To give, or not to give, that is the question! There is much debate amongst professional educators supporting and opposing homework. Does it actually help student achievement? There are pros and cons to both sides.
Over the past several years, I have tried to keep myself informed about the most recent research and best practice. I have heard stories from parents about fights, arguments, and tears that have been shed over homework (sound familiar?). I always tried to side with the parents and tell the student how important it was to do their homework, but realistically, deep down, I did not feel that it was that important. I would rather have my students spending time on a hobby, sport, or better yet, playing with their family.
For years and years, as a teacher, I was directed to give out homework. I used the "10 minute rule" (10 minutes for each grade level the child was in) but always told the parents that the most important thing to do was read to or with their child (I still stand behind this one). Week after week, I would scramble to find worksheets for students to do to make a packet. For some families, it was too much homework and for others, it was not enough. I even tried to differentiate homework (what was I thinking??)! I felt like I was wasting my time spending hours each month putting packets together and stressing myself out when I should be using that time on creating thoughtful lessons for my students. I tried to make things easier for myself and purchased ready made worksheets for the whole year on Teachers Pay Teachers. This helped, kinda. But, what if there was something on one of the worksheets that I had not taught yet? I did not want to spend even one second during my teaching time checking or going over something that was not that meaningful for students (or myself). I finally had to face reality. I hated homework, just like my students. It's not that I do not understand that there are things in life that we have to do that we do not want to, the question was, did this make a difference for my students?
I started to listen to what other educators had to say. I found that recent research showed that in early grades, giving out traditional homework showed no positive correlation to student achievement and educators suggested rethinking how we give homework to students in early childhood. The research did show a positive correlation of student achievement and homework starting at about the seventh grade up to twelfth grade (check out my link to an article from Time below). I was definitely intrigued. Many suggested giving no homework. I felt like if I did this, I was leaving parents in the dark on how to help their child. So I took it to the professionals. I asked my students. The students that I have this year are extremely thoughtful and they can debate almost any topic. We discussed it and they told me how much they did not like homework. One of them (a future president perhaps?) said that homework was not fun, not even a little bit. They did, however, like doing projects.... hmmmm, now my brain was buzzing! We voted and it was unanimous, they wanted the homework packets to stop altogether and start Homework Projects.
That night, I searched the web to find out what other educators were doing. I found some creative book projects on Teachers Pay Teachers that sounded interesting. I wondered what my parents would think. I told them that the students voted and they wanted Book Projects. It was a hit! The projects that came back were astonishing! Parents got involved and told me how much they enjoyed working with their child. I had students who never turned in homework packets actually turning in book projects! So far, it has been a success. I still have a small amount of students (I mean very small amount, like 2 or 3) who do not do their book projects, but I think when they start to see their classmates sharing their projects, they might get on board. I am loving it. It is so enjoyable seeing the creativity they put into their projects and the excitement in their eyes when they get their next project. They are also proud to share their work (some are still reluctant to share, but we are working on it).
This weekend is supposed to be really nice weather. Their homework? To go outside and play! You could probably hear their cheers through the whole building!