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Blended Bites Blog

Sayonara Homework, You're Not Welcome Around Here Anymore

Jessica Anderson

Post in response to the Teacher Leadership Challenge: 
What do you believe should be the role of homework in learning?

Here's some data to help you truly understand why I presently feel the way I do about homework. Yesterday, I finalized grading five activities in level one of my class's earth science game. Out of the 285 total assignments turned in by my 9th graders there were only 4 assignments missing. Now if that's not tweet worthy then I don't know what is:

For years those holes in my gradebook have bugged me. Why won't they just turn in their assignments? The thing is those holes were always linked to missing homework.  Students don't like to do homework, I know, I have been a student for roughly 20+ years. Homework stinks!

Yes, some will claim practice from homework is good. Others will claim that it's good for building responsibility and that failure is a part of life. I can agree with all of those points. However, I can also show how I do every single one of those without my students doing a single hour of homework.

Let me illustrate it for you. Within the classroom "game," my students work through the material on their own, in groups, and 1:1 with me or another student. Within these learning groups, they determine what each assignment is asking them to do. Yes, they have to know how to read directions and read them carefully. They are responsible for determining how long the assignment is going to take, how they are going to complete it, and if they are going to work alone or with others. It's called planning and time management, both claims homework lovers will state. Once working on the activity, they often have questions. They will ask them, but only receive probing questions back from me. I don't give them answers, they have to figure it out on their own or with others. Yes, one of my goals as a science teacher is to model appropriate questioning and this is how I do it.  Do they get frustrated with my questioning madness. Absolutely. They want me to give them the answers, it's easier that way. But I believe in the power of failure and exploration.

My students fail. Using standards-based grading (0-5), many of them receive 1's, 2's, or 3's on assignments. However, in order to pass an objective students must receive a 4 or a 5 on the activity. If they don’t master the objective, they do it over.  They are responsible for getting the necessary help they need to pass the objective. They become responsible for their learning.  It also allows me to see who is struggling, needs further instruction, or needs a modified learning method.  Yes, the environment is chaotic (but controlled) and requires superb time management and organizational skills on my part. However, it is here where students practice and gain understanding.  

As I wander through my classroom and watch learning happen, I often wonder why I gave homework for so many years. Yes, part of it was due to the fact that all the teachers I had gave homework. I never questioned it.  However, as I learn more about learning and teaching I find myself questioning the norm and, in return, choosing a different path.

Homework isn’t necessary for my course, it’s not required for my students to become well-rounded scientists, and I don’t see the point in dying on this hill. 

Goodbye homework, Sayonara homework, 
you’re not welcome around here anymore!