Every year that I have been in education homework seems to be a HUGE issue and this year seems to be no different as this “New Homework Policy” has begun floating around the internet after being started by a fellow Texas educator. While I applaud her for taking this initiative (and the several other educators I have seen follow), there are two sides to this and I’m sorry but I don’t agree. Homework isn’t meant to punish anyone but rather prevent any lapse in performance if done correctly.
I remember when I started teaching at the Elementary level we were told 10 minutes of homework per night x the grade level was the adequate amount that our students should receive in addition to their silent reading they were expected to do each night. So that meant in my first two years my fifth graders had 50 minutes of homework as well as their 20 minutes of silent reading. Not a problem when they have FOUR tested subjects in the State of Texas. They need practice and 50 minutes is nothing when you are at that age.
When I moved onto teaching Middle School my thoughts changed some. My students now have 7 different teachers throughout the day and that possibly meant 5-6 different homework assignments (accounting for electives here) each day. We didn’t collaborate with our other cross-curricular teammates on homework so we had no clue when each person was assigning homework. My first two and a half years I did as the other two math teachers did and we gave a 20 problem worksheet that was due at the end of the week but checked DAILY. So basically they had to complete 5 problems a night and then turn it on Friday. This was a nightmare to keep track of but I did it because that is what they had always done.
During the next year when I moved down a grade I decided to change things up. My cohort (fellow Math teacher) assigned homework almost daily 2-3 times a week and since she had the honors classes she did get quite a bit of it back on a regular basis. Well I’m sorry but this teacher didn’t want to be grading homework 2-3 times a week on top of making sure everything else for my 120+ kiddos in 4 preps was complete (two of them being Resource Math classes).
What did I decide to do that would not only benefit my students but myself as well? How could I modify what I had always been known to do? Each week, no matter how long or short, my students received homework on the first day of the week. During that week they could come in for help at any time to work on the homework with me. I had my standard tutorials twice a week but really if I was there they could come in and work. Homework was also NEVER on a new concept but rather on something from 1-2 weeks prior. I did this so that my students had not only learned the material but ALSO we had done some sort of practice on the material, possibly group work and maybe even a quiz.
You may wonder why I would wait that long to do some practice over the material taught. Simple… I wanted to make sure that they remembered what we had covered and could do it ON THEIR OWN! This homework was due the last day of the week, again no matter how long or short. This meant that most weeks throughout the school year they had 4 nights to do a homework assignment that they could easily get done in about 20-30 minutes. Did this mean that I had 100% turn in their homework each week? Nope, but the 2-3 culprits were the same ones each time and believe me when coaches found out about it they got to come to tutoring before they came to practice and that made a HUGE difference. I’ve written about my homework policy before and you can see that I also developed Homework Slips that helped me keep track of those kiddos that didn’t turn in their homework because with the school late policy they had two days to turn it in or the grade stood.
So what are your thoughts on homework? I want you to weigh in and let me know. I want to hear what others think based on personal experiences so feel free to SOUND OFF in the comments!