Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homework discussion at #sbgchat

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Twitter chat last night at #sbgchat. The topic of homework is something I reflect on throughout the year. It is not surprising that these thoughts enter my mind as I am grading 5 classes of math assignments almost daily. Even after some reflection, I have a confession...
Yes, I still give homework. My middle school math students get homework daily. There are times when they do not, but that is very rare. I do, however, put a lot of thought and effort into my homework procedure for my classes. I intentionally do not give a lot of problems. My idea of homework is to practice what we went over in a reasonable amount of time. I had the teacher that gave 50 long division problems, and I do not believe in that practice at all.
Also, I differentiate the homework. This could be anything from assigning tougher problems to those students that are ready, or more basic ones for the not-quite-there students. Regardless of the assignment, I try and keep the amount of the homework the same. The number of problems may not be the same, but the time spent on it is. I firmly believe that students should be challenged according to their readiness with the topic.
I do understand where a lot of my colleagues who participated in the chat are coming from: packets of worksheets that take hours to complete is bad education. I do agree that giving worksheets as homework so that students "have something to do" is not much better. But, isn't a limited, focused assignment reviewing what was covered in class acceptable?
I believe homework does have a place in school. As I see it, the assignment must serve the purpose of review from earlier class discussion/work. Also, the feedback/grading of the assignment must be relevant and immediate. Then, the students should be given an opportunity to make corrections or "do-over" assignments to show they have learned the topics. I know the re-dos and do-overs are next weeks topics, but I started using them in my classes about six or seven years ago. I honestly do not know how I taught before implementing this simple practice...

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