Saturday, August 24, 2013

Homework - Still

One of the things I have been thinking about for the upcoming school year is - Homework. Over the last two years, I have attempted to limit the amount of homework assigned, made it as relevant as possible, and designed it to practice what we have been working on in class. Even with those modifications, that has not really improved the quality of what is submitted. Since homework was designed as practice, my policy was to count homework for effort, not accuracy. It would end up counting about 20% of a term grade and was a way to encourage students to show consistent effort and improvement through practice. However, the game for many of my students often was to submit something that was complete enough - for the grade - with not really much learning or practicing going on. It mainly served as a way to inflate their grades.

Eliminating homework altogether is an option that I considered. Pernille Ripp posted an excellent post recently about getting rid of homework in 11 steps. It had me almost convinced to go that route. The primary problem with this approach is my belief, for now anyway, that while we definitely practice in class what we are studying, enough practice on math concepts is not possible only in the classroom - at least for a majority of my students.

So that left me stuck with what to do for this year. For now, I have decided to continue to assign homework on many nights. It will also continue to be designed for practice and/or enrichment but it will not count towards a grade. My thought is that with the removal of the grading game, those that do it, hopefully most of them he said naively, will be truly doing it for practice and to improve their skills. When I check the work they submit, the feed back I give should also be more meaningful and open up further avenues of discussion and learning between us; student and teacher.


  1. Frank,

    I, too, am opposed to (most) homework. I teach reading/writing, however, so my homework is to read for at least 20 min/night. Students set goals every two weeks, and then grade themselves on how they did (honor system - works for most kids). But when it comes to math or foreign language, how do they get enough practice if they don't have homework? But on the other hand, what if they practice something WRONG on their homework?

    I commend you for putting your thoughts out there - I hope other math teachers will jump in and help you, because I have no clue what I'd do if I taught math... Good luck with the process and your next year!

    1. Joy,

      Thanks for your response, Joy.

      It can become a problem when students practice the homework incorrectly. My hope is that since in theory, the students doing their homework this year will be more invested, the feedback I give them on their homework will be more meaningful and help them correct their errors quickly.

      Good luck with your school year too!

  2. Frank,

    I think the type of practice is important. The kids have to want to do it. Drill and kill, or just a sheet of problems is truthfully incredibly boring. For an advanced class make a competition-most problems solved. For a lower/regular class make it FUN-games based. This would work with your plan for this year.

    1. Suzanne,

      Drill and kill is definitely boring and I do try to avoid that as much as is possible. Thank you for your suggestions and the links that you shared.

      Thanks for your reply and have a good school year.