One of the hottest topics debated in education is homework. How much, if any at all? What kind? How should it be graded, if at all? For what it’s worth (and lately, I get the feeling that what teachers think about topics in education doesn’t matter one bit — but that’s another blog post), here are my thoughts on homework.
Should students get homework? Yes. But teachers need to use discretion when assigning homework. It’s ridiculous to give homework just because you think kids need it every night. Assign it as necessary. And make it relevant. To me, acceptable homework assignments include things like reading some pages from a book, reviewing for a test, doing practice problems to review the lesson learned that day, working on a long-term project, developing study aids like flash cards or graphic organizers, or completing a writing assignment.
How much? I have always like the “10 minutes times your grade” method of calculating how much homework a student should get. This formula means kids in 1st grade would get 10 minutes of homework at night. Kids in 5th grade would get 50 minutes. Kids in 10th grade would get 100 minutes. You get the idea. Those times seem reasonable for the ages of the students.
Should homework be graded? Well, yes, if it can be. Reading a chapter from a novel can’t be graded, but completing 5 math problems can be. However, to me, the grade should be more to inform my instruction. It should not be punitive, meaning it shouldn’t punish the student for not doing the work or be detrimental to the student’s grade if it has mistakes. But it also shouldn’t be used for inflation, meaning that students shouldn’t have their grade skewed in favor of good homework scores when more formalized assessments (like unit tests) aren’t similar. I think counting homework scores for no more than 10% of a student’s overall grade for a class is plenty of weight.
Homework is a type of informal assessment when used properly by the teacher. It allows the teacher to get a glimpse into what a student can accomplish on his or her own. Students and parents will be more open to getting homework done and done properly and well if it isn’t cumbersome or irrelevant.