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Homework– Love it or leave it?

I recently attended a workshop by Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler tech-guru & former math teacher) and Matt Miller (@jmattmiller the Ditch That Textbook guy) titled Ditch That Homework. Here are a few ideas from the workshop that I’d like to throw at you to get you thinking. I have read of schools going to no homework policies, though my school building and district are not. Regardless, I think it is a great prompt for evaluating current practices. Take a look at these essential questions:

  • Why do we assign homework?
  • Is homework effective?
  • What would class look like if giving homework wasn’t an option?

These are questions worth asking ourselves whether we decide to continue with homework or not. As with a lot of strategies, it is easy to get into a comfort zone because that’s how they’ve always been done. It makes me think of the commercial about the guy being in a “food rut” when he thought he was in a “groove”. Are we in a rut with this one?

So, my first thought is to go to the research– what do those people that know a lot more than me have to say about homework? Well, thoughts fall all over the board from GPAs rising with the completion of homework all the way to giving students a chance to use their after-school time to participate in extracurriculars, read, and follow their own interests has a higher impact. Let’s also not discredit our own quick survey– ask a few parents of school-age children how they feel about homework. I am willing to bet that most say that it is a constant battle at home. Either way, I think it comes down to doing what is best for your group of students in your classroom.

Got it. But what would be the alternative?  Well, Alice and Matt feel that using class time more efficiently could allow for students to have independent practice and gain feedback from the teacher while at school. Here are the basics of a few of their ideas:

  • Feedback Loop– Alice demonstrated how she provides feedback to students, in person and online, throughout work-time during a class period. She said she really keeps her voice to a minimum as far as whole-group instruction but utilizes the time that students are working independently to guide their learning. 
  • Web-based games/formative assessments– Other possibilities could include using web-based review games/formative assessments like Quizizz to pre-test on material. You’ve done that a million times already, right? He said the real key is to use the new information right away. After instruction give that same Quizizz again that day. Continue this all week with the same content. Practice. Review. Practice.
  • Upgrade your worksheets– Another idea was to upgrade worksheets by making tasks more relevant and by utilizing technology. Adding a little bit of choice, real-world connection, and technology can really up engagement.

Interested in learning more? Check out their website, wait for their upcoming book, or find a workshop near you. Like all strategies, implementation is really the key– the best strategy can fall flat if not done correctly and that includes homework. Whether you’re going to “ditch that homework” or keep on keepin’ on, take a minute to evaluate what you do and why you do it.

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Author:

Instructional coach and former art teacher on the hunt for tips, tricks, strategies, and knowledge to pass along.

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