Homework: The Great Debate

As I'm sure you've all seen, homework has been in the news. The teacher from Texas sent a letter home to her parents, someone posted it, and it went viral.  There has been more publicity with homework because of this, but I have struggled with it for a while. As the RtI coordinator in our building, had a teacher refer a student for academic difficulties, but blamed the issue entirely on incomplete homework. Really? Should homework hold that much power?
Homework is a hot topic.  Here are two options that allow for independent practice AND student choice.  It's just one idea for homework.

Parents are in a time crunch, like never before. Most homes have two parents who are working.  They pick up the kids from day care, run to a sporting practice (that is a much needed outlet for kids), get dinner, get them in the bath, and get them in bed...and sometimes homework just doesn't get done.  I'm not making excuses, just talking reality.  Here's another reality, sometimes parents can't help with homework, because they don't know how to help.

The Catch 22 of Homework

  • Homework shouldn't take too much time...they need practice, but they need to breathe after a long day at school.

  • Homework should be independent practice.  Parents aren't in the classroom, so can't expect them to know our routines or classroom procedures.

  • Homework shouldn't be punishment.

  • Homework should reflect the weekly lessons.

  • Homework shouldn't take more time to plan than it takes to complete.

  • Homework should have some student choice.
Homework is a hot topic.  Here are two options that allow for independent practice AND student choice.  It's just one idea for homework.

Students need to use word wall words...every day, every night, every lesson, every book.  These words should be seen in their leveled books, in their writing, and in their homework.  Research shows word wall words or high frequency words are key to creating fluent, emergent readers.  We introduced 2 new words a week.  Students can choose which additional words they would like to practice.  Using one of the two open-ended options for homework each week, helps the students practice their words in a variety of ways.  The word wall word homework is divided by learning styles:  verbal/linguistic, verbal/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, and musical.  Students are asked to complete 2 word wall word activities each week.

One option has the choice board posted on-line or filed in a clear sleeve in the homework folder. Students follow the directions and choose the number of required homework assignments.  They use a separate sheet of paper or a homework notebook to create their homework.  If they choose an activity with no required written response, a parent must initial the choice.  There are options for each semester.

The second option is a copied paper sent home each week.  Homework options can be completed on the back of the paper and parents can initial choices on the front.  If you'd like this Free Download, CLICK HERE or click the picture below.
Homework is a hot topic.  Here are two options that allow for independent practice AND student choice.  It's just one idea for homework.In kindergarten, we use a poem of the week for daily activities.  This poem is practiced daily in a whole group setting.  We pay attention to one-to-one pointing, rhyming words, word wall words, beginning or ending sounds, and the list goes on.  In addition to the poem being read daily for a week, the same poem is sent home the next week for homework.  The poem is copied on a half sheet of paper.  The student can use paper for their choices.  Once again their are two options.

One option is left in the homework folder and used as a guide.  The activities are done on the poem paper. Another option is copied each week and the parents sign the choice on the paper and the use the poem paper for the activities.

Our Poem of the Week homework choices were based on (The NEW) Bloom's Taxonomy.  Students can choose homework based on the complexity of the task.  At the beginning of the year, they can choose from any of the assignments.  As the year goes on, they must choose at least one higher level thinking activity.  If you would like this Free Download, CLICK HERE or the picture below.
Homework is a hot topic.  Here are two options that allow for independent practice AND student choice.  It's just one idea for homework.
Sending homework assignments home nightly and getting them back every day, seems to be a lot of work for everyone.  I think weekly homework is so much easier...no debate.  Life is crazy.  I don't have time to check homework each morning and I don't want to punish students when their life is crazy and they can't do homework one night.  I understand holding students responsible for homework, but the bottom line is this:  they are 5 or 6 and their parents tell them what to do.  I keep the choice boards in the homework folder.  We send home the packet (word wall word choices, poem of the week choices, and 1 math worksheet or activity) on Monday.  We ask them to be returned on Friday.  However, if they don't have time during the week, they can take the weekend and turn it in on Monday.  Homework can enhance the learning, but it can't replace it.

What is your plan for homework?  How do you handle it?  I'm sure we won't come up with one standard answer or plan, but the debate is necessary.


  1. I like this post a lot because I will say that my mind has shifted throughout the years. I have never quite understood that balance between what I "should" be doing as a teacher and what I want to do. I have never liked homework. And now that my own children are in school, I like it even less. I just want to play outside with them, go to the library with them, visit grandparents. But instead I feel a lot of stress to get a large amount of homework done. And my children are in 1st and 2nd grade.

    1. Thanks, Em. I have shifted my thinking, too. I think the days of homework at the elementary level should be: Read. Play. Talk. The choice boards are our "compromise."

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