What's My Homework Policy?
My district follows the "ten-minutes-times-grade-level-give-or-take-ten" rule. So, second grade would have 20-30 minutes of homework assigned nightly, third grade gets 30-40 minutes, and so on. This means I should be assigning my fifth graders between 50-60 minutes of homework each night. The only other directive we have is that every night should include writing in the form of journal writing and some type of math homework, Monday through Friday. Yup, we give Friday homework.
Now, overall I agree with the above policy, but I don't make myself crazy with it. At Back to School night, I am very clear on MY homework policy with my parents. I tell them that their child should have 50-60 minutes of homework according to district policy, although the amount of homework I assign nightly is dependent on what we are working on in class at the time. Some days there will be more homework, some days there will be less.
However, I do tell them that this doesn't mean on the days there is less homework their child shouldn't put in that hours time. That hour should be considered an hour of homework/study time. I suggest that if homework is done in less than the district's suggested time, the student spend that time reviewing or studying. This helps my friends who are headed to middle school next year build the study habits and work ethic necessary for middle school and high school. The Harvard Graduate School of Education wrote an interesting article on the topic this past winter. It seems my policy and that of my district is pretty standard, yet still somewhat arguable by some.
This brings me to only pleasing some of the people some of the time. Every year, I have parents who think I give too little homework, just enough, or not enough homework. This year, I had a parent who felt I don't give enough homework try to rally the other parents to come to me and request that I give more. Thankfully, the large majority of my parents are pleased with the amount of homework I give. In fact, at conferences one after another told me what this parent was trying to do. When it came time for this parent's conference, the parent told me before I could even say anything. Although nobody else would agree, the parent still felt there should be more homework. I calmly reexplained the district policy, my policy, and the reasoning behind both. I then gave the parent some suggestions on how to better use the study time. We also had a conversation about feeling free to approach me with any concerns rather than trying to "rally" parents, but that's another topic!
What Do I Assign?
Well, as per our district policy, my friends have a 25 minute journal write each night. We didn't start at 25 minutes. The time increases to 25 minutes as they build writing stamina over the year. It is a free write with an optional topic assigned. This allows them freedom to write what they want, but provides a topic for the "I can't think of anything to write about" crowd.
We use the Everyday Math program. This program comes with a workbook page of homework for each lesson, and we pretty much do a lesson a day. That means math homework is given. I find the workbook pages to be too easy for my friends this year, so I often supplement with an open ended math question.
Those are the two areas of homework I am required to assign. My friends also have a reading log to keep up with. It requires them to read a minimum of twenty minutes five nights a week. The log is assigned every two weeks and comes with some sort of activity or small project to be turned in with the log. That generally makes up my daily homework. Science or social studies is given as needed, but not often. Our science book is a tough read, so I don't assign a lot of homework from it. We really need to do it together. Occasionally, social studies will be assigned, but as I wrote not often. In addition to all of that, there is always the study time for any upcoming quizzes or tests.
One of the reasons I don't assign, in my opinion, a lot of homework is that I see how busy my friends are out of school. They are busy with sports, religious education, and oh yeah, you might just want to be a kid and play outside for a bit! And, how about a little family time? Yes, school comes first, but I think it is important for them to have balance in life, just as it is for us.
How Do I Assign Homework?
I know exactly what I have assigned for homework every day of the school year. If a parent were to ask, I can tell them what was assigned on any given day. In my class, we keep a class agenda.
This works for us for a variety of reasons:
1. It tracks all homework. As I noted, I can tell a parent what was assigned at any time. More importantly, I can tell them when something was assigned. This has come in handy when I have a friend who fails to write down an assignment in their agenda and a parent insists their child didn't know. Oh, really? Well, let's just look at the class agenda and see when it was originally assigned and how may times they were reminded after that. Enough said!
2. If I have a friend who was absent, they can quickly check it, copy the homework they need to do, and see any reminders they missed.
3. I like being able to look back and see what I have assigned all in one place. I can really see if I've neglected any area or have been giving too much or too little homework. I also keep my agendas from the previous years, so it is interesting to see what I was doing the year before.
I like the agenda book because each page is a day, and each subject is clearly labeled with space at the bottom for extras. I like this agenda so much that if the district didn't provide them every year, I would probably order them myself. It keeps my friends accountable. This is what the agenda looks like.
As you can see, on this night my friends had three math pages. Two pages in their journal and one worksheet. It seems more than I said I give only because the journal pages required them to just finish two problems on each page. The real homework was the worksheet. They also had a social studies test to study for as well as a DARE report to write and a Spanish quiz coming up.
You can see at the bottom there is also a place for a teacher message and a parent message,both with a line to sign and date. That has come in handy on several occasions!
So, that's my take on homework. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What's your policy on homework?