My thoughts about homework

¬†Everybody’s talking about homework these days. There’s too much. Or maybe we should flip our classroom practice and change homework into what we used to do in class.

Or maybe there shouldn’t be any. Some urban schools are giving up on homework. Los Angeles Unified this summer created a homework policy that decreased its importance (until it was overturned). The argument goes, Students of color don’t do homework, so assigning it is a waste of time and only hurts them.

Then others, like Alfie Kohn, think that homework should be abolished altogether because it steals students’ childhoods.

At my school, we don’t dispute the importance of homework. After all, our students need to extend their learning time in order to catch up. Our problem is encouraging our students to do homework, especially on weekends. For many of our students, school is their first job, and 35 hours a week is sufficient. Spending two or three more hours every night on academics seems like a second shift.

For my AP English students, however, homework is necessary. We’re in class only five hours a week. That’s nothing, especially because we’re competing against students across the country who are also putting in considerable homework hours.

But even though homework is necessary, I do need to think about how to make it interesting and fun. Reading tons of pages from an assigned text is nobody’s definition of fun. That’s why I’m thinking of ways to make homework more social, more public, and more meaningful. I’ll let you know about them soon.

What do you think about homework? 

6 comments

  1. John at TestSoup

    I’m a big fan of podcasts and videos as homework, which I guess makes me a fan of the “flipped” classroom. Really, I just think it needs to be interactive. I know most people have no interest in sitting quietly by themselves with a book — why would we expect that they’d enthusiastically embrace homework, then? Make those occasions rare enough that students know their importance.

    • Mark Isero

      I agree with you totally, John. Homework needs to be more fun and more interactive than class. Just because students “should” do homework doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen. I’m finding that I need to make homework more into a “thing.”

  2. paintingwithbrains

    First time reader! I’m an art teacher in high school, and I deal with the homework issue, too. We had a great workshop a few years ago about making homework all the things you mentioned: more social, more public, more meaningful. Personally, I assign a lot of youtube videos for homework- clips of different artists or performances, with open-ended, opinion-based questions that follow.

    • Mark Isero

      Thank you for reading my blog! It sounds like you’re doing some great things with homework. Your point about making homework questions opinion-based is crucial. Homework is already boring enough for students; there’s no need to make it worse for them. I definitely need to do more with YouTube. Thank you.

  3. Dave Keller

    Love Paintingwithbrains comment about alternative types of assignments. I’ve been breaking my students into groups for on-line text discussions and while they still complain a bit, there is far more depth to their comments and allows students with public speaking fears to air their ideas more fully. I’m most pleased by the way that it allows everyone to participate in a social, academic activity.

Please share your thoughts!