Towards the end of last year, when I was going over directions for that night's homework, one of my students told me, “You give the least homework of any of the third grade teachers.” Other students chimed in that they agreed. I have to admit I was a bit surprised.
I asked them, “Do you feel like you need more homework?”
Being third graders, they immediately shouted "NO!" in unison.
But I began to question myself. I’d cut back on homework over the years. Was I giving enough homework?Was I hampering or hindering their educational growth? I decided the answer, for me, was no. My students weren’t being harmed in any way by bringing less homework home.
With homework on my mind, I began noticing more and more articles about the pros and cons of assigning work outside of the school day, and I read every one I came across. So now, after all that reading and almost a year having passed, instead of wondering if I’m giving too little homework, I’m wondering if I’m assigning too much.
I have to believe I’m not the only teacher who finds her or himself in a homework quandary. This week I plan to share how I currently assign homework, my plans for change, and the fears I have of giving less homework. I would love to hear from teachers who have found a way to manage the homework/no homework conundrum.
My Weekly Homework for Third Graders
While my district does not have any policies regarding homework, our building generally uses the 10 minutes of homework per grade level guideline. For example, first graders would have 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, etc. Even though I aim for 30 minutes of homework a night. I know of course my one-size-fits all homework takes 10 minutes for some and an hour for others.
Over the past several years I have dropped my homework to three times a week from four. I maintain the same structure each week so it is predictable and busy lives outside of school can be accommodated.
Each Monday, students receive a version of the homework sheet shown below:
Students are encouraged to use the sheet as a weekly planner. They can write in when they have karate, soccer practice, religious education, etc.
Most of the homework, except for math, is handed out on Monday so students can prioritize their work around their schedules. Math homework is directly connected to the day’s lesson and it is handed out on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Wednesday is known as catch-up day when no new homework is handed out. Parents sign the sheet each night and students return it to class each day so I can check it and write notes on it if necessary. Students get stickers to show they have turned in their homework. There is never weekend homework and projects are only done in school.
Some of the many personal reasons I believe in giving homework include:
· Students learn to manage their time and prioritize responsibilities.
· It gives parents a window into their children’s school work as well as their child’s work/study habits
· It’s working. Parents aren’t complaining about homework. Late homework is a rarity. Our students do well on state assessments and move onto middle school well-prepared.
What if I Stop Giving Homework?
Even though part of me says, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I’m seriously considering trying the no homework route for our next marking period. I remember the relief I would feel when my own kids came through the door at the end of the day and announced they had no homework. It’s not lost on me that many of my parents would feel the same way. Family time is precious and too much homework can infringe upon it. My idea for replacing traditional homework would be to ask students to do the following each night:
· Read. Whenever you can, wherever you can.
· Talk to your family about your day. Share what you learned in school.
· Play outside.
· Help out: set the table, unload the dishwasher, make your bed.
· Get to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
My biggest fears in going to this alternative homework are:
· Students won’t use the extra time to read, play outside, talk to family members or help out around the house. Instead, they’ll play more video games or YouTube incessantly.
· Parent backlash: Some parents ask for extra homework. I worry how they would react if there was less.
· Students won’t be prepared for the rigors of homework in subsequent grades.
· Assessment scores will fall. Our evaluations are tied to student progress. I’m honestly a bit fearful that an experiment with no homework may impact how well my students do even though some studies find little correlation.
It’s Decided: I’m Going to Give (Almost) No Homework a Try
I have to admit I’m fearful of the unknown, but writing this blog post has helped me work through some of my concerns about dropping homework. The school curriculum we follow is rigorous. My third graders have expectations that used to be fourth and fifth grade goals. Our school day doesn’t end until 4:07 p.m. and many students don’t get home until well after that, leaving little downtime, especially if there are other afterschool activities taking place. They just may need more time to be kids.
Less homework means more time to play with friends and siblings
I’ll consider the third marking period a “pilot,” knowing I can always make adjustments. There will still be some homework as needed. If classwork isn’t finished because time wasn’t used well in class, that will still be homework. And of course, I’ll still expect my students to read during some of their newfound time.
I would absolutely love to hear from teachers who have gone from a traditional homework model to no homework. What did you find when you did away with homework? Please share in the comment section below.
Take care and thanks for reading,
Researchers have found that when it comes to homework, more isn't better.
In fact, more than 70 minutes a day of maths and science homework can actually be detrimental to your child's learning.
Spanish researchers looked at the performance of 7,725 students from both private and state schools, and asked them how much time they spent on homework, and for breakdowns of time they spent on various subjects.
The researchers made adjustments for gender and socioeconomic background.
They also measured how much they improved by looking at previous attainment in maths and science.
Journal of Educational Psychology
90 -100 mins
Grades fell when students did this much homework a day
The researchers found that an hour was the optimum amount of time to spend on homework, and this was the amount that most teachers set.
At the 90 -100 minute mark, grades began to fall. It was too much homework.
Between 70-90 minutes a day, grades increased very slightly, but such an small amount that the researchers advised that it was not worth making your child spend two extra hours a week on homework for such a small gain.
70 minutes is still a pretty high bar for a night of homework on just maths and science.
How much time does your child spend on their homework a day?
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[Source: Adolescents’ Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices]