Homework – to assign it or not. Is it useful? Does it actually benefit students? The debate rages on, and most people I know don’t really have the answers.
I’ve decided to share my two cents on the matter (round it up to 5 cents in Canada!), but please know in advance that these are simply my personal thoughts, based on 18 years in the classroom, not research findings.
The Case FOR Homework
Love it or hate it, homework DOES have some positive advantages:
Homework provides teachers with a platform for spiral review of class work. Assigning a handful of questions from a content area each night requires students to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to new problems or contexts. Regular review, if done right, can allow a teacher to move forward more quickly in the classroom without having to spend class time reviewing concepts.
Homework gives parents the opportunity to stay connected with what is happening in the classroom. Parents get to see firsthand what their child is working on, which gives them the opportunity to help enrich this learning in the real world. For example, what better way to apply an understanding of fractions or measurement than by breaking out a favorite family recipe book?
Homework teaches our students about time management, how to organize their resources and how to prioritize their after-school activities. There are always things they are going to want to do more than homework, but this is also an important life lesson – sometimes we just need to sit down and complete the “must-do” activities before we get to the “want-to-do” activities.
The Case AGAINST Homework
As much as I try to be objective, I am going to be honest here and admit that these points come more easily to me:
First and foremost, I can’t evaluate homework as part of my student assessment. Sorry, you can’t argue me out of this one. When work is sent home I have NO control over how much support a student has received (or not received!) and this absolutely cannot be evaluated. To do so would be completely penalizing my students who have no parental support at home.
Homework assignments often feel like “busy work” to me. This is for many of the other reasons that I’ll elaborate on here, but I can’t help but think that some of the tasks I’ve assigned in the past were just for the sake of homework completion. I’m not sure that there was any other value in it than that. (Sorry, kids!)
Homework practice can be detrimental if your students are practicing the skills INCORRECTLY!! If your students can’t figure out how to multiply, what is the value in giving them 20 questions to complete at home? All they are doing is practicing the wrong way… oops!
The older students get, parents are less able to help with homework. I hear this all the time in the staff room… “Thank goodness my husband knows math… I can’t help Billy with his homework anymore!” or “I had to completely reteach myself how to do ____ to help Sarah with her homework!” How frustrating is that for everyone involved?!
Probably my BIGGEST frustration is that no matter what I do, there are always several families who just don’t buy in. For me, it makes the time and energy I put into preparing the homework activities feel like a huge waste. Why spend my planning time or after-school time preparing, organizing, and copying homework activities that are never going to be looked at?!
Finally, I am a firm believer that kids need time to be kids. I’m not a parent myself, but I watch nieces, nephews, and students bounce from music lessons to soccer to kids’ club to church group… when do they get time to kick off their shoes and run in the dirt at the park?! I do think that time to just play can be as valuable.
You Can’t Please Everyone (or CAN you?!)
So… what’s the solution?? In my classroom, I have found a way to satisfy the families who actually WANT homework while not spending hours and hours of time in preparation for those families who don’t care about it at all. Once a month, I send home a Homework Bingo card. I challenge my students to fill a line or two (or the entire card!) yet I require nothing be returned to school. I am happy to celebrate with my students who DO accomplish this, and there’s no pressure on the families who, for whatever reason, do not participate. For me, it is a Win-Win!
If you’d like to learn more about my completely editable Homework Bingo package, you can click the image below!
And if you’ve enjoyed the ideas in this post, I hope that you will share it with your friends or social media followers!
Until next time,
Erin has taught 2nd to 5th grade for the past 18 years in Ontario, Canada. She has Specialist qualifications in the field of Mathematics and strives to motivate and engage her students by creating high-quality hands-on resources. You can visit Erin at her TpT store, on Facebook, on Instagram, or at her blog, Mrs. Beattie’s Classroom.