There has been an ongoing debate for years about whether homework is effective, useful, and developmentally appropriate for students in primary grades. Some schools and districts have completely abolished homework for younger students, opting for other activities that promote a love of learning, while others have mandatory nightly homework. And there are many schools and teachers that have a homework policy that falls somewhere in between. After the Covid-19 pandemic came along, it made us all take a hard look at whether homework was truly effective.
The landscape of learning is ever-changing, and teachers are nothing if not flexible. In this blog post, let’s find some solutions that really work. I’ll list the pros and cons of traditional homework, and share how I continue to evolve my approach in order to get great results from happy students and families.
The Pros and Cons of Homework
There are solid arguments for and against homework. That’s why it is still such a contentious debate. People who are against homework say it has no association with achievement in younger students, isn’t an equitable measure— since some student demographics have fewer resources and less access to adult help at home, homework may be putting students at a higher risk of stress and burnout. YIKES.
However, those who are in favor of homework recognize that there are countless benefits to the extra practice for memory, retention, study skills, and personal responsibility. And it’s important that parents have the opportunity to be involved in student learning and be able keep track of their progress.
The Middleground That Works in my Classroom
I personally have NOT assigned homework in over twelve years! However, I DO include a variety of options for at-home practice and parent interaction. Keep reading to see what that looks like, and consider how these strategies and resources might also strike the right balance for your classroom.
1. I send home reading. My phonics readers were a HIT with parents last year, and I will be using my themed readers this year since I am looping with my students and will get to build on what we have already done.
2. I am also fortunate to have online digital games that come with our math program so I assign them as we go and kids have the option to play at home. These are great because they reinforce what we learn in class and the kids like playing them. Also, parents like them because they get to see exactly what we are doing in school. If you don’t have access to digital games as part of your curriculum, you can find free games online and send parents the links.
3. Next school year, I will also encourage my students to write 1-3 students using the themed vocab that is in their weekly story from my themed readers. This will be optional and I will not grade it. I consider it more as a way to get parents involved in their child’s writing progression.
The difference between assigned homework and the extra practice I send home is that it is all optional (they are not used to assess my students). There is zero pressure connected to what comes home, but it helps students get extra practice and parents be fully involved in their children’s progress. And if there isn’t an adult available at home, this can help inform me about who might benefit from some different strategies in my classroom.
Looking for more resources to send home with your students?
There are tons of independent practice resources for reading, writing and math that can be integrated for home use.
Want to do more with less?
Consider sending home Parent Tips for them to practice with their students. This FREE Reading at Home Tips for Parents printable is loved by both teachers and parents!
Homework or no homework, teachers come up with amazing ways to meet the needs of their young learners. You have a place to voice your questions, comments, and expertise in the Great Homework Debate, and other important issues in primary education. Make sure you join my Facebook Community and join the conversation!