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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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Comments (113)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Loree's picture

I think giving small assignment to reinforce the skill is ok I dont know if student really understand what the porpose of homework . Or who is really doing it parents want homework but complain when its to much who knows I always review the homework to make sure they understood the concept.

Matthew Keener's picture

I teach second grade and I am a strong believer in homework. I use homework to reinforce topics of the day and to provide practice for things we don't have time for in the school day. Handwriting and spelling, for example, sometimes take the back seat in terms of standards being taught throughout the day. Homework allows me to get students to practice those skills without cutting into the school day. On an average day I send home a math page and a language arts page. In addition students are required to read for 20 minutes each night. I believe homework fosters a responsibility for independent work and returning an assignment.

Sean McCracken's picture

Hello everyone! My name is Sean and I am a 6th grade science teacher outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Theresa wrote that her district's policy is 10 minutes per subject and that is the same for my district. Do you think it is too much for senior's in high school to have 120 minutes of homework? When I was a senior in high school I had a job, played sports, participated in music, and was applying to college. I think that 120 minutes is a lot of work!

I try to give my students more projects that demonstrate higher level thinking and help the students manage their time. I will give them 2 weeks to finish a lab report or poster and maybe give a homework assignment twice a week that is very small and just a review. Another thing I do is always give time for the students to start their homework in class. However, if the students are fooling around and not following the lesson than they lose that homework time. It also helps me have some extra time to give my learning support class extra help. I enjoy this discussion and it has given me some new perspectives on homework.

Mark's picture

I think the idea for giving minimal homework each night and giving the students and parents suggestions for further study is great. By giving all students a lot of work there is bound to be a greater percentage of students that do not turn in homework. But by giving them a choice to do extra work/study it allows some students to not feel so overwhelmed and possibly have a greater chance of completing the assigned task.

David Devine's picture

Greetings Walden Group,
I teach first grade and we decide, as a grade level team, what homework we will assign for the week. We like to assign similar homework because we have several sets of twins in our grade and it makes it easier for the parents. We generally go by the rule of 10; the grade level you teach times ten - that's how many minutes of homework is assigned. In my case, 1x10= 10 minutes per night, not including reading or being read to, which is an additional ten or fifteen minutes.
Kim, I like the idea of sending a packet home in the beginning of the week that's differentiated - that makes a lot of sense to me. In first grade, especially in the Fall, are limited as to how much they can read, so giving them homework where there are a lot of directions makes it difficult for them to complete on their own without a lot of help from parents.
As a grade level, we look at homework as a reinforcement of the day, so we don't give too much. I would rather my students read or be read to each night at this grade level - the more they are exposed to books, the better, in first grade.

Jonas Horst's picture

Hello all. I am a sixth grade merit math teacher. As a merit teacher I have been told by several staff members that there should be an hours worth of homework every night. I strongly disagree though. Half an hour to forty five minutes is the norm for my classes. The problems in which they typically in counter are about 3 to 5 questions for each level. The three levels I base mine off of is below grade level, grade level and above grade level for what they are being taught. This gives me a great perspective on how well they know the content being taught without there being a great deal of checking involved.

Karrie Willard's picture

A few years ago our principal had Alfie Kohnn, an author of educational issues, hold a staff development workshop regarding the no homework debate for our teachers. Our principal was convinced that elementary aged children should work really hard during the school day and be able to go home and be a child by engaging in play and extracurricular activiies in the afternoon. However, he does believe that students should still be reading every night and brushing up on unmastered skills if needed. Several of our teachers did disgaree. Each classroom teacher at our school now has the option to give or not to give homework based on their class or individual needs. I am on the fence! I see how young children still need the freedom to play, but I also believe we need to train them for the real world. Almost guaranteed, they will have homework in Jr. High and High School. I guess, a happy medium should be found by educators. Just give students enough homework to review skills currently being taught, but not an over abundance for simply busy sake.

Teri's picture

I am a keyboarding teacher therefore I don't give a lot of homework assighnments. However, I am a parent and I feel homework is very important. I feel it helps develop good study habits.

Emma's picture

I am a substitute teacher so I don't really assign homework, but I have seen the different amounts of homework teachers give. It obviously changes from grade to grade. However, it is common for most teachers in the building (including my mother who teaches 4th grade) to give out the following on a nightly basis: at least 20 minutes of reading a night, spelling (whether it be a packet, workbook pages, or to study words), math (packet, worksheets, workbook pages, etc.), and some type of science or social studies homework (depending on the unit they are on). I do think homework is necessary because it helps develop responsibility and good study habits; however, too much homework can be detrimental to the student.
I found this topic to be particulary interesting because I am currently reading a book recommended to me by my Vice Principal called "Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs" by Cathy Vatterott. I have really enjoyed reading this book and I thought I would recommend it to all of you. Vatterott presents both sides of the pro-homework vs. anti-homework debate, but chooses to focus on a different approach that supports quality over quantity of work. Her approach encourages children to get homework done, but not punishing them too harshly if they cannot. I highly recommend this book and hope it helps!

Laura L's picture

Thanks for sharing the book recommendation, Emma. I'm definitely going to check it out. I teach fifth grade, and the homework issue is something I've been struggling with. Some parents tell me I give too much, others complain I don't give enough. I always tell parents at our Open House that homework should never take more than an hour, maximum.

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