Homework is something that was once a nightly staple in the average child’s school life, but as ideas change and the world of education progresses, the concept of homework is under the microscope more than ever before, especially at the primary and elementary level.
What is homework?
For decades, the overall rule of thumb for homework has been 10 minutes per grade level. For example, second graders take home 20 minutes of homework while fourth-graders take home 40 minutes of homework and so on. This guideline is supported by the National PTA and the National Board of Education (Reilly, 2017).
Does it really impact student achievement?
In order to really understand if homework impacts student achievement, a few things should be considered. As educators, we know every single student is different and comes with various educational needs, learning styles and home situations; this is why the general rule of thumb for homework minutes assigned does not necessarily make sense. Homework that might take one student 20 minutes could take another student an hour to complete. When one student might have help at home and parents who actively participate in the homework process, another student may have very little to no help at home.
How do we bridge the homework gap?
Many teachers are exploring various homework alternatives. These alternatives still offer the benefits of traditional homework such as creating time management skills, sharpening self-motivation and responsibility and providing the parents with opportunities to be involved in their child’s academics. In my kindergarten classroom, I provide a weekly homework menu. This menu provides eight choices and the directions state that the students should choose two activities to complete each night. The activities provided include various learning styles, methods and skills in an attempt to create fun and interactive homework.
Another alternative to traditional daily homework is assigning monthly or bi-monthly projects. For example, during our insect unit, I assign an at-home project during which the parents are encouraged to assist their child with research about the insect their child chose, create a visually appealing and informative presentation and build an insect out of recycled materials. This type of project provides great opportunities for parents to actively participate in their child’s learning as well as create quality time through learning together. Despite the style of homework, take-home assignments and activities should be purposeful, deliberate and differentiated. Homework should not be just busywork, meant only to introduce new skills or assigned just to get more grades in the grade book.
Read, read and read some more!
An idea that is always a good thing in my book is for a student to read to or with someone for at least 20 minutes each night. Dr. Seuss himself put it perfectly: “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.” The debate of homework will probably continue for years to come, with every teacher having to make their own decisions and form opinions regarding homework, but reading is something that creates lifelong learners, can become a part of a quality bedtime routine and provide endless benefits for the young reader, no matter what one feels about homework!
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- Reilly, K. (2016). Is Homework Good for Kids? Here’s What the Research Says. http://time.com/4466390/homework-debate-research/
More about Micah Lee:
Micah Lee is a Grand Canyon University graduate, class of 2017. She has a Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies and graduated as a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Micah Lee teaches kindergarten in Texas and truly believes the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Micah Lee is also a wife and mother of two girls.