Three Homework Guidelines

Every teacher in every school has questions and strong feelings about homework. How much? How often? To grade or not to grade? Why? Accountability?

I, too, have had various positions about homework over the years and tried different forms of homework. Here are three guidelines I use when it comes to homework that can answer any question you have, reconcile your feelings, and comply with school/district expectations about homework.

1) Relevance. If the students are learning about measuring to the nearest inch and they need additional practice measuring then assign measurement homework.

If the students are going to shortly learn about division and need a refresher about subtraction or multiplication to help them learn the concept of division, then assign subtraction or multiplication homework.

2) Realistic. If some students can proficiently decode and encode r controlled words, some need to become proficient, and others still need to acquire open syllables then assign word homework meets those needs. Don't assign everyone r controlled words when some will clearly be unsuccessful and others will be bored.

3) Respectful. The amount of homework (or time spent on homework each night) should take students' home lives into consideration. Some students will be able to complete homework while at daycare after school. Some will have ample time to complete it as soon as they get home. Others will be running to practice or scouts. And others will be involved in family activities where quality family time is valued over homework. Any assigned homework should be respectful of students' extra-curricular activities and responsibilities.

Like everything else, homework can be a battle you choose to pick (or not). One year I had a student who refused to do homework and his parent supported that. That was not a battle I fought because I never would have won. Instead, we had an agreement that if something was assigned because it directly related to what we were doing the next day, it got done. For example, one of my favorite learning activities was called regions (Native Americans, states, etc) in a box. Each student brought a number of items from our list to participate and learn more about the places or people we were learning more about.

Another thing to consider is that, sometimes, our students live with serious challenges like homelessness, a parent with mental illness or addiction, or a family member dying. One year I had a student whose main concerns after leaving school were where her next meal was coming from (and how), where she was going to sleep, and her father's sobriety. While some students would require homework as a distraction, this particular student did not.

Check back the next few Fridays for ideas about being homework free, providing homework choice, and supporting students who can't complete it at home.


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