Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Teacher's Thoughts about Homework

I came across this comment posted by a teacher on Edutopia in response to an article, Making Homework Meaningful. I thought it had some interesting and wise ideas, so I contacted the writer and asked permission to republish her comments. The writer is a second year, eighth grade science teacher. She is also a parent. With her permission, I am copying her comments. At the end, I will offer my own video taped comments explaining why I liked her post, and what I think we can all learn from it.

I teach five classes of eighth grade science per day. The issue of homework has been one of my greatest challenges this past school year. I talked to teachers who gave an abundance of homework and those who gave no homework at all. I tried to find a medium and decided to issue all homework at the beginning of each week. I posted homework on Monday mornings and it was due on Fridays, before the end of the school day. I figured that this would give the students ample time to complete the assignments. However, out of nearly 130 students, less than half would actually turn in completed homework. I found this disheartening.

I asked students why they did not feel the need to turn in homework and explained the effect on their grades. I also held one-on-one conferences with the students. This worked for some but not others. Many students thought that as long as they passed the class, it was okay to skip out on doing homework. Students that showed determination were the ones to always finish assignments on time and complete all homework. On the other hand, there were students that never turned in a homework assignment but completed all classwork. I tried getting parents involved, through phone calls and e-mails. Again, this worked for some.

I then decided to give homework choices. The students were allowed to choose from one of three to four assignments to complete. I tried to create assignments that would appeal to different types of learners; those who liked reading, writing, researching, visualizing, creating, etc. The students could choose from any assignment as long as it was turned in by Friday. More students began turning in homework, but not the quantity that I would have liked.

I have also thought about whether or not homework is necessary. Sometimes, I feel as if it is helping those that try and hurting those that do not. I have observed another science teacher that never gives homework, and her students (as a whole) performed very well on assessments. I am certainly glad to come across this posting.

By Angel Daniels-Ray, Eighth grade science teacher from Sumter, South Carolina.

Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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