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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Great Homework Debate

The Great Homework Debate

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Hello Walden Group! I have done a lot of reading and a lot of talking to other teachers as well as parents about homework - how much to give, what to assign, packets vs. daily work, how much is too much or too little, etc. I'd love to hear back from fellow educators about what they do for homework. For example, I teach second-grade and I send home a packet that is differentiated for each student. It boils down to basically one page of math, one page of reading comprehension, and one spelling/word study per day plus 15 minutes of reading. It is sent home on Monday and is due Friday. I don't send home a lot of writing because it seems to be a flashpoint for battles between student and parent more than the other subjects. Does that sound appropriate, too much/too little, or should I modify it in some way? I am curious to hear from everyone about what they do for this, as homework tends to be pretty controversial in a lot of districts and among teachers/grade levels.

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Anna Forrester's picture

Hi Kim,
I am just wondering how you find the time to prepare 20 differentiated homework assignments for your class. I could use a little help with that. (I also teach 2nd grade.) I struggle with this concept too. Trying to give meaningful homework - not too much- not too little.
Thanks!

Bernadette's picture

After reading many of your responses to homework, I like what Garrick had to say. I believe that packets can be busy work, and I think that every grade level should be assigned homework. However,the amount of work given should be based on the grade level. Homework should also be work that is given to reinforce what has been previously taught in the classroom. Last, but not least, students should be expected to read every night and keep a reading log, regardless of the age or grade level.

Jeremy Hurd's picture
Jeremy Hurd
9th grade Math teacher from Penn Yan, New York

I am a 9th grade teacher of Mathematics in New York. Homework is something my students struggle with each night. When a student has at least 5 different classes a night and each one gives you homework, it is hard to complete all that homework and still have any kind of life. Even just spending time with your family. It is my belief that a homework assignment should be qualitative and not quantitative. I can give 4 or 5 problems that will assess a student's knowledge just as well as an assignment of 20 problems. This allows the students to complete it faster, and when there are fewer problems the students are more likely to complete the assignment. I think too many teachers have had the idea that homework is something that is done just to keep the student busy instead of testing a students knowledge informally.

Jeremy

Rachel Berline's picture

I am a 8th grade math teacher and have found that homework no matter how much is assigned to students will always be too much. The kids are supposed to have at the most 2 and half hours of homework per night. I was assigning homework every night because the more you practice the better you do. When I was grading even just on completion I still would only get half of my classes completing it. I have recently went to assigning homework monday through friday and allowing my students to pick two days to complete their homework. It has greatly increased the number of students who turn in homework. If a child completes all four i give them an extra credit point. This gives them the illusion of choice and allows them to practice at the same time. There are still flaws to my new idea but it seems to be working out better than the 4 days of homework. I was told if they practice in class for 45 minutes why must they spend 45 more minutes at home on the same concept. Hope this helps a little.

Susan Bowers's picture

I teach in a middle school. Our school, like some of the others, has a rule of 10 minutes per grade. The problem we have is that one or two teachers try to take the entire time themselves. We do not have a way of dividing the time equally among all the teachers. I teach math and I try to give the students a minimal amount of problems. The studnets do have a 45 minute study hall each day so they can do a portion of their work. We also have some parents that want a lot of homework but most appreciate that I only give a small amount so they can do their other work. I have a daughter in middle school and many nights she is up very late working on homework. You can never please everyone when it comes to homework.

michael zain's picture

Hello Katrina I am First grade teacher so I can understand your problem. There is always conflict when it comes to homework. Administrators want more, parents want more or less depending on how interested they are in schooling. Our district requires homework on a daily basis. So what I try to do is give my students a book a day to read with their parents that is in adddition to their reading program. This helps the families to dedicate themselves to read and enjoy time together reading. Also I try to send home vocabulary and word games that reinforce memory and increase their vocabulary. I also send home a writing journal that they could draw and write anything they want but they have to return it so I can compare what they do in class and create mini-lessons based on thier errors. I also use this as a basis for their spelling lists. Hope this helps.

Kristi Butler's picture

I believe that homework should definitely be given to reinforce the skills being taught in the classroom. Parents need to know what their children are working on in school. I am a parent of a fifth grader and a second grader. As a parent, I often catch myself wondering if my second grader has too much homework too often, but as a teacher I know that she needs more practice at her age to master the skills being taught. Homework should be given in at least one subject each night, not including a minimum of twenty minutes of reading time.

Kristi's picture

Hi Kim,
I also teach second grade and I assign weekly homework packet. I have a weekly agenda that suggests what pages students should do each night. Typically, students have 2 math sheets and 20 minutes of reading with a response piece. I find that homework completion is much higher with a homework packet. Students learn to plan ahead too! If they have soccer on Tuesday then they can finish their homework another night. I have received positive response from parents as well. They seem to like having an overview of what is going on in school that week. I admire you for differentiating the packet for each student!

Samantha S.'s picture
Samantha S.
8th grade math teacher (pre-algebra and algebra)

Homework is a struggle with my district. There are many teachers that do not give meaningful homework. I teach 8th grade math and I feel that it is absolutely necessary to give homework. I like to call it practice more than homework. It has a better sound to the students when called practice, but isn't that really what it is? I try to give around ten to twenty problems every other night for homework. I will differentiate for students, if I see that someone is struggling, they may get a different assignment that may be easier for them. If someone is bored and needs to be challenged I will give that student more difficult homework as enrichment. The homework I assign is typically worksheets or problems from the textbook. A struggle that I seem to have on a continuous basis is a few students refuse to do the homework. They have study halls everyday, so I try to catch up with them then. I even give time at the end of class to work on homework with a partner and those few students still do not take advantage of that. They know the material and understand how to do the work, but won't complete the assignments.
I would love to hear your feedback. Do I assign too much homework? What do I do with the students that refuse to do the work? I know that the whole debate of homework doesn't have an easy solution. I appreciate your help! Thanks.

Glen Andersen's picture
Glen Andersen
Fifth Grade Teacher from Utah

I hated doing homework when I was in school, but I did it. My grade level team expects about an hour of homework a night. 30 minutes of reading, 10-15 minutes of math practice, and 10-15 minutes of spelling and vocabulary practice. We have those students and parents that ar on top of it, and there are those that ar not. Overall we have success at getting it done. If the students take longer than 15 minutes to do the math homework, we have the parents work with them for another 10 minutes. If they don't get it, the parents sign the page and say "we tried." When a page ones back with the signature and the message, we work with the student before school, or after school. We want to keep the parents and students frustration level to a minimum. We feel the students get more out of the practice and the parents are more willing to work with us when they do not have to fight with their kids. We also hold the students accountable for the work they don't turn in. We have grade level activites each week and those that need to complete homework spend time with one teacher getting it done wihile the others are in the activity.

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