Monday, February 18, 2013

Homework? Time to Weigh In!

Today is going to be a quick post. . . I'm really interested in hearing people's opinions on this one!  I have been teaching for 20 years now, and I am not sure I have ever quite wrapped my head around my own philosophy on homework for elementary students.

As we are asked to do more and more--and our school day stays the same length, I worry some that we are going to feel like we need to push some of the work into the realm of "home" work.  Now, don't get me wrong--I believe that students need to build habits.  I require home reading.  I ask students to do some math work several times per week.  There are times when I might ask my students to finish up some work or to do something like illustrate a piece of writing or something else at home.  That being said . . . when work is done at home, do we really know what is happening?  Do we want our students struggling with work they are just learning?  Do we want to put our students in situations where they need help and there are no resources to provide it?

I guess that's why I have always been of the mindset that homework should be something that students can do independently.  They can learn responsibility, review previous learning, work to meet deadlines, and learn to keep track of materials.  What are YOUR thoughts?  I really want to know!  I had a discussion the other night on Twitter with someone who said homework is required in her district--and they are required to grade it.  What are the policies in your district?  Your classroom?

As a bonus for chiming in, I have a freebie for you!  I just posted a set of math homework and/or math "warm ups" in my store and I took 2 pages out of it to create a free sample for you!  Grab it if you think you could use it!  If you like it, I'd love for you to leave me a comment/rating on TpT saying so!


  1. I too find homework tricky. I use it for reading, word study and in January I send home a multiplication package we call home math. I sometimes assign a project (science, social studies, book report) for them to complete at home - but I assess their presentation of the material and following the success criteria - but it is so hard to accurately assess work that was completed at home and maybe with considerable assistance and editing. Sorry for the long comment.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  2. I agree that students need to build good study habits. I also agree, however, that new skills shouldn't be learned at home. When it comes down to it, they are just still kids. They aren't ready to teach themselves yet, but they should be practicing skills that they have learned. Great thought provoking post!

  3. You are not doing your students any favors if you do not give them homework. I agree, in an ideal world, it should be material they can handle independently, but we all know that is not going to be the case as they progress through school. It is crucial that students learn to read for information, write in response to what they've read, and solve novel problems in preparation for high school and college. It's our job to prepare our students for the future and continuing education and increased demands at home are definitely in their future. ~Stacy @

  4. I teach fourth grade, and really believe that kids need time to be kids. With that said, I believe that homework should be independent work, items that are a review to strengthen something they have just learned or learned a while ago that we want to keep fresh in their mind. I find if I give my students something new to do, the parents do it for them.
    In an average week my students have to practice math facts three times a week for 15 min each time. They need to read for 20 min. 4 nights a week, as well as complete two spelling activities. Then depending on the child the students will need to finish up a math assignment, or some other assignment that they didn't finish in class.

  5. Great insight, everyone! Let's keep the posts rolling--we don't all have to agree . . . and we need to remember that every age and school population is different as well! I love hearing everyone's perspective! Like I said...this is something I have wrestled with for years.

  6. I'm with you; homework needs to be something they can do independently. I am always looking for ways to streamline this process though, and provide scaffolding for kids who need it.

    As for grading homework, luckily my principal insisted that we do NOT grade homework! At first that made me uneasy...what if they don't take it seriously! But I realized that grades just aren't incentives for everyone anyway. Plus I have come to agree with his philosophy that homework is meant to help them learn, not be a test of what they know. So better to go over problems they had the next day than to give them a bad mark on their practice.

    I actually wrote a blog post about this a while back. I don't want to spam my blog, but you know where to find it :) Just click on the "grading homework" label if you're interested.

  7. Personally I hate, loathe and despise homework - probably because this year I have a class of either helicopter parents (who do it all for their children) or parents who don't follow through in any way, shape or form and then send me notes with a zillion reasons why their children didn't do the homework. That being said we do set times table practice, reading and spelling during the week. On weekends my kiddies take their Reading Response Journals home and have the option of a class blog post (fun topics like a persuasive writing piece on what class pet we should have and why) I always do a "homework" post but it's optional. Most of them enjoy it so much they do the blog post with bells and whistles and it's a much more valuable learning experience for them :) They're becoming better writers too - in fact more than half the class voluntarily wrote extremely lengthy blog posts about their half term break - with photos and everything - during their holiday!! That, to me, is what "home" work should be :)


    1. Lynn . . . I am concerned that you don't have an opinion on this topic. HA! :) Thanks for chiming in!

    2. You know what would be funny to do on occasion to foil the helicopter parents: Ask students to write "3 things you learned today in math class." That would at least force a conversation to happen, haha!

  8. I think homework should be independent for sure. Unfortunately, things that SHOULD be independent aren't always if they are below grade level. I've had parents complain that I give hours of homework- but can't understand when I tell them it should only take their child 20 minutes. Sigh. I wish this would help the parents see their child needs more help than I can give, but it doesn't always. My school won't let us grade homework but I still require it to be done. They read nightly for 20 mins and then I give an additional 20 mins of grammar and/or math (10 and 10 if both). I like to stick with the grade level times 10 min rule.
    ideas by jivey

  9. I believe that all students should read at home. I also think that math fact practise should be part of a homework routine. Other than that I give one page of math review per week (spiral math thanks to Stephanie @ Teaching in Room 6) as I was finding that kids were not retaining skills after a unit was done. My students can complete the questions over the course of the week at their pace and according to their schedules. This activity helps me to help students who still have not grasped a concept and gets kids talking about math at home. They star anything they are not sure of and check with me through the week, so hopefully homework is less stressful. Including reading time I ask students to work for about 30 each evening. (Grade5 5/6) I don't assign projects or anything else to be done at home that will be assessed because the differences from house to house in terms of help make that assessment less fair in my mind.

    Victoria Bee

  10. I love reading everyone's opinions! Thanks so much for chiming in!

  11. "Homework! Oh, homework! I hate you! You stink!" - Shel Silverstein

    That opening always comes to mind when discussing this topic.

    I really wrestle with this topic. I want my students to have time to be kids - but I know that many of them simply play video games and watch TV/movies after school. They aren't outside and playing, or even playing creatively inside.

    Also, I want them to be prepared for middle school, since in my district, 4th grade is the end of elementary school.

    I wish the solution was simple and clear, but it isn't. Overall, my students complete their homework on time, but it isn't always fantastic quality. I do not grade it, but we check answers together (teams do it, or some things we check as a whole class), and I give a completion grade.