To Assign Homework, Or Not Assign Homework…That Is The Question!

Every educator has a philosophy about the necessity or stupidity of homework.  We are going to analyze two sides of the discussion and then you can decide on which side of the spectrum you fall.   Homework Is Necessary! Teachers and administrators that hold the viewpoint that homework is necessary tend to believe that homework […]

Every educator has a philosophy about the necessity or stupidity of homework.  We are going to analyze two sides of the discussion and then you can decide on which side of the spectrum you fall.


Homework Is Necessary!

Teachers and administrators that hold the viewpoint that homework is necessary tend to believe that homework helps solidify the material taught in class that day.  Without homework, students will lose much, if not all the knowledge gained.  I have heard requirements such as students needing to read 30 minutes a night, practice math 30 minutes a night, practice their instrument 30 minutes a night, and so on.  These teachers might remember the nightly homework they had as a student and feel that it benefited them greatly.  After a recent study, homework was concluded to be beneficial when examining 2,800 students between 5th and 8th grade.  The study showed that students who took the time to complete their homework assignments were more meticulous about the quality of their work and its outcome, while the opposite was true for the students that did not complete their homework.  Another research project concluded that there was a positive and statistically significant educational benefit for students that did their homework.


Homework Is Stupid!

Teachers and administrators that hold the viewpoint that homework is stupid tend to view homework as burdensome and unnecessary.  They could view homework as just another thing they need to grade or have the stance that only 10% of the students are going to do this, so why even bother?  They hear stories of the over-achieving student staying up until midnight to finish their homework or the opposite story of the student whose parent is ready to kill them because they forgot to tell them about the science project supplies needed until the night before it was due!  These teachers throw their hands up and say, “What’s the point?”  In 2016, a teacher in Texas went viral after sending home a note to parents declaring that their kids should be playing outside and experiencing the joys of being a child, rather than being cramped inside performing formal school work all night.  In an even more shocking news story, in July 2017, the Superintendent of Marian County Schools in Florida declared that she was banning all homework for nearly 20,000 elementary students in her district; instead instructing them to read 20 minutes a night.


So where do you stand in this great debate?  Is this really a black and white issue?  While I will agree the notion of homework being necessary or stupid is a very loaded topic, you might be surprised to learn that myself, a teacher of 12 years tends to lean towards the “homework is stupid” argument.  Now, before throwing your computer out the window and getting prepared to burn me at the stake, let me explain.  I believe that homework in the traditional sense can be detrimental.  In this ever-changing world, teachers must change the way they present homework and how often they present it.  Recent studies back up my claim.  Researchers are finding that students are becoming burned out from the demands of schooling.  So, what can be done to mend the divide between the necessity and burdens of homework?


Here are a few suggestions to turn homework from stupid to worthwhile:

1.) Do not grade homework, make it legitimate practice.  “Students won’t do it if it’s not graded” you might say.  Remember how many students were actually doing it in the first place!  At the beginning of each class, review the homework with your students.  For those who took the time to give it a try, it will help them gauge how well they did.  For those that didn’t do the homework, they will at least see the concepts covered in the review.  Also make sure that you are not requiring students to learn something new at home.  Homework should be practice of material previously taught.

2.) Make homework fun.  Be creative on what you assign your students to complete at home.  If you make it competitive or involve their family in some way, the likelihood of it being completed goes up.  For instance, I send home “Remind 101 Challenges” where I post a question for the students to quiz their family members on or where students race to correctly answer the question the fastest.  When possible, incorporate out-of-school activities students enjoy into their assignments.  When students enjoy the task at hand, it’s more likely to be completed and the student will benefit more from it.

3.) Limit the quantity and frequency of homework.  Assigning your 2nd grade student an hour of homework a night does not make you a more effective teacher.  Assigning multiple at-home projects throughout the year for your middle school student does not make you an effective teacher.  No one enjoys busy work.  There is a well-known “10-minute rule” concerning how much homework should be assigned to students.  Basically, for every year a child progresses through school, they should complete 10 minutes of homework per night – 4th graders should complete 40 minutes per night, 7th graders 70 minutes, and so on.  I will admit the incremental increase of time looks good on paper and sounds reasonable, but let’s think about this realistically for a moment.  In this illustration, an eighth-grader who gets home from school at 4:50pm after spending 7 hours in school is supposed to do another 80 minutes of homework before getting to bed at a reasonable hour?  Where is the time for a sit-down dinner we all know the entire family would benefit from?  We often tell our younger generation to “go outside and play”, but where is the time for this 13-year-old to fulfill such a request?  My plea to you from a fellow educator is this – – be strategic and creative with homework.  Assign 5-minute-a-night tasks, coordinate with fellow teachers to make sure they are not assigning a massive at-home project the same time as you.  Make sure your homework assignments are purposeful and to the point; after all, we are educating children – not robots.


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Rebecca Harris

2019 Teacher of the Year!

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