that homework is part of the larger puzzle: A comprehensive, well-rounded educational experience for the student.
Here are 7 ideas to keep in mind:
1. Set expectations early. As much as possible, keep parents looped in about how much homework their kids can generally expect, per night and per week. Obviously, this is going to vary from child to child – not to mention throughout the year – but even rough guidelines can be helpful.
2. Explain why homework is necessary. As a parent, I really want to understand how much homework is expected of my children and whey. As an educator, you understand that sometimes the learning process has to extend beyond the four corners of the school day. This point isn’t always as clear to students and parents as you might think, so make a point to talk about it.
3. Help parents help with homework. Think of it as “Homework 101” for parents. Explain that their children optimally need a quiet, dedicated space at home to do homework, that leaving everything until after dinner is often a recipe for disaster, and the things parents should have on hand (such as basic research materials, like a print or online dictionary) to help their children succeed at the task. It’s imperative that parents try their hardest to provide the right environment for homework to get done.
4. Tell parents (politely) to not get overinvolved. We’ve all seen parents get too involved in homework, sometimes to the extent of doing entire projects all by themselves with nary a glance from the student. Oftentimes this is simply good intentions gone overboard. Clearly explain to parents the difference between facilitating their child’s homework (good; see above) and doing it for them (becoming helicopter parents; bad).
5. Stay positive about homework, and encourage parents to do the same. Just between us, we know that you teachers don’t like grading homework in the evenings any more than the kids like doing homework in the evenings – and that grading is often one of the least favorite parts of any teacher’s job. That having been said, it’s important to stay upbeat about the process so that parents and students don’t turn against it and get discouraged.
6. Post assignments in a central online location. MemberHub, of course, is perfect for this. You never want to encourage students to leave things to the last minute, but it happens. Help them (and their parents) out by making it easy for them to figure out what’s due when – even if inspiration doesn’t strike until 9:30 pm on a Saturday.
7. Reinforce your availability to talk about homework challenges. Sometimes, a student’s particular courseload can explode into a “perfect storm” of homework overwhelm at some point during the year. Sometimes a student may have procrastinated him- or herself into a homework pit of despair. And, sometimes, challenges with homework assignments can be a red flag for more serious issues that need to be addressed, such as learning differences or problems at home.
Whatever the problem, if you encourage parents and students to come to you with their questions and concerns, you are all far more likely to resolve the problem in a productive, satisfactory manner – rather than being unfairly flagged as “that teacher who gives too much homework.”