I vividly recall my first grade daughter rushing into my classroom and telling me: “I love everything about school – except the homework!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I was thinking: “Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Homework is a monster faced by teachers and parents alike. How can it be tamed? In this three-part blog series, we’ll discuss what we as teachers can do to tame this monster by considering three questions:
- Why do we give homework?
- How do we give homework?
- How can we help students and parents think about homework?
Most of the current research on this controversial topic suggests two things: 1) homework is not as beneficial to either grades or achievement as previously thought and 2) all homework is not created equal. The studies are numerous and results have been documented in major newspapers (e.g. The Washington Post, November 2012) and in books by respected educational researchers (e.g. The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn). While it might be tempting to join the bandwagon and forego homework, it seems more prudent to give homework assignments that have been chosen thoughtfully and intentionally.
Why should teachers give homework?
Review – As information enters the frontal lobe of the brain, dendrites begin to form to move that information to the long-term memory. If the information is not re-accessed within 24 hours, the brain assumes that the information is no longer needed and “prunes” the dendrites. Material not reviewed within this time frame must be re-introduced. Homework provides an opportunity for students to interact with material learned in class in a timely fashion, increasing the likelihood of long term retention. Meaningful review homework might include returning to class with a summary notecard, an outline of lecture notes, or a “big idea” extracted from the previous lesson.
Reinforcement – Students also need to interact with material outside of class in order to reinforce concepts learned within class. Math problem sets allow students to revisit a concept independently to reinforce that the concept was learned thoroughly. Nightly practice in both math and reading enhances automaticity and fluency.
Responsibility – One of the often overlooked benefits of homework is the development of age-appropriate responsibility. In an entertainment-based society, students often lose sight of their responsibility as a student. Being a student is their God-given job at this point in their life. It is their responsibility to pursue knowledge in this endeavor. Actively engaging independently with homework assignments allows students to take ownership of their education and helps them to recognize it as just that – their education. Fostering this responsibility is an important factor in creating lifelong learners. Assignments that require students to prepare for an upcoming class fall into this category: reading material in preparation for a class discussion, researching a topic for use in class group work, developing questions related to class discussions.
Examine the homework you give. Is it meaningful or just “busy work” so you can say you’ve given homework?
How are you taming the homework monster in your class? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
You can leave a comment by clicking here.