On Homework

Very early in my career I was horrified when another teacher — one nearing retirement — announced that she wasn’t assigning homework any more. My shock registered visibly on my face, and she calmly said, “They won’t do it, so why should I assign it?”

With all my youthful certainty I vowed privately NEVER to lower my expectations, NEVER to give in to student laziness, because MY students DID homework.

Over the years I learned respect.

For many of our students, the bell at the end of the day serves the same purpose as the old factory whistle. Books go into lockers, and they don’t think about school again until the next day. Their lives are as full as ours; no one goes home to sit around and be bored. Some students give homework a bit of attention; some accept it as a responsibility and work at it seriously. My job is to adjust in order to maximize their effort.

If homework is to be graded, I take a completion grade, generally a 1, 3, or 5 indicating percentage attempted. Then students check their own work. It’s how I ensure that they actually get the practice they need. I tell students they should have a chance to get something wrong and learn from it instead of having it count against them.

It saves time when students will read assignments or do some drafting outside of class, and I appreciate those who do. But it’s a fact that many don’t. I don’t serve my students well by denying the way things are. So yes, I assign homework. But if it isn’t done, we deal with it and move on.

I’m participating in Kelly Hines’ Blogging Challenge. This is Day Twelve: “Talk about homework.”

2 thoughts on “On Homework

  1. What an important topic! I urge every teacher, regardless of grade level, to investigate an important book that changed the way I teach. Check out Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth. It’s based on solid research and discusses the many falsehoods surrounding homework, the push for rigor, and the value of grading a student’s practice. The book was so well researched and so convincing that I formed a professional learning community based on the book’s ideas, which we presented to the entire staff at my high school.

  2. Having students check their own work is a great way to both show them their own errors and have them become engaged in the marking process. This can motivate students even further. Another great strategy we teach in our TESOL course is for teachers to let peers mark homework. This makes marking an activity that students get excited for because their friends and classmates are marking it.

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