Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why I Still Give Homework

I have written before about being anti-homework and I need to clarify this.  I don't grade homework.  I don't make it mandatory.  My students know all of this.  However, I believe that learning should continue throughout the day.  Therefore, I have my students use the following approach to homework:

1. It is not optional.  If you are too busy with extracurricular activities, I understand.  If your family requires you to babysit, that's fine as well. I'll give you some class time to keep a journal about your sports or your babysitting time and you can consider these activities a part of your homework. I might ask you to keep a log of what you are doing or a short journal where you write a few paragraphs as a reflection, but I will be respectful of your personal time.
2. It is not graded.  I'm not going to punish you or reward you for homework.
3. It is open: Homework is a chance for you to extend the learning from school into your life and from your life into the classroom. I would love to have you bring in your work and share it with the classroom community somehow.  I'd love to have it on our website and allow you to do in-class activities based upon what you worked on at home.
3. It is assessed: I will provide feedback on any homework you provide:  If you do a drawing and want some help with shading or perspective, I'll meet with you and help you.  If you do a video and want help editing it, I'm here as well.  If you are choosing to do community service for homework, I will give you a chance to do a reflection and I will leave a comment on it.  If it's writing you are choosing, I'll edit it.
4. It is not time-bound: I do not need you to do one assignment per week.  If you want to write a book over the course of a year or do a History Day project or Science Fair, these are all great options.  Run with them.  I support your decision to think long-term.  If you'd rather go short-term, that's fine as well.
5. Technology is optional: If you have access to a computer at home, I fully support a tech-integrated project. If you don't, that's okay as well.  You won't be punished or rewarded for what gadgets you own.


  1. Never say never; I am off dogmatic statements these days. I am even afraid to assert verities and principles I have firmly fixed in my mind. I guess that would make me a muddled professional development presenter. A student asked me about homework the first day. It was not on my mind so I looked at her with an abstracted expression. I finally replied that there was not much homework in my class. I know I started last year forcing myself to assign homework. It seemed part of rigor to me at the time. The impulse faded away. As the year progressed, I asked students to do extra work at home when it made sense, otherwise I did not stress it. Like you, homework prepared them or advanced them, but it was not graded. Accountability became less important to me than providing feedback.

    The only value to homework I can retain is reinforcement of concepts or skills learned. I would say two thirds of my students developed a pride (it was competitive perhaps) in completing homework before they left the room. That certainly negated the one purpose the assignment had served. I discarded those types of homework and relied instead on next day review.

    I like your approach and thanks for articulating it here.

  2. At our team meeting, we were just talking about technology. We are a 1 to 1 laptop, and "force" students to take their laptops home. So, having or not having isn't the issue. But boy oh boy, there are so many other issues, not sure where to start.

    Thank you for the perspective.