I found this article to be very thought provoking and would love to hear from some educators on the topic. It discusses how one town in NJ has decided to limit the amount of homework given to K-6 students on weeknight to 10 minutes multiplied by the grade level and completely eliminated homework assignments on weekends. One of the commenters at the bottom of the article brought up a good point questioning how this would affect teacher evaluations in a state that is focusing on student test data as a measuring tool.
Homework has always been an educator's nightmare. What is too much?
As a K-6 students, I would think your idea is great! As a teacher in this town, facing evaluation based on student test data, I'd be looking for my students to work smarter.
As a new math teacher, I graded every homework problem my students turned in and provided lengthy red marks guiding them to see the correct solution. I discovered I was the only one learning from their homework.
Another year, I tried homework with 10 review questions from lessons past, 10 review questions from yesterday's lessons and 10 questions from the current day's work, thinking this would give them some they could do easily and provide some afterschool work on what we were learning. Better but confusing for some students.
Another year, I tried no homework. Students were expected to work in class from the moment they came to class until the bell rang with my guidance and no one had homework. Not a great plan either, plus parents started asking why no homework.
If I had had the technology, available to me today, back then I might have tried the upside down class where I create a video for the instruction to be viewed at home and we did the "homework" problems in the classroom with my guidance.
What are others going to say to this discussion, I can only surmise but I will follow it with interest.
I think the trick here is helping students and families find balance in an assessment and media-driven culture that allows children to explore all areas of their development: athletic, philsophical, social, emotional and academic. Limiting homework can support that development, but only when students and families are equipped to take advantage of the opportunities that presents.
Jane said, "I'd be looking for my students to work smarter" - well put! I've seen teachers that assign homework because it was expected or to meet parents' expectations (as you wrote, when you tried not assigning homework, parents were confused). I think those types of busy work assignments can actually be a bit detrimental - it's not enhancing or enriching the in-class learning and it sends a message to students that filling out worksheets is a valuable learning exercise. I can't blame a 4th grader who decides learning is boring if as a teacher I'm communicating that busy work and doing an in-depth project are equally valuable uses of their time as opposed to being able to go to soccer practice.
The key to this town's approach is that reading, doing long-term projects and studying for tests are still allowed. This means students will continue to work on the executive skills of project and time management, while devoting more time to in-depth interest-directed learning, comprehension and targeted review.
A key factor in making this work would be effective communication with parents. Just as we differentiate in-class activities, at-home reinforcement should be differentiated. Not every child needs to practice what they learned in a lesson at home in order to retain it, but some students should probably spend some time at home further developing math skills while other students might need to work on their writing a bit more. Showing parents resources like Thinkfinity with suggestions about areas to focus on could be a lot more beneficial to the student then having them sit by themselves and answer similar problems they worked on in class.
Just as any legislation in education concerns me, I don't love the idea of a one-size fits all solution. There will be the 5th grader that really needs to repeat the classwork at home in order to stay caught up and there should be room to give them that support. Using technology is a great way to do that. Students could complete online assessments and need to reach a certain number of correct problems, or a number of attempts to earn credit for completing their work.
I love Jane's suggestion about the upside-down class. At this grade level, I'd take it a step further and post each video with a set of discussion questions for the parents to talk to their children about afterwards. This will help keep the parents involved in the students' progress and start the students' critical thinking before they get to class.
I'm looking forward to hearing how other teachers support at-home enrichment in lieu of extra assignments.
I think every school district is grappling with this question, and I see a district in South Jersey has banned homework completely on the weekends, as well as limiting the homework during the week to 10 min per grade level. The only problem is - what is 20 minutes of homework for one student might be 40 minutes for another - so how do you decide if homework being returned is complete or incomplete?
As I think about this question, I would ask the rationale for not giving homework on weekends? I would then ask if not on weekends why not also give avoid it on week nights? Studies seem to show the US is falling further and further behind other industrialized countries in terms of education. Is having students do less a good solution to this alleged dip in education? I give homework on weekends if it is necessary for what I am doing on Monday in class. I don't go out of my to give or not give homework on weekends. If needed, I do assign it. By the way, aren't Americans doing more and more work beyond the normal work day hours?
Parade Magazine this Sunday has an article about taking our weekends back. I like to keep my weekends as unstructured as possible. I don't assign homework just because it is expected, I assign as needed and is relevant. American students are not falling behind because they are not assigned homework.
I know many teachers assign homework from the part of the lesson they could not teach during class. Is this poor planning?
I did not routinely assign homework on the weekends. I have asked students who are traveling to bring back items or gather rocks, leaves, etc-for an upcoming project. I also don't assign a lot of nightly homework-because I know all homes are not created equally many lack parental support.
Homework should always be meaningful, and, as mentioned previously, should relate to upcoming lessons. The day of the week the work is done is irrelevant. Just because it's a Saturday or a Sunday, doesn't mean that a child can't learn something. Teachers shouldn't be afraid to be original with their assignments--assigning web quests, videos to watch, a visit to a local museum exhibit, and anything else that isn't just book work. We should avoid getting into the "Pg. 155 #2-40 even" rut. Or my other pet peeve: assigning 100 problems over the weekend, because the class was bad all week. Do you know anyone who still does this?
My administrator addressed homework during staff training and urged teachers not to load students down with homework. He feels like that is setting many students up for failure who don't have parents who value education at home. I have mixed feelings about weeknight homework due to my own child exiting a 3 year JH that assigned no homework and entering a traditional HS that assigns homework freely.
I am a teacher and don't take work home on the weekend so I don't assign it either. If teachers don't want to work on school on the weekends, I don't believe they should assign anything over what students didn't finish in class.
At my school, each teacher has their own homework policy. One team at my school has all committed to the "no homework on weekends" policy. Actually, they give all their homework assignments for the week on Monday, and all the work is due on Friday, so the students have flexibility in their schedules to complete it. There are other teachers at the school that don't give homework on weekends, but their grade-level team mates do. Surprisingly, there are no complaints or comments from parents. I like to give out homework to connect what I am doing in class with what is being done at home. It is a way of communicating with parents about the learning taking place in the classroom and giving them the means to be involved in the continuation of that learning at home. I am not a parent yet. I wonder what parents prefer.
Just wanted to add a Sep 2011 article from the New York Times on the value of homework: The Trouble With Homework. It suggests that applying different learning techniques to homework — such as spaced repetition, retreival practice, and "desirable difficulty" or interleaving — could help students learn more effectively from homework assignments.
I have over the past few years, tried to avoid homework with my students. The students who needed the extra practice didn't do it, and the ones who didn't need the practice did it.
I do think teaching 2nd grade, I do lay a groundwork for students. If I can get my students practicing good homework habits now, then these habits will continue in later school years. I do try to keep my homework to 20-30 minutes a night. How do I know what 20 to 30 minutes look like? There is no exact answer. This year every student is taking home two easy reading books every night to read. Since these are at the students easy level, they truly should be about 5 to 10 minutes a book. Occasionly my math program has assigned homework. The homework seems so far (this is my first year using Everyday Math) relatively easy, and a review of what we have been working on at school. Often the math homework seems to have students sharing with parents what we have been working on. Lastly I have spelling words for the students to practice . I send these home on Friday and our spelling test is the next Thursday. This gives some flexibillty on when students practice and they can break it up into small chunks.
All of this being said, I was struggling should I be sending homework home this year on weekends, and I decided on sending it. Many of my students see family on the weekend, and what a great time to practice reading one of the easy reading texts to a family member like a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. I think students need to start early having some time set aside to practice some school work everynight. I think this will lead to good study habits.
This seems to be working for my second grade classroom. I will give an update again in a month. I am looking forward to talking to parents about this at conference and I will be looking for feedback from them!
You seem to have a sound approach to homework. It sounds low key and the assignments are aimed at review and sharing with parents. I especially like hearing your students are taking home easy readers and that is an opportunity for them to read each night to them parents, grandparents, or even their dog. Dogs can be very patient listeners. :-)
We use to have a white rabbit in our library who was allowed to sit with students as they read to it in the reading pit.
I'm sure if you explain your homework policy to your parents in this same not threatening way they will be eager to support their child. I do like that you are thinking ahead and trying to help students establish a homework routine.
Your second grade students are very lucky to have you as their teacher.
I love the emphasis you put on the sharing while practicing. It takes homework from a chore, to something that children and their parents can share while spending time together. Children are often at a loss when parents ask "what did you learn in school today" and this allows them to share in a much deeper sense.
All of these responses have been great! I've started to look at homework from a different, and evolving, angle.
My question is...should homework be given at all? The only homework that I will give my students is reflection type work or skill practice. The rationale is this: If you are taking a grade on homework it is not a valid reflection of what a student can do on their own as students get varying degrees of help from parents on their work at home. I do believe that additional skill practice is needed especially for the earlier grades (i.e. reading practice, phonics practice, spelling, handwriting, etc.)
I went to highschool with a guy whose mother completed all of his work for him and she received a 4.0 and a scholarship to a good school. The sad part about this story is that he was not able to cut it on his own once in college and dropped out.
I have two perspectives to share: one as a parent and the other as an educator.
As a parent I struggle with my own perception of value for the assignments that I see come home in the weekly "homework folder" for first, second, & third grade. I believe that math practice could have a place outside of school and maybe spelling word rehearsal, but I usually see what my kids are being asked to do as weakly associated to some content/standards, but not worth the time and energy it takes to remember to get it done on Thursday night, to turn in on Friday. I think homework should start, at the earliest, in fourth or fifth grade when the student is really ready for the responsibility of remembering to complete the work and completing it all without assistance. Otherwise it seems more like a training course for parents to remember in the midst of very busy schedules--and for students to be evaluated on their parents organization & memory skills--or lack there of more than their own... For families who don't read, think, discuss, engage I can see how the benefit of "sharing" some time this way might be of value, but for families who do those things all the time, homework can get in the way of good family reading time, spending time outdoors, etc...
As a high school history teacer, I work to use homework judiciously. I ask students who were not productive in class to complete assignments as homework and I assign reading a few days a week--including weekends--to prepare for content that will be covered in class. Occasionaly there will be part of a project or some comprehension questions that go with reading material to complete, but overall I stick with the belief that most academic work should be done in an academic environment.
I teach 7th grade inclusion ELA in a low income area. Last year, we assigned homework a few times a week and the students pretty much just didn't do their homework at all. This year, we are assigning homework only once a week. The homework reinforces our lessons. I have been amazed that the majority of the students this year are actually turning in the homework- and early. On the advice of a colleague, I have posted a HW chart on the wall and i put a smiley face sticker next to names of those who turn in specific assignments and everytime 5 assignments are in the students receive a small reward. I think this helps because the kids like to be competitive and they want the small rewards. It may not be the best plan but it works for us so far. But we never assign weekend homework -- because we don't think they would do it and we feel weekends should be for family time. Our students deal with enough stresses during the week --bullying, schools fights, jealousies, conflicts with teachers, security guards, etc....that they deserve a weekend with no assignment from us.
I love to give homework to my students on weekdays without fail. Why? it's because I believe that Math is a skill subject, just like when we learn a foreign language. When you don't practice it, you lose it! However, I also feel that students should be free on weekends so that they can enjoy themselves freely, without worrying about their homework grades. Let them have fun with their siblings and parents, with their friends, and kins. KIds are also human beings like us, you know, who need "breaks" from routines! When Monday comes, they will be as refreshed as can be, ready to work again!
What has happen to this generation of students.....no paper, no pencils, what about text books? (Practice on an IPOD while surfing CSCOPE) I need weekends to assign homework, or at least to catch up with what that didn't get. Only if we had more weekends to work with. In teaching mathematics, there are instances where rote becomes practical. What a better time to gain that practice then the weekend.
Also, start assigning homework from early childhood. Establish a routine.