We have been having a discussion on our campus regarding the "meaningfulness" of homework. We all know that it is important for students to get into the habit of working on their own time as they will definitely need this skill as they go further in education. However, the role of homework is what we are beginning to rethink. Many teachers bog themselves down with collecting, grading and returning homework assignments...it becomes a never ending cycle of paperwork. Do the students learn more by this process, when there is no guarantee that the work they turn in is theirs to begin with? The question I have is this: What are other teachers doing to give meaningful homework assignments, how are they assessed and how does one incorporate Web 2.0 tools into homework assignments?

Tags: 2.0, assessment, homework, web

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I have a hard time using the internet/email/tech for homework because there are still too many students in my middle school classes who don't have computers/internet at home. Like you, I'll be interested to see if anyone else is able to incorporate Web 2.0 in their day-to-day homework routine.
Unfortunately my students do not have easy access to the internet at home. That being said homework can be built into your routine if the parents and students know why homework is important and purposeful. I know that alot of my students can't complete a lot of homework simply because of what happens outside the school. Therefore I have to pick and choose my assignments with care. I usually give my students extra time, alot of reminders, and the stipulation that it must be done on their time outside of the classroom, either at home or during recess and lunch breaks. So far, no complaints, and no problems with work being turned in.

An example of one project we did was asking good interview questions in class. We decided that we would interview the local celebrities in school (aka the teachers), and I gave the students a week to talk with five different teachers in our school. They had to have their questions ready ahead of time before they interviewed the teacher. The students really enjoyed the project. Some made appointments with teachers at lunch, some appointments were made after school and this was done of the students own accord.

This homework was also the ticket to their next writing project on writing newspaper reports on the computers. This is just an example of how I think I made homework meaningful to my students. Of course, my definition of meaningful may be different than others.

I found this article that others may find interesting, because the homework debate is a hot topic in many schools.

Here is the article:

We are having the same discussion at our elementary school. I give math homework (because it is part of the curriculum we use). I wouldn't say that it is a "meaningful" homework assignment as I rarely have time to go over the homework the next day. It is only meaningful when a student can learn where they made their mistakes. I only have 50 minutes for my math block and with so much to review and teach I find, at best, I can go over only a few of the math problems...not the entire sheet.

I also assign weekly writing (five sentences on one topic due Friday - grading is progressive throughout the year....at the begining of the year it is only graded on if the student has five sentences and can stay on topic...then we move up to capital letters where appropriate, punctuation, and more then five words in a sentence...etc...). The way I incoporate Web 2.0 tools is that I allow students to submit their writing, every other week, through an email form I set up on my website. On the alternating weeks they have to submit their work in writing. I do have a quite a few students who don't have computers or internet at their house and they can either submit their assigment in writing or use any free time in the classroom to submit through one of our classroom computers (I have a few students who like to do this). Is this a meanful assignment? I think so. Students are becoming much more confident and faster at writing five sentence paragraphs. I comment on all their work, so they get feedback, and I often get a glimpse into their lives that I wouldn't have had normally.
I really feel that you do have to ask yourself why am I giving my students this homework; make sure you know the impact it will have. I see a number of students given "busy work" and I wonder what they are learning from this.

I would also love to hear how others are incorporating 2.0 tolls into their homework assignments.
I wish students who needed the homework could get it and those students who don't need it don't get it. The problem with homework is the kids that need it many times don't do it and the kids that don't need it do it. Start a class blog and have students blog for homework. You can see our blog here, the students do it at home but not for homework . They do it because I threaten them...haha.

(start at Recent Posts to see kids writing)
I stopped giving homework after my second year of teaching.

Best thing I ever did. The fact is, homework isn't meaningful. The only subject I see any benefit to is math and that is simply due to the repetition working for some kids. As a history teacher I see nothing I can send home with kids that would be worth them doing without me to guide them.

I just make my website as interesting as possible and offer the kids class points for doing things on it in their own time. They can play the games, review the notes, post on the blog, etc. It is plenty meaningful because it is done by choice alone. I'd much rather give them a project to do that requires them to research on their own than to give any kind of traditional homework.

If homework was made to be discovery learning, that is, mysteries and research questions, then I might be a reason behind it. Until then, I'm convinced that most teachers give homework simply because most teachers give homework.
...or school districts require homework.
Hi David,
Fifth grade teachers at my school changed the way we assign homework last year and love the new system. We call it "After School Learning" or ASL. Each student has a folder to keep track of the work they do. Now here is the interesting piece, teachers make suggestions and fill requests for worksheets but students choose what to work on and then record what they have done. Every Friday students share (optional) what they have worked on. We have had students bake pies and cakes, build robots, practice math facts and typing (online), write poems and stories, conduct science experiments, you name it. Our classroom has a blog and some students choose that for ASL too. Our only stipulations are; students meet the 50 minute homework time requirement set by our school district and at least 20 minutes of that must be reading. At first it was dicey as some students thought it was very easy to slip out of doing much. A few still do; perhaps they always will! For the rest, following their interests and continuing to learn is the emphasis. Parents (the majority) are happy with the new program. No more packets to finish or stress after dinner. We love it as we no longer have to correct the packets! We did use our delicious site to provide parents with current research that says homework at the elementary level is ineffective. Our delicious site also provides resources for ASL. Families have sign-in information so when they come across interesting sites they can post them. We really look forward to Friday ASL sharing now, it is amazing what students will do if you set them free!
Hi David,
Not sure what you mean by performance. What we have noticed is that students are motivated to learn and to pursue learning that is meaningful to them. Listening to a shy fifth grade girl share her experiment with growing mold because she wants to be a biologist when she grows up was exciting for every student, parent, and teacher there. I didn’t check to see whether or not she set up her procedure correctly, controlled variables, or included everything needed in her conclusion. Perhaps I should back up. Students share in groups first before they share whole group. Peer feedback is very powerful! This has increased participation more than anything I have said or done. Often students in small groups ask the same sort of questions that the rest of the students will have during whole group sharing. The small group share gives students time to practice responses if they plan to share in front of the whole group or recieve feedback from peers if they don’t plan to do so. So for my fifth grade scientist, she answered many questions about her experiment, sometimes with an, “I don’t know!” She also received some suggestions on how to improve her next experiment. The feedback is genuine, meaningful, and comes from a variety of sources. Once again, the emphasis is on learning, not teaching. If a student is making mistakes on something we are teaching, we catch it on the work they do in class. If they are exploring bridge building or robotics and make spelling, math or grammar errors in their report, nobody corrects it. The focus is on what the student chose to learn about and what they discovered. Hope this helps!
Ahh, the test or, tests in our case. Our fifth graders take the Washington Assessment of Student learning (WASL) in math, reading, and science. We have not tried to measure the connection between ASL and WASL scores as we believe, and research supports, the fact that homework at the elementary level does not impact test scores. I do think we get more buy in for our daily lessons as there are students in every classroom who are excited about learning something from the standards. My fifth grade biologist inspires the writer sitting next to her and the mathematician across the room. There are students and families that prefer test prep homework and we provide that, either in hard copy or through links on our wiki or delicious sites.

I think that doing well on tests is important but it does not prevent us from nurturing the joy of learning. ASL has helped us to even things out a bit. Back to the buy in, this year, the first question I asked parents at conference time was, "Does your child like coming to school?" Only one parent answered negatively. Students are buying into school and learning, without that kind of buy in it is difficult to positively impact performance.
Elise, What a great idea. Here's a thought--use old photos to spark student-parent discussion. I blogged about it last year.
I teach high school history. I do not believe in lengthy assignments, nor busy work. Work usually prepares them for tomorrow's class, and includes one reflection question. Sometimes, it reinforces what was done the previous day.

I suspect teachers assign too much work in general. Never, I say never, assign work during vacations. On NPR, a Leisure Studies professor said that vacations are times for reflection, which makes us better learners in general. Don't you have more "aha" moments, when you're not overburdened with work?

Reflection assignments involve blogging. For example, after reading the classic poem, "White Man's Burden," students blogged their own poems/songs/slogans in response.



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