The Homework Conundrum

I just finished reading an excellent book, Meeting Students Where They Live: Motivation in Urban Schools.  While it doesn't contain a lot of new ideas for me, it is still a great read that has ideas for me to reinforce in my classroom and a few things to try. It's an important book, I believe, for anyone who teaches in an urban setting (though it is universally applicable).

One of the chapters is about homework.  This is a contentious issue in urban schools. Many of my students go home to an empty house with no supervision, many have loud, chaotic homes that are not conducive to studying. I, personally, have never given homework since I am a 'specials' teacher. When I was an intern in a 1st grade classroom I remember giving homework from the workbook that matched whatever lesson in our literacy program we had done that day in class.  Many times the parent did the homework. Many times it just wasn't done and I honestly can't remember why I was assigning it aside from the fact that it was required by administration.

I love reading posts at Joe Bower's blog about Abolishing Homework, but I've been having some positive thoughts about homework today. Some of my thoughts have been reinforced through conversations on Twitter with Chad Lehman and David Andrade.

Here are some thoughts:

1) Homework isn't inherently bad. Worksheets and busy work are.
2) For many urban students, homework helps teach study habits and helps build skills for learning outside of school.
3) Bad homework IS pointless. It should challenge but not frustrate. It should require some thinking and, if possible, connect with students' lives outside of school. Its purpose should be to build anticipation or get students thinking about a lesson the next day.
4) Homework may not be as important for upper/middle class students, but not giving homework to students who don't have someone at home teaching them how to learn outside of school can do more harm than hurt.

Feel free to agree or disagree, but let me know your thoughts.


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