At my school we have a thing called Homework Club. It’s about as fun as it sounds. Basically, kids come to my room after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and do their homework. We offer it to our ELL population, about 25% of our students, and we end up with about 30 kids. It’s free for our families and parents love it because it represents two nights a week where they don’t have to help their children with their homework. For many parents this a big deal, since English is not their first language and they’re generally unfamiliar with American curriculum.
For me it represents a little extra cash to put toward my kids’ college. But it also affords an insight into what different teachers assign for homework.
And we are all over the place.
Some kids are only asked to read. Some kids have “weekly homework packets” that have little relevance to their schoolwork. Some kids have to finish stuff that they didn’t finish in class. Some kids have complicated assignments that they haven’t even looked at until they get to my room. And some kids have nothing. That’s right, they show up to homework club with no homework to do.
The kids with nothing usually come from classes where the teachers have bought into the No-Homework Movement. You’ve heard of this. Maybe you’re a part of it.
As far as I’m concerned, homework is an important part of the school curriculum, but only if it’s done right. In the words of the venerable Robert Marzano, “Teachers should not abandon homework. Instead, they should improve its instructional quality.”
Homework, as I see it, should serve three purposes. It should give students a chance to review the key concepts and skills they learned that day, it should give parents information regarding what we’re doing in school and how well their children understand it, and it should help instill independent study habits.
To that end, here’s how I roll.
I give my fourth graders a daily homework paper. It starts with a list of announcements; upcoming events, etc. Then I write a question related to the main lessons of the day. The question roughly corresponds to the learning targets for those lessons. There’s also a place for a modified reading log. On the back I copy the math independent practice work, but I also give my students ample time to complete that work in class. And most of them do. Here’s a look. (Click on Homework 3.6.17.)
How do I make sure they do it? It’s fairly simple. Each morning, as I call roll, the kids reply “done and signed” if they did their homework and had it signed by a parent. Or they might say “done but not signed” or simply “not done.” If they complete ten consecutive “done and signs” they get a Free Homework Pass. These are coveted and non-transferable.
If their homework is not done (or done poorly) they get to work on it during recess. This is not coveted. A fourth grader doing homework during recess is not a happy kid. But like I tell them, “You’ll thank me in college.”
And I mean that. That’s why homework is important.