RETHINK Homework

Why are you giving homework? No, really… why? Think about it. What’s the reason?

Many teachers will say that it is for independent practice, or to further emphasize what was learned in the classroom. Or even worse, to finish a lesson that they did not have time to complete in class.

Have you ever arrived early to school, and wandered the halls, or sat down with the students in the cafeteria? They’re all sitting around, “doing homework.” And by that I mean, one person has completed the homework, and numerous people are copying that person’s work.

And those are just the slackers.

The cheaters are at home using apps that will show them the solution with step by step work to show, or they are taking pictures of their work and sending it to each other.

The amount of students doing the work, and actually wrestling with the material by checking their notes to make sure they are doing it correctly is a percentage that can be counted on one hand.

An even worse scenario is the student who goes home and does all 20 questions you assigned, trying his best, but does them all incorrectly. Now all your homework assignment has done is reinforced a bad habit that you will have to work hard to un-teach, and then re-teach him the correct way (if you ever catch it!)

Furthermore, why couldn’t you get to these 20 questions in class? You had the student for a whole hour (maybe two)! That was enough time to teach the concept and practice it 20 times (showing him the proper techniques and common misconceptions). And if one hour isn’t enough time for those 20 questions, how long do you think it will take him to do 20 questions for homework!

Let’s RETHINK how we do homework.

I rarely assign homework, and my students’ test scores are fantastic – and most my students start the year in the bottom 25% in the state.

When I do assign homework, it is very few problems, and I usually supply the correct answers, because I want students to focus on the correct methods.

I like the flipped classroom that Khan Academy is promoting, but most of my students don’t have a computer, or internet access to watch videos at home. And even if they did, there are so many other things fighting for our students’ attention when they get home, dedicating more time to something they don’t want to do, besides the 8 hours they already were forced into, is near impossible.

Here’s some final thoughts:

  • Assign homework through IXL or KhanAcademy, which provides students with the correct answers and help aids (it also shows you how long they are spending on these problems, which may can indicate a lot.) Both programs will also differentiate questions for the student.
  • Assign no more than 5 questions, and put the correct answers somewhere that they can access, so they can check their work, then grade only their work
  • Instead of calling it “homework,” call it “extra-credit.” Most students are not going to do it anyways, but now they are not going to fail your class because of it. And the students will love you for all the extra credit you give them

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