A few weeks ago, Chris Reinhold asked me if I had read Cathy Vatterott's book Rethinking Homework. She was very excited about the book and said it had really made her reevaluate some of her beliefs. She was right. The book is very thought provoking. So, I thought as we approach a new school year, with hopefully new vigor and positive expectations, that a discussion about homework and how we feel about it could be worthwhile and informative. I would like to hear how you feel about homework assignments. Do you give homework daily, weekly, not on weekends- what is your goal or objective? Is it for remediation, to move a lesson along, to teach responsibility? Do you feel parents are supportive? How many of your students do homework on a consistent basis?

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I teach a special ed class called guided Studies. I mainly assign reading 30 minutes per night. I fought the homework battle with my own 2 children about 20 years ago and found it was mostly a waste of time. Homework should be reviewing notes of the day and going over what you need to remember. I have teachers giving 25 math problems, reading a chapter or work that takes hours and frustrates kids. I believe that students retain what they do in class, not homework, where they don't have access to the teacher. Also it is a lot of work for teachers to grade and keep up with. Parents are not always supportive because they can't help the kids.
Let me preface this by saying that I teacher Spanish. One of the most important parts of acquiring a new language is practice. You get good at Spanish by using the language in a meaningful way.
Two years ago, I jumped off the traditional homework bandwagon. I used to assign a certain page in the workbook or a certain exercise from the book. I would check to see who had it--usually half of them--and then I would go over it as they corrected their own and asked questions about the ones they missed. I rarely had a question. At the same time, I was noticing a lot of kids copying and "collaborating" in the cafeteria and other common areas of the school. I realized then that my assignments were not accomplishing the goal--affording extra meaningful practice. I made the shift. I require that everyone keeps a study log where they record what they did to practice Spanish. I take these on Friday. I also have give them suggestions for assignments--including clips from youtube, games I have created and practicing with a partner. . The nice thing is that students usually do more than is required. I have also noticed that students have done better. There is a higher level of comprehension and this past year final exam grades were better than usual (another topic)
Alfie Kohn's book, The Homework Myth helped put the idea of homework into perspective.
I'm still struggling with the balance between in and out of school work. I teach Language Arts and the primary focus of my curriculum is writing. It's my philosophy that in order to improve as a writer, you need to write, but there isn't always enough time in class for meaningful practice, especially for an emerging or struggling writer. What I've come up with is a weekly homework assessment based on in-progress writing. I give my students a chart of different assignments that I created using Bloom's to develop levels of entry. This way students who struggle and students who excel can each find challenging work (another area where I struggle to find balance). Students choose from the chart what they want to accomplish that week. They can do the work in class, or follow up at home. For me it's a nice balance because it reinforces the idea that writing is a process, and it also gives my students control of their own learning. It's also great because I can discuss their writing while it's in progress and give feedback in a low-stakes environment. There is a bit of a learning curve because my students are initially more comfortable with teacher driven choices. The two biggest hurdles I've had to overcome are procrastination and students who still believe they have to do an "extra" assignment each week.



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