Why Give Homework?

We all have done it. We all have complained about homework.

Too much, too hard, too often, too confusing, too boring, too dry, too unrelated, too specific, too stinky: take your pick.

For teachers, this presents an interesting predicament; as students, we complained, now we have the chance to do something about it.

My first year teaching, I took over for another teacher after two weeks. I continued what she did. Would any of us do different?

It’s like parenting. We pass on what we received because we know it. Not because it worked well, not because it’s easy, but because it’s familiar.

Over the last 6 years, I have struggled to find a fair way to do homework. (Feel free to skip reading this portion unless you’re a teacher.)

  • Year 1: Assigned 20-30 problems every day from the book. It was too much, students hated it.
    • Completion: about 15% of students on a given day.
  • Year 2: Assigned less than 10 problems per day, and I started naming each book assignment (alphabetically) to keep them straight. Students were more likely to complete them AND they didn’t pile up. It’s much easier to say “Take out HENRY” than it is to say “Take out page 137, numbers 6-16 even and 23-37 odd”.
    • Completion: 35% per day
  • Year 3: Began adding projects, worksheets, and other less conventional homeworks to mix it up.
    • Completion: 40-50%
  • Year 4: Drowning under the weight of 8 preps (12 different grading rosters) I revert back to what’s easy: problems from the book.
    • Completion: 30-60% depending on the class.
  • Year 5: New School! A combination of named assignments from the book, worksheets, workbooks, and projects.
    • Completion: 70-80%

All of that was missing the point, the driving force, the reason:

Why do we give homework?

All of the “flipped classes” and “mastery learning”  and “common assessments” and “independent practice” all center around one thing: Learning stuff.

The whole point of sending students home with bulging backpacks is that the material that we discussed in class will stick to their Teflon brains.

(Get it? Teflon. Nothing sticks to…. never mind. It was a stretch.)

Also, click here to see the teacherly emails between me and Fawn Nguyen regarding the best way to make Homework (and Teaching) effective.

So, non-teachers, now you know why [good] teachers spend so much time thinking about this stuff. If you were a teacher, how would you do homework?

4 responses to “Why Give Homework?

  1. MHunter Experience

    well I teach 1st grade. I give a packet that contains reading, language, and math concepts that we went over the week before. this means that the students actually have two weeks with a concept. the students do 1 – 2 sheet a night and i collect the work on thursdays.

    now, since i teach in an inner city school MOST of the times i don’t get HW back, which is why i don’t grade HW (but I do look over it). PLUS my district doesn’t allow us to give grades for HW anyway. foolishness….

  2. I’m trying for a small, targeted amount of homework each class. I told the kids that the homework I give is to practice specific skills. I’m trying to keep the difficulty level low enough that kids with no support at home can still do the work, otherwise homework provides a further advantage to kids with supportive, educated parents.
    I’ve told the students that I will not be collecting, nor grading, homework. Instead, they should expect a short homework quiz each week, designed to test whether they did the work assigned. Problems just like on the homework; if you did it, the homework quiz should be easy. When informed about this new system, kids said things like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” First homework quizes are this week; we will see how they do.
    Thanks for posting about this; it’s helpful to read about your experiences.

Got something to say? Let's hear it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s