Now, being a teacher for seven years, I've had this discussion with many educators: Is homework necessary? Many will say, "Students need to practice the skill I taught them in class," or "We need to teach our students to be accountable and responsible." But, is homework really the best way to do this?
Last week, I was able to attend a great professional development through the Institute for Excellence in Education, in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The focus of the conference was homework and standards based grading in the middle level. We began our session with a writing prompt that guided us to write about our belief about homework. I feverishly wrote about the disdain I had for the process in its current form. I probably could have written for longer than the two minute time frame we were given, but I was able to quickly summarize my thoughts onto one side of a sheet of paper.
Once our thoughts were recorded, we were paired with another educator to share and paraphrase each others thought. My partner, a twenty-seven year veteran of the English-Language Arts classroom was selected to go first. As he read, I heard many of the same arguments I have heard for homework: Practice, Responsibility, Accountability. I was almost nervous to read my rant. But, after a brief paraphrase of his response, I began my reading. The exact opposite take on homework.
Do I believe homework is an unnecessary practice in our schools? Absolutely not. But, not the way we have seen it done for so many years. I believe if homework is going to be given, it has to be intentional and meaningful to our students. Often times, students have roles at home that are have more importance to them than the worksheet they are told to do. Many students often do not have the best studying environment in their home, so they cannot fully concentrate on the work to be done. Then, there is the case of the kid who simply has no clue how to accomplish the task. And, their parent does not understand. This creates unnecessary stress. Yet, when all three scenarios return to school, they will be reprimanded for not finishing their work. Their punishment? MORE WORK!
This system has to stop. We need to focus on providing opportunities for students to be enriched by their homework experiences, not rely on them to learn by doing at home. We need to limit how much time we are having our students spend on homework so they have the opportunity to be active in other things at home. We need to make sure EVERY student you assign homework to understands the process they will be completing before we send them home with the work. Finally, we need to make sure that the homework we assign is used to enrich and provide real-world context to the content taught in class. Have your students to out and take a picture of examples of what was discussed in class in their house or neighborhood. Then, have them share the picture on a class Instagram or Twitter account with a hashtag. Or, allow them to blog a book review for the novel of their choice. These are just a couple of ideas. If we can make these changes to add more meaning and engagement to the homework we assign, then -- and only then -- will I jump back on the homework bandwagon.