The topic of homework is a hot button issue in education. Do we give it? Do we not? What do we give? How much? We all have read articles about children crying and fighting with their parents over homework. Homework should never lead to tears. If homework is to be assigned, then let it be meaningful to students. We must also remember the after-school commitments that children attend: sports, music lessons, religious school… These extra-curricular activities are vital to the development of young minds. We should never put families in the position of having to choose between their child playing in a championship soccer game and completing 1-2 hours of homework. We need to work on this issue with families, not ignore them.
We also need to take into account that more families are dual income households now than in past years. Students may spend time each day in after-school care while both parents are still working. This makes less time for parents to help with homework in the evening after a long day at school. Work weary parents and tired children trying to get through homework before bedtime is a recipe for disaster.
Here are five ways to charge homework practices now:
- Stop Assigning Large Amounts of Problem Sets
There is no reason to assign 20-30 math problems that focus on the same skill. Students can show mastery of a skill in just 2-3 problems. Even the brightest of students who can whiz through problems will become resentful and detached from the assignment when forced to complete 20 problems more than they need to.
- Never Introduce a New Concept Through Homework
A child should never be introduced to new material via homework. In many scripted curriculums, students are assigned designated homework regardless of whether or not the teacher was able to get through all the material. If it wasn’t covered, don’t make it homework.
- Give Students Choice
Time and time again, research tells us that students perform best when given choices. Giving students a menu of choices will increase participation and allow students to demonstrate mastery in the way they learn best.
- Students Should Be Able to Complete Homework Without Parental Assistance
Homework should rarely need the help of a parent. If the intent of the homework is to reinforce that skills learned at school, then the student should be able to complete it on their own. If they can’t, then they didn’t properly learn the skill at school. Sending them home with homework isn’t going to change that. Requiring parents to sit and re-explain the concept to their child might lead to greater confusion as the parent might re-teach it differently, or worse, incorrectly as they are not teachers. This can also lead to tears from both the student and parent!
- Stop Assigning Reading Logs
One of the primary goals of educators is to cultivate a love of reading. As an educator and a parent, there are few things in this world I have found more amazing than watching a child begin to read and have them discover a whole new world of wonder. We want them to want to read, not think of it as homework. Assigning a reading log does just that – it diminishes the act of reading down to a homework assignment.
Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.