Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t like homework. I am a teacher and I DO NOT LIKE HOMEWORK! Surprised? Maybe you are or maybe you are not. If you are like any other teacher or parent on the planet you have probably seen the great homework debate playing out. It has been all over social media, the news, and in various forms of print. Many people think that this is a new issue. It isn’t. The debate has been going on for years!
A huge amount of research has been done and the experts (Harris Cooper, Alfie Kohn, and many others) have come to the conclusion that homework does not really benefit students until middle/high school. So, why do we continue to assign homework in elementary school? I am not really sure. The only thing I do know is that I don’t like it and here’s why:
Uneven Playing Field
Homework is defined by Meriam-Webster as “an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period”. In college I was taught that homework should be independent practice that directly relates to the days lesson making it easy to complete independently. For some students it is. Unfortunately, for many it isn’t. There are many factors that can make homework completion a challenge. One of the biggest is lack of support at home for students that need it. Struggling learners by definition struggle with learning. Without adequate support at home to help with homework these kiddos either guess or don’t complete assignments at all. Sometimes support is offered, but different strategies are introduced at home, which can lead to confusion and wrong answers. Homework is easy for some students and challenging for others. How is that helpful?
Collecting & Correcting Homework = No Fun
Collecting and correcting homework is one of this teacher’s biggest headaches. I have tried every trick in the book to have ALL of students complete and turn in homework every day. From homework folders to incentive charts to standing on my head and it very rarely happens the way I envision. The struggle is real! I used to think, ” Really?! How hard can it be to complete the work and bring it back the next day?” After 20+ years of teaching I am here to say that it can be really, really hard. Family dynamics, lack of support, executive functioning, trauma, and a million other things can contribute to homework not making it back to school. Then, after spending a HUGE amount of time collecting homework it still needs to be corrected. Yes, homework can be corrected in class, but I don’t want to waste time correcting when I could be teaching. Some of you will argue with me and say that correcting homework in class benefits kids because they get immediate feedback on whether they understood the material. I respectfully disagree because of everything I mentioned in #1. Sorry. The next best option is correcting homework during a planning period (if you don’t have emails to answer, photocopies to make or other problems to solve during that time) or taking it home. More often than not I would drag homework home, spend a good amount of time correcting it, and pass it back to students with multiple forms of feedback. Then, to my horror, I would find these assignments in the recycle bin, on the floor, or crumpled in the dark corners of desks. Ughh!
Kids Don’t Have Time to be Kids
I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would want to be a kid again. Kids these days are so busy! When I grew up ( a LONG time ago) I went to school, came home, and went outside to play. I met up with the neighborhood kids to ride bikes, play games, get dirty, and have a blast. Kids today go to school and then participate in any number of scheduled activities, practices and lessons. When they get home they wolf down dinner and do homework. Yes, it is great that kids are playing sports, learning to play instruments, and participating in lots of fun activities. But, when do they just get to be a kid? When are they going outside to just play? There aren’t that many hours in the day and homework can eat up the majority of the daylight hours after school. I want to encourage my students to take a break from screens and go outside!
Lack of Family Time
Students spend more time at school than at home. Imagine a typical family. Mom and dad get home from work at 5:00 p.m. and make dinner. By the time the kitchen is cleaned up it is 6:30 p.m. That leaves only 2 to 2.5 hours before the kids need to be tucked into bed. That’s pretty scary when you think about all that needs to get done during that time. Talking and unwinding, homework, showers and/or baths, reading, and getting ready for the next day all take precedence. Did you see anything missing? I did! There was no mention of family fun time. Many families would love to go for a walk after dinner or play a board game. Other families might enjoy watching a movie or playing cards. But, that isn’t an option a lot of the time because of homework. Either it takes longer than it is supposed to or it leads to frustration, anger, and yelling. Guess what? Life is too short and family time is important.
As an elementary school teacher I have to look at the research. It shows that homework doesn’t impact student learning in the elementary grades. (Google it – you’ll see!) As a parent I think about the countless hours I spent chasing my own kids to make sure that homework was done. Boy do I wish I could get that time back! Do I have all of the answers? No, but I do have a plan for September. In fact, I have tried it out already and I have a freebie for you to try it, too. More on that in a minute. I promise!
The research shows that reading is important. Totally agree. I think that kids need to know math facts, too. Another skill that I think is important is studying. Finally, I believe that kids need to spend quality time with family and friends. I began to wonder how I could use homework assignments to make it happen. That’s when I imagined my BINGO boards. I decided to create boards that would have reading, math, and fun activities. The goal is to do at least five in a row to earn a BINGO. Students are awarded for earning BINGO, but completing the whole card is even better. I created a Summer Fun BINGO resource to be used during the summer months. The freebie I mentioned above can be found here. It includes the month of August for you to try out. I hope you like it!
Whew! That was a long post. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on homework.
P.S. Be on the lookout for another post detailing how I will be approaching homework this year!