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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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susan's picture

I teach first grade in a title 1 school. The dilemma we have had every year is with students that don't have any support at home to help with homework. Usually it is these students that need the extra practice. This year we made a page of suggestions for computation practice and other educational activities and put it in their binders for those parents that wanted extra homework. Since our focus is to have all students successfully reading at the end of first grade, we send home a book with each student each night that they can read independently. To address accountability, I have students get in groups of two and tell about the book they read at home the night before (kagen cooperative learning). I have an account with reading a-z and use those books for the take home reading - that way if a book gets lost - it's ok.

Muhammad Awais's picture

I teach math at the middle and high school level. It has been very interesting reading everyone's comments/philosophies about homework. I assign homework just about each night and I check it the following day in class, but I normally check the student's work to see if they attempted it, rather than for accuracy. I feel it is unfair to penalize a student if they did not understand a lesson that was taught to them the previous day; however, I feel that each student should make an effort (and at least copy down the problems and leave space in their notebooks for when we go over the problems in class).

In response to Amenia, I find it a bit absurd to give that amount of questions. I am all in favor for "drilling," but those amount of problems seems to be a bit in excess.

What do you all do when a student does not do homework, but does extremely well on tests/quizzes/other forms of assessments? Usually, the two do not go hand in hand, but there are those students who do not need the practice and find it is a waste of time, but they do just fine on tests. How do you all handle this situation? Thanks.

Jennifer Poole's picture

It sounds like the homework you have assigned is quite reasonable. Writing is tough. It is complex and if you want specific skills developed and worked on it makes sense that you don't have them do it at home. Content has changed dramatically in the last 20 years so moms and dads won't know how to approach assisting their child. I teach a foreign language and for the first year homework is not beneficial except along extremely simple lines. If you did want to assign writing you might be able to assign it if it were very low stakes...say give full points just for completion but a bonus if they can include (substitute specific target). Something easy and specific with examples so children aren't overwhelmed with doing most of the work and parents feel well able to help. I don't know if this will help you but it looked like it was related in a small way to what I do.

Jennifer Poole's picture

I teach Spanish as a second language so my experience is very different but seems somewhat related. It sounds like Kim has done a wonderful job of providing the right kind and amount of homework but writing is a sticky area. It makes sense because writing is the highest level of language in any language and is quite complex. As a colleague once told me you want the students to want to do it and have fun doing it but at the younger ages it is a laborious process. I believe that if you make a writing assignment that is low stakes (full points just for completion and of course this would be differentiated as well) that parents and child will be lower stress. Keep it real simple and specific with examples so that child can complete without being overwhelmed and parent can help without a million unanswerable questions plagueing them. Like all other assignments don't ask for anything you haven't already worked on in class and you might consider offering bonus points for certain things.

Jenee's picture

I have to admit I do not give much homework. I am an elective teacher at a high school that has a 90 min. block schedule. Our school tries to allow for built in "homework" time. For some of my students it would be difficult to get help with assignments at home or for the work to make it to the home. The assignments I do assign as homework are things like designing a survey, think and explore, discussions with communtity members, and anything a student can not get done in class. I try to make the work meaningful and create a deeper understanding for the subject.

Heather Heal's picture
Heather Heal
7th grade math teacher from NYC

I also like the idea of a homework packet for the week. I teach 7th grade math. I assign homework Monday through Thursday for about 15 minutes each night. The turnout on homework is very poor. Perhaps if they had the entire week to do it, they would.

Monica's picture


This is my third year teaching and I never had a problem with homework packets until this year. I used to create the packet and there were 2 assignments (grammar and math) each night as well as 15 minutes of reading. This year, I have realized that students like to do it all on Mondays and then return it. I, however, do not find this beneficial because I like specific homework to be done daily to continue with the learned piece for that day. I found that students had trouble completing homework because of course, we hadn't reviewed it yet! Now, I prepare all homework for the week based on what is in my lessons, but only send home the sheets that need to be done for that specific night. I also check for completeness rather than accuracy because there are those parents (and siblings) who like to do their homework for them. I actually write not for those specific parents that do it for them. I also send home a note at the beginning of the year that states something along the lines of "please don't complete for them, I use troubled homework to help with lessons and know who needs extra help." This has actually worked because parents now aren't concerned for correctness and know that I use it as my own teaching tool. Just an insight!

Stephanie Hoch's picture

Monica, I do like your idea of checking for completion versus accuracy. I believe that I am going to utilize your suggestion as I must assign homework each night and I would save myself some time checking the work. I also feel that by checking homework for completion gives the student a non threatening homework environment. Thanks for the suggestion!

Charissa's picture

I teach 7th grade math. Homework in my classroom is considered practice. They get an A if they do it, but can only get a 100% if they do it well. It is a small percentage of their grade because I believe that I should not grade them too much on "practice." I assign math homework 2 to 4 times a week, but always let them turn in late work. I would much rather them get it done late than not at all. My thought is that homework should be purposeful, not just busy work. Is the student practicing a skill that will improve their knowledge of the coarse work, or is it just to keep them busy. I also use going over homework as part of my teaching. I'm not sure if this makes much sense, but I hope this helps someone out.

Lauren D's picture

I teach third grade and we the homework we give is reading 20 minutes per night and a math review of about 5 questions that is given on Monday and due on Friday. As a school, we wanted to focus on reading so reading nightly is a requirement for every grade. I think teachers should assign 10 minutes of homework per grade level (1st grade=10 minutes, 2nd grade=20 minutes, etc.) I personally have a hard time giving homework and grading it because I feel like parents do most of the work. Homework should be more practice of a concept learned, not extra work.

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