Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Homework Debate

     On the weekend I read a post by Justin Tarte called The Truth About Homework in Schools in which he lists his thoughts on the "homework debate". Being a new teacher I began thinking about where I fall in this often controversial discussion and what my thoughts are about having my students complete homework. I follow many education blogs from around the world and have seen teachers discuss all different types of homework ideologies, from those who are completely against it to those who have assigned homework every single night.
my thoughts on homework, the homework debate, should i give homework

     I don't really remember having homework in Elementary or Middle School and while that doesn't mean that we didn't have homework... it means that I certainly wasn't traumatized by it or spending hours each night working on it (which I'm sure I would remember). Even in High School I can't think of one class where we had nightly assigned homework, with the exception of keeping up with our reading of "Lord of the Flies" in my Literary English class.

    I'm not sure if this is a Canadian-American difference in education styles (many of the blogs I follow are American-based) or if I was simply lucky enough to avoid the homework load that is causing so much stress for students. Either way, I think it definitely influences my teaching style because I never grew up thinking that homework was a mandatory and/or necessary piece of the learning process. With that being said, here are some of my thoughts on homework:

- Students should never be receiving a mark for completing homework (or simply for
  completing anything). Students are assessed on their understanding of curriculum
  standards and I have yet to see any curriculum that states, "The student will be able
  to complete assigned work outside of school hours."

- Homework completion is greatly affected by a student's home life, not just their
  ability to understand the material...

- Nightly assigned homework should NOT be mandatory at any grade level...

- Teachers that feel like they need to assign homework in order to cover curriculum
  need to reevaluate how they are using their time in the classroom...

- Students who are struggling with a concept are not going to benefit from simply
  completing worksheet after worksheet at home ("remediation homework").
  Teachers should work on differentiating their instruction and meeting the student's
  learning needs  in the classroom rather than isolating them by making them complete
  more work at home...

     With that being said, here is a brief look at what "homework" might look like in my classroom:

- Students will be given adequate time to complete all assignments in class. Those
  who do not use their time wisely, however, may need to take assignments home
  with them in order to complete them on time. Taking the assignment home is not
  mandatory but the assignment due date does not change simply because a student
  did not use the time they were provided with...

- Many of our projects will be real-life scenario projects with direct ties to my
  student's lives. At times, I may ask students to look at home for certain supplies
  and bring them back to class (ex. a paystub, cell phone bill, empty beverage
  container, etc). Again, this is not mandatory, it simply allows the lesson to be
  more personal as they have a direct link to how this is applicable in their lives...

- Students will be provided with a review class before formal assessments-of-learning.
  It will be suggested that they also review/study on their own time so that they may
  be as successful as possible, but it is by no means mandatory that they study for
  x-amount of minutes at home.

     Being a new teacher, I'm sure that I will end up adding different things to this list or modifying them as I see necessary. As I stand right now, however, these are my thoughts on homework... what are yours?


  1. I personally don't like assigning homework at all. I teach in an alternative school for SPED students with severe emotional/behavioral disorders. Most of my students have horrible home situations, many living in foster homes, group homes, or other situations outside the norm. Several years, including last year, I've had student who are homeless. I'm sorry, but if I've got a student who comes to school and sleeps all morning because he was too afraid to sleep in whatever shelter or corner of the woods he was in last night - does anyone really think homework is what this child needs? I'm just glad he's still coming to school.

    My district, however, mandates at least 20 minutes of homework a night, per subject, be assigned every night Monday through Thursday. All homework assignments are to be graded and recorded as well. I tend to handle it by assigning the work, but allowing students to have class time to complete anything not finished at home. I also don't take off points for late work and allow students to turn in work all the way up to the last minute when I have to turn in grades each quarter. It's the best solution I've come up with so far.

    1. Thank you for commenting Anon! It sounds like we have very similar outlooks on the homework debate, although I don't have district mandates to work around. I definitely agree that your student's needs comes first and I would let them sleep in class too if that is what they need. You should feel proud that your students feel safe enough in your classroom to make coming into school a priority (even if it is to have a safe space to sleep).

      Keep up the good work!

  2. I agree that homework does little that it purports to do. ANd taking it up loses precious class time especially since the children who didn't do it aren't invested in the lesson. And don't even get me started on the perils of online textbooks!

    But parents want homework - many of them anyway. I send home two weekly assignments - a spelling/grammar contract that has about 6 small tasks for a week and a weekly debate topic to read and discuss with someone else (even other children who are in the class). Otherwise, homework is what doesn't get done in class.

    1. Nothy, I find it interesting that it is the parents who are pushing for homework. Being a first year teacher I haven't had the opportunity to see if this will be an issue in our community. I did complete two student teaching placements in the same school and never ran into this concern, but maybe it will change with me being a full-time staff member.

      If I had a parent requesting homework for their child I would probably schedule a meeting with them in order to fully understand why they feel this is needed. Maybe there is something I can be doing differently in the classroom? If it is something that is genuinely important to the parent and student, however, I would probably provide inquiry projects that the student could work on while at home. I wouldn't grade the student on this work though.

  3. I agree with your three ideas for homework at the end, and that's pretty much what I plan to do with my classes as well (albeit a bit different since I will be in Grade 5).

    I taught abroad in Greece at an American school, and it was very eye-opening. Teachers were REQUIRED to give students homework every night. I think it's part of the American educational philosophy. I like the way we do it in Manitoba :)

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  5. Have you ever watched Alfie Kohn discuss homework. I highly recommend watching his videos on Youtube. I thought giving homework was beneficial until I had to do a research project in my graduate class. There isn't research showing that helps students in lower grades at all and show minimal benefit in upper grades. Unfortunately the reality is that they are going to have homework in middle, high, and college. They have to learn how to manage time. I think in lower grades..less is more. In my room I expect them to read everynight and practice math facts. That's it.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Katrina! I've never had an opportunity to view his video, but have heard so much about him and his work, I will have to watch it tonight to hear this thoughts.

      I agree that everyone needs to learn how to manage their time (I think I am still learning this haha) but I don't necessarily think homework is the best way to teach this.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts with me! I will have to go check out Mr. Kohn's video.