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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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Sara P's picture

At the beginning of the year I explain to students that the only days that they will possibly have homework is Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Knowing this seems to put them at ease. When they do have homework, it is usually no more than 10 problems. I make sure that we start the assignment in class and have had practice with the skill. My hope is that they put it away and get it out again when they get home. This serves a couple of purposes: One, to see if they have retained the information from the days lesson, and two, to help them become more productive and responsible citizens by remembering their homework. It works well for me because it gives me a break a couple of days they didn't have an assignment and allows them to be better mathematicians. I rarely have complaints from parents. Most are able to see what their kids are working on through the problems that they have already started and sometimes are able to help them.

Jeremiah's picture

Hey all, I teach high school math. I do believe homework is important on occasion, but by no means do I assign it 5 nights a week. I try to average 2-3 nights a week where they should be taking work home. The other days we would be doing stirctly in class work which must be completed before they leave class. The problem with homework seems to be that some kids will not do it either way, others will just copy it to get it done, and some will get it done without taking it home. Few actually will take it home and sit down and take time to complete it. Therefore for many kids homework is not really homework. It is not viewed as practice problems to help them learn the material and be successful. It is seen as something that is worth points towards your final grade.

Christina's picture

I teach third grade and each night I assign a math sheet with ten problems that represent a mix of skills, a DOL type sheet, and a reading passage with 5 questions. I used to assign a reading log but since the students are doing so much independent reading and responding during reader's workshop this year, I no longer require the log to be completed. Twice a week I give optional math challenge homework. If it is turned in, I count it as extra credit. Throughout the week I give out "brain tickets" to students demonstrating good thinking. Students write their names on the tickets and put them in a special box. Each Friday I pull two tickets out of the box and those students can choose a pass as a reward. There are many types of passes but No Homework passes are the most popular. I also throw a homework party at the end of each month for all students that miss two or less nights of homework that month. This has been so popular that homework completion is generally 100% by January.

Christina's picture

I teach third grade and each night I assign a math sheet with ten mixed review problems, a DOL sheet, and a short reading passage with five questions. I used to assign a reading log but since my students are doing so much independent reading and responding during reader's workshop this year, I

Christina's picture

I teach third grade and each night I assign a math sheet with ten mixed review problems, a DOL sheet, and a short reading passage with five questions. I used to assign a reading log but since my students are doing so much independent reading and responding during reader's workshop this year, I no longer assign a reading log. Twice a week I pass out optional math challenge homework. If it is turned in, I count it as extra credit. Understanding the busy nature of kids and families, I allow two missed nights of homework per month and at the end of each month, we have game day to celebrate with all students that have two or less missed nights of homework. This has proven to be so successful that my homework completion rate is close to 100% by December. I also give out "brain tickets" throughout the day to students that demonstrate good thinking. The students write their names on the tickets and put them in a special box. Each Friday I pull two tickets and those students can select a pass as a reward. There are many passes to choose but "no homework" passes are the most popular.

Tammy's picture

I am a first grade teacher . My grade level team plans homework together. We have a homework sheet with four blocks for four weeks. On the front of the sheet we have spelling homework for each day of the week. On the back in each of the four blocks is math or grammar homework for each day of the week except Friday (no homework). The students copy the problems in a notebook and turn it in the next day.
There are five or less math or grammar problems for each day. The parents know the homework for four weeks at a time. Our math and grammar homework is review concepts that we have already taught for extra practice. At our school we follow the same policy about the time for working on homework (1st-10 min., 2nd- 20 min. etc.). I do give less work for my special education students. The goal of homework for our grade level team is to practice the skills we have already taught. I also allow my students to work on homework while waiting on their bus. Some students get home late and don't have support at home, so if I can help them, I will. I still make them take it home to show their parents.
Thanks Emma for the book suggestion. I look forward to reading it and sharing it with my colleagues.

Tammy's picture

I am a first grade teacher. My grade level team plans homework together. We have a homework sheet with four blocks for four weeks. On the front of the sheet we have spelling homework for each day of the week. On the back in each of the four blocks is math or grammar homework for each day except Friday (no homework). The students copy the problems in a notebook and turn it in the next day. There are five or less math or grammar problems for each day. The parents know the homework for four weeks at a time. Our math and grammar homework are review concepts that we have already taught for extra practice. At our school we follow the same policy about the time for working on homework (1st-10 min., 2nd- 20 min. etc.). I do give less work for my special education students. The goal of homework for our grade level team is to practice the skills we have already taught. I also allow my students to work on homework while waiting on their bus. Some students get home late and don't have support at home, so if I can help them, I will. I still make them take it home to show their parents.
Emma, thanks for the book suggestion. I am looking forward to reading it and sharing it with my colleagues.

g denise robinson's picture

Hi Kim, I agree with many of the contributors in that homework is necessary if it serves a valid purpose. I teach middle school and believe that homework is essential for reinforcing key concepts as well as providing practice. However, it is important that the homework is reviewed in order to assess for understanding. If hw is just given to fill up time then in my opinion it is not as beneficial

Amanda Treichler's picture

Hi Kim. I am also a second grade teacher at a charter school in Oregon. I require my students to read 20 minutes a night for every day that we are in school. Students keep a reading log in their homework folder that their parents sign off on nightly. My guidelines for the nightly reading are that the student has to read with the parent, the reading material must be at the students reading level (I have check-out tubs for students that wish to use them), and the parent and student can read together but the student must do at least 10 minutes of the reading on their own. Many parents have thanked me for presenting an opportunity for them to read with their child. Other homework consists of spelling, and math. I send homework home as we learn it. If we learn something in math and all but three students have breezed through the concept, there is no need for me to send home busy work. I will however send math practice home with the other three students because they are the ones that need it. Our math curriculum is set up to continuously revisit previously learned concepts. To me homework is only useful if it coincides with the learning in the classroom.

g denise robinson's picture

I believe homework is essential if utilized in the proper manner. It should be for reinforcing key concepts and practicing. It should not be used as a form of punishment or filler. It is also important that homework is checked for accuracy to ensure that students develop and enhance the skills desired versus allowing students to find their own way with little to no guidance.

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