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A Teacher’s Defense Of Homework

October 3, 2013

I’ve been taking a look at the pros and cons of homework during the past week, and I’d like to tackle another article from Atlantic Magazine, but this time look at it from another teacher’s perspective.

As I have been doing, I’m going to present my thoughts in the form of a homework assignment, just like the ones I ask my students to complete to increase their reading comprehension.  Today, I’m going to assign myself a K-W-L graphic organizer to help me focus on the main ideas of the article.  Unfortunately, I can’t insert a table into my blog, so I’m going to do it in the way that I have my students with graphomotor difficulties complete the assignment, which is to have them use a Microsoft Word document.

What I Know (I always ask students for at least five facts to get them to review what they already know)

  • Well designed homework can help students learn content.
  • Homework is especially effective in improving skills such as reading and writing
  • Too much homework can stifle the learning process and produce large amounts of anxiety in students.
  • Homework should be assigned only when it’s necessary – busywork wastes everyone’s time.
  • I need to differentiate the type of homework to meet the needs of each student.

What I Want To Know (I have my students create at least three questions that they are either curious about or that they think will be answered in the reading).  Unlike the standard KWL that puts those answers in the L (learned) section – I have my students write the answers (if they find them) in the W section so they can see the connection between their question and the answer.)

  1. Is homework a necessary piece of the learning process?
    1. It allows the teacher to cover more material and provides time to complete hands-on work like labs.
  2. How does homework benefit students?
    1. It teaches them study skills that not only make the class more effective but that also prepares them for college.
  3. How can I assign better or more effective homework?
    1. Not answered

What I Learned (I ask my students to list the five most important facts they learned from the reading.  They have to judge each fact and rank them in their order of importance.  Having them do this forces students to think critically about what they have learned while getting them to review the facts after they finish reading.  I also ask my students to paraphrase these facts so I know they have wrestled with their meaning before ranking them.)

  1. “It’s also important for teachers to assign work that’s high in quality, instead of quantity. “
    1. Teachers need to create assignments that actually help kids learn not just keep them busy
  2. “If I didn’t assign it, I’d never get through all the material I need to cover in a year.”
    1. Assigning homework helps teachers to cover more information during the course of a year.
  3. “In their book Reforming Homework, Richard Walker and Mike Horsley state that while homework isn’t very beneficial for younger kids, it’s still beneficial for older students. I agree.”
    1. Completing work at home helps high school kids more than it does students in elementary school.
  4. “School work prepares students for work-related tasks, financial planning, and any project that ends with the feeling of a job well done. Long-term planning, projects, and deadlines are a key part of adulthood. “
    1. School work prepares students for adulthood by teaching them skills such as long term planning and dealing with deadlines.
  5. “I often give time at the end of class so that students can begin work when I’m there to help them. Our dean calls it “buying in”:  Students are much more likely to finish an assignment at home if I can convince them to start it in class.”
    1. By beginning work in class, students are much more likely to complete the assignment because they can get help from the teacher if they need it.

Facts not making the cut (I teach my students to read actively and to mark important facts as they read with an *.)

  1. “So, if I’m going to offer interactive activities in class, I need students to put in some time and effort studying outside of class as well.”
  2. “So, Japanese kids do academic work outside of school, just not necessarily work assigned by their classroom teacher.”
  3. “…study skills become much more important than they were in primary school.”

Some thoughts about the homework assignment:

  1. It took me 35 minutes to complete this assignment, which in my opinion is too long.  However, to make sure I am meeting the needs of my students who have slower and faster processing speeds, I tell them to work for 30 minutes.  I can reduce the amount of work needed to complete the assignment at home either by letting them begin in class or by modifying the assignment.  I will often put the text on-line so students can cut and paste the facts.

  2. In my opinion, this is a worthy homework assignment to give students.  Why?  Because it forces them to not only find the main ideas but to evaluate their importance.  Having students do this is vital to the learning process because students learn best when they are thinking critically.  Also, having them summarize the facts in their own words forces them to check for understanding and helps them retain the material.

  3. I want to end by adding a comment that a fellow teacher wrote in the comment section of a previous post.  I think it defines what it means to create worthy homework assignments.  Deb Smith wrote, “I think one of the keys to successful, productive homework is that it needs to matter if you do it – or don’t. In other words, the homework must play a key role in the next day’s class, so that if you haven’t done it, you miss out. Otherwise, students begin to see that it really doesn’t matter if you do it or not.”  I’ve never thought of it that way before and could not have said it better myself.

 

Townsend, Andrea. “A Teacher’s Defense of Homework.” The Atlantic 25 Sept. 2013: n. pag. The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/a-teachers-defense-of-homework/279967/

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