I have battled over the concept and purpose of homework for years. When I started teaching, I had a very firm belief – homework was extremely important. If children were to be successful at school, then homework was not an option, it was a necessity.
I clearly remember running copies of thick packets of homework for students to take home every Monday and return it every Friday. It felt great. The more, the better…They are practicing. They are getting better with each page they complete I thought.
Yes, I was wrong because in reality this is what happened:
1- Students who were ahead of the curve would spend 15-20 minutes at the most filling the packet. It was boring for them.
2- Students who ‘got it’ in class would spend 20-30 minutes completing those mindless exercises.
3- Students who did not get it in class….well they would NOT get it at home either. Therefore the 30 minute task became a 3 hour torture.
4- For others, students were not the ones doing homework – it was the parents.
So, every year I revisited the concept until I switched schools. I moved to California and started teaching at a school that was so different from traditional schools. In other words: no basal readers (readers and writers’ workshop instead), project based learning, arts integration, and NO HOMEWORK! I honestly thought it was a joke at first. They were telling me that students did not have any homework at all.
I questioned, probed, challenged, and questioned again the ‘philosophy’ behind this insane concept. How were children supposed to learn? How were they going to practice? The answer was simple: Homework was only to be given as an extension of learning. Before I could assign any homework, there had to be a ‘reasoning’ behind the task – a purpose in other words. Unfortunately, ‘just for practice’ was not going to cut it. Some teachers at the school loved it, other hated it. I hated it. I just could not accept it.
Working with my coach at the time (instructional coach that it), I began to slowly understand this ‘new’ idea (at least new to me). I was presented with valid scientific research. I was teaching fifth grade at the time, and while the ‘no homework at all’ policy was a bit modified, the underlying concept was still there – homework had to have a valid purpose. It could not be just busy work.
A New School…Now What?
Entering into fourth grade at a new school has made me think once again about homework and homework policy in my classroom. I have to honestly accept that what I did my first years of teaching was not right; therefore, I am now on the quest for the perfect balance. No homework at all is one extreme, and too much homework is another extreme….Here is what I am thinking:
– Reading: Children need to be reading a book of their choice nightly for at least 30 minutes (beginning of fourth grade)
-Vocabulary/Spelling: A differentiated approach such as a bingo card where children can chose 3 things to do from a variety of things (sentences, sorts, pictures, etc)
-Math: Students will be given PLENTY of time in class to complete assignments, but if something is not finished, then they can finish it at home (they have to be held accountable somehow right?)
-Science/Social Studies (when needed) – Will be infused through projects that are started in class, continued at home, and finished in class.
Overall, homework will be extended meaningful practice when needed not just busy work to keep children occupied.
I am dying to hear from parents and other teachers on this issue. What is your point of view? Do you believe in homework? Please leave feedback under the comments section.