Homework should reinforce concepts, prepare for future learning, and engage family members in education. Homework conjures up images of piles of work that a student is required to complete outside of class. Is this beneficial? Does it actually increase learning, or is it just time wasted on useless assignments? Teachers should take a long, hard look at their homework practices.
It seems since the beginning of time, homework has been gleefully given by teachers, and sadly accepted by students. Society almost seems to demand it. Principals cannot seem to get enough of it. Some teachers pride themselves on loading students up with hours of homework. We need to take a second look at the value of homework. It should be useful! Don't assign homework just because. It must add something to the learning.
If students see homework as some sort of punishment, a drudgery task, it will be despised and rarely seen as having worth. We cannot as teachers, make any schoolwork of any type, seen as a punishment. We want students to learn and love doing it! But then we turn around and shove more work at them as some sort of punishment? This sends mixed signals as to what school actually is. So, how should we teachers implement homework and extra assignments? Think enrichment. Think if not loving, at least enjoying learning.
Make homework a task that has some worth. Some value to a student's life. Never, ever should it be busy work. Assigning 50 problems to complete at home is worthless. The best time to do 50 problems is in class where they can get help from the resident expert--the teacher. A few problems, perhaps, as reinforcement, but if it takes longer than 15 minutes for a poor student to complete, it is way too much.
Assigning a couple of hours of reading is also fairly worthless. Do you really want to make reading seem like a long and arduous task? Let's hope not. Not only should homework be a worthwhile task, if it is assigned on a daily basis, it needs to be done in a short time. Think about it. Students are at school for six to 8 hours a day. The same as someone with a job. They travel to and from school to home. Again, the same as someone with a job.
In fact, students have jobs: Going to school. How would you like it if your boss gave you three hours of work to complete when you got home? Not much fun is it? In fact, you would complain. Loud and clear. If teachers give homework on a nightly basis, it needs to be short. Students and society benefit when students have a life. Family time, chores, dinner, homework. There needs to be a balance.
If not, a students family life will suffer. How much more quality family time do you wish you had? I don't think we as teaches have ever thought much about our students home lives. Once you have made the commitment to quality and time appropriate homework, we can now talk about what makes a good homework assignment.
Enrichment. First and foremost. It must enrich and enhance the learning process. It does not, I repeat, it does not need to be on the very subject or topic you are currently teaching. But it can and should be related. That way a student sees right away why they are doing it. Okay, now for some examples. The following are for math, but can readily be altered for any topic and subject.
Homework Examples That are Worth Doing
Let's say you just did an assignment on fractions. (Again, you can adapt these to any subject)
1) Write about 5 examples of where you or someone you do anything that involved fractions. That is, portions, pieces, percentages, cutting, slicing, measuring, etc.
2) Give a 10 minute presentation on performing (doing fractions) to your family.
3) Help prepare dinner and explain how fractions may be used.
4) Ask an older sibling or parent to explain what they thought of doing fractions in school. Explain how it is the same or different. Add any other comments they come up with.
5) Write a review of your teacher presenting the topic. (These can be really good for feedback)
6) Write about an occupation that uses fractions on a daily basis. Include examples of when, where, why, and how.
7) Suppose you are planning a pizza party for 50 people. Contact and research a local pizza maker to see how various pizzas come. Explore how each pizza is cut up.
Explain how many slices of pizza each person will get. You will also need the total number of pizzas, the cost, including tax and tip.
From those seven examples above, did you notice how many involve the student's family? A terrific way of making homework meaningful is to include family members.
Did you also notice how there was no repetition of doing problems? Again, you are the teacher. That needs to come in class.
You should also notice that homework does not need to be assigned on a nightly basis. Many of the homework examples listed above could be assigned over a week's time. Also, notice how the homework example was geared toward the real world? This will stop the "When are we ever going to use this" questions that bother so many of us!
Please also note that the homework cited above using reading,
writing, and research skills. This aligns perfectly with a curriculum
that is supposed to include all of these concepts.
One major benefit from doing long-term homework assignments is it will free up more time for teachers. Not having to grade or collect homework on a daily basis is just one more boring, time-wasting chore eliminated.
The hope is that you, as a teacher, have now taken a different look at homework. No matter what the subject, you should be able to quickly come up with ideas to make your homework a meaningful exercise.