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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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Nicole Rieker's picture

Our school has a similar policy to yours. They recommend ten minutes per grade level. I teach sixth grade, so that is 60 minutes total. To me, this seems completely reasonable. While I understand that kids need time to relax and recharge, I also think that continued practice is a necessity. With how much we are expected to teach and do at school, I don't have as much practice time during class as I would like. My main concern is that students understand it before they take it home to practice - it would work negatively if they were practicing it incorrectly because I was not there to correct them.

The problem I run into is that I only teach 2 subjects. My kids see up to 5 other teachers throughout the day. Since we don't have common planning time, it is hard for me to know how much work they are being given in other classes. Often, I have some parents saying their kids have too much homework and other parents saying there kids never have any. I assign 20 minutes reading every night and recognize that is 1/3 of their homework time. Therefore, I don't usually give long assignments in math. They do have time to read and work on homework at the end of the day during REM, which is like a study hall. Some kids use this time wisely but not everyone.

I think there will always be parents who are unsatisfied and there will always be kids who don't use their time wisely. There is no easy solution. In fact, I don't think there is any one solution - it is different for every class every year. In the meantime, I just keep trying different things until I find what works!


Nicole Rieker's picture

At our school, the great homework debate has not been over amount, but instead over grading. Some people believe that we should grade homework because students should be recognized for their effort. Others believe that we should not grade homework because it is practice, not assessment. Personally, I struggle with this issue.

I correct homework but do not assign a grade in my gradebook for it. I tell my kids that they must do more work than I actually grade, but that all work has a benefit. I do, however, take points away from a participation and preparation grade if students come without an assignment completed. I believe that practice work should be just that - and students should feel relaxed completing it because they do not have to stress over the letter grade. I think it helps keep them honest (and not asking their parents to do it for them).

What do you think? Should homework be graded?

Charity Barnhill's picture

In my classroom I don't assign a lot of homework. Students that don't finish classwork take that home as homework. In the school that I work in I get complaints from both ends of the spectrum, students don't have enough homework or students have too much homework. When I was in school we had homework every night and I feel that I learned at a faster pace than the kids I have now because they are not getting enough practice on subject matter because there is not enough time in the school day to finish everything.

Tonya C.'s picture

Hi everyone,

I teach 6th grade math. Being as though math is a subject where you have to constantly practice using formulas and rules, I assign homework every night (even on weekends). During extended breaks, I send home a packet no more than 3 or 4 pages of practice sheets or brain teasers incorporating skills that have been taught. I make sure that each assignment is no more than 20 problems (depending on how many skills are covered in the assignment). I do have a few parents who complain about the amount of homework I send home. I try to explain to both my students and parents that homework is for review and retention. Many times I may teach a new skill and if a day or two goes by and we don't review it, a student may forget. My homework should never take more than 30 minutes to complete. If they go past the 30 minute mark, they must stop, and come see me the next day ready with questions for the skills they did not understand.

Depending on the subject, I do think homework is necessary (maybe not everyday). We had to do it and we survived. :)

Danielle's picture

I teach English to lower level high school students, and I do not like to assign too much homework. I always give them time in class to start their work, and if they are working efficiently, they should get it all done. I give them time in class because most of them do not do it for homework. I think that it is important to teach them responsibility and time management. They do have to study for vocabulary tests each week and the various other tests/quizzes that I give them. My students seems to work harder in class when I give them time to work on their assignments. They know that they have some say in if they will have homework or not, and I think that makes for a better and more productive class.

Laura L's picture

I do feel that homework is important. I teach all the subject areas to my fifth grade class, and it seems like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done. Sending home a quick worksheet is a great way to help students practice something they need to master. It helps to reinforce what we're doing in class. Here's my problem--how do you handle the student who NEVER does homework? I seem to have one or two each year. I have yet to figure out an effective way to handle the situation.

Kimberly M's picture
Kimberly M
Third Grade Teacher, Georgia

Generally my colleagues and I agree that whatever grade level you teach 1-6, the home work should be that many minutes. So for my third graders I generally send home thirty minutes of homework a night for three nights a week (M, T, Th) My students must complete three spelling activities and a reading fluency passage each night. Reading fluency is a one minute timed reading and a one minute retell. I also ask my students to work with math flashcards during the week. I feel that homework should not be overwhelming to the student. It is not meant as a replacement for teaching or introducing a skill. Homework is a quick and easy review that will benefit the student in the small amount of time that they have in the afternoons. You don't want for your students to get burnt out on homework! Especially when we have so much important content to focus on during the day.

Kimberly M's picture
Kimberly M
Third Grade Teacher, Georgia

I have had these students before but after speaking with them I soon found out that they were generally at daycare/afterschool until 6-7pm each night or went home to an empty house. At the beginning of this year I had students that were not doing the reading fluency homework that I send home for each night. They simply have someone time them for a minute and record the number of words and then do a one minute retell to record. The student told me that mom could not help because she was taking care of the baby or another student was home with older siblings while mom was at school or working. These students were given a special leeway to do their homework without having it signed and I spoke with them about different ways for them to be able to do it on their own without help from parents. This really made a difference in students taking responsibility for doing their own homework and not depending on parents to do it for them. Now that is not to say that those few do sneak by trying to do no homeowrk and get away with it but so far I have not had too many that do that consistently. Also my students get bonus points on their spelling tests for turning in homework and if they don't do fluency from the night before I take five minutes of their recess.

Lane Martin's picture

I like your idea that students shouldn't do math work at home because they might teach themselves incorrect methods for solving problems. I teach 8th grade math and I try to keep homework to a minimum. Each day that I give assignments, I plan for students to finish most of it in class and finish up the last 10 minutes or so at home to reinforce what they have learned.

Andrew Van Patten's picture

I also taught 2nd grade for several years and always had difficulty determining homework load. The kids are young but what workload is appropriate? As a rule I only assigned homework Tuesday-Thursday and limited it to about 15-20 minutes total. In addition, I always give my students several opportunities throughout the day to begin their homework in case there are questions or problems. I rarely assign reading because it is too easy to lie about it and my books never come back. I initially attempted packets, but found that it was too hard for them to keep track of and they were rarely completed on time. I try to keep homework light and easy because the parents in my district place little to no value on it.

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