[This is Part 2 of a series on homework, The Great Homework Debate – Part 1. Click here to read the Part 1 of this series.]
So what does “good homework” look like?
In the previous post I reviewed potential positives and negatives of assigning homework. Based on this analysis, let’s just assume we agree: Too much homework — BAD; Well-designed homework — GOOD. But what does well designed homework look like?
Overall, I believe, “good homework” involves practicing skills that have already begun to be mastered. When students can successfully complete tasks by themselves, it builds a sense of academic confidence. Teachers should never assign work that students that they have never encountered before. Thus, meaningful homework often involves reviewing and integrating skills that have already learned.
Using this as a guide, examples of appropriate homework for students might include: reading, math skills practice, reviewing notes, or applying what was learned in class to real life experiences or events (e.g. current events, or writing short reflective pieces on how a character in a book might feel or act in a different situation.) Homework is best when it relates to student interests. And at a minimum, it should not be so difficult or stressful, that it undermines a child’s confidence or creates aversion to learning.
The Great Homework Debate: Good homework assignments should…
…practice skills already learned. Many good teachers start homework assignments in class to check for understanding and answer questions before students attempt to do work on their own.
… help students build a sense of academic success. If homework makes your child hate school, that can’t be good.
… utilize routine strategies already learned in class. For example: note-taking is actively taught in class and then practiced during text book reading at home.
... be meaningful to students and relate to the “big picture” of what is going on in class. Your child should be able to tell you why they are doing it. If he or she can’t do this, there may be a problem.
… reinforce academic skills like organization, note-taking, and at the middle and high school level, time-management.
... have clearly written instructions for students (and parents, tutors, etc.)
The Great Homework Debate: Good homework assignments should NOT …
… be so overwhelming, stressful, or tedious for students that they create an aversion to school or conflict between families and teachers.
... involve skills not previously taught in class. For example: having students bring back research on a topic when research has not been discussed.
... be beyond a students ability to complete on their own with minimal assistance. Remember, it’s not supposed to be an opportunity for parents to demonstrate what they’ve learned!
… be disconnected from other concepts being taught in class.
If you have questions about your teacher/school’s homework policy… I encourage you to talk about it.
The Great Homework Debate: Ask your child’s teacher.
- What benefits do you hope to achieve in assigning homework?
- How does it reinforce or support skills or concepts they are learning in class?
- What is your expectation of students in doing homework?
- How often will students be assigned homework?
- How much time do you expect students to do homework each day?
- To what extent do you expect it to be complete?
- Will it be graded? How? How does homework factor into my child’s final grade?
- If my child’s homework is too difficult or to easy, how can it be modified to meet their learning needs?