Why I stopped giving homework…and what that means for student progress

Why I stopped giving homework…and what that means for student progress

October 18, 2022

Yep! You read that right...I stopped.  Sure, there is the occasional “if you need more time to finish X, take it home and hand it in tomorrow,” but besides one hour of their desarrollo* each month, there are no other homework assignments. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. 

So what about student progress?

Zero. Change. In fact, looking at AP scores, they have actually gotten better in the years without homework. Sure, that could be a million other factors from more advanced students, my experience with the course, or a million other things, but there has been no negative change on student progress or proficiency.

Let me step back and explain:

For the 20 years that I’ve been at my site, I’ve seen that homework ‘works’ for a small few students. Those B average kids.  For the C student it’s too hard, they feel defeated or they don’t care enough to do it on their own. For the A student it’s easy and a waste of their time.  My students told me that they think about 20% of their peers actually do the homework as it’s supposed to be done.  Practicing, thinking metacognitively, etc, but the other half either does it while distracted by ANYTHING else or shares it with other students.  You know, “shares”.  Cheating, but that sounds nice.

Homework, then, became a breeder for grade grubbing like ants on a dropped cookie chunk in your classroom.  Homework made my students obsessed with earning and not learning. Yours might be too. They are the same way in their other classes.  They "check answers" (aka ask a friend what they got for number 4 or Google the right answer) if the homework is graded for accuracy and they just write whatever if it's graded for completion.

For my own children, homework became a thorn in our familial side.  In high school, my daughter sat at the counter diligently doing the homework (she was one of that 20%), but then she would have to race out to Karate classes, had a hard time fitting in a job, and had to rush through our dinners each night when she should have been enjoying time with her family in the years before leaving for college.  The years that parents never get back.  My son does what he has to do in as little time as possible.  It causes more arguments and frustration in our family than it should, simply because 7 hours at school, followed up by two hours of homework just makes him like the classes that give homework that much less. As a person who works at home after working at work, I feel his pain.

In fairness to teachers that do give homework, the intentions are incredible. My site is on a 4x4 block schedule.  We are able to put the pedal to the metal and get stuff done in class.  On ver viernes, we almost NEVER watch an entire episode of their show, because we use some of that time. So, I understand when teachers have way less time with their students on traditional schedules, and feel that they need to cover other material. 

I'm not saying that YOU shouldn't give homework. We all have our thing.

I simply propose that we all ask ourselves WHY we are assigning what we are assigning.  Will students be both willing and able to complete the assignment without Google Translate, sending screenshots to friends or outright copying from someone? If not, think about the assignments that we CAN complete as homework that require attention, pique interest and are personalized or created to ensure that learning comes out of it for all students. Then assess how long it takes you to create, grade or review in class and enter those assignments. What I found was that my own and my students’ time was better spent completing those tasks in class.

Some things that I would do:

Write a thesis with scaffolded support (you'll have worked through the sources or the possible arguments in class, now they just need to apply what they know). This works especially well with interesting topics like the one from our Grammy Latino Pack or from any of our units.

Play a game Your students will inevitably be more engaged with a game. Use some targeted input based on content or language so they just have to sort categories or choose true / false.

Make it simple and like real life For merienda martes, we completed our obleas task. Students could have to find their image on Instagram as a homework assignment. Then, the presentation is the piece that you'll grade.  No picture, no presentation! Besides, they are on Instagram anyway (at least most of them), so it's a no brainer! If you want to try your hand at that one, enter the discount code MMSUBSCRIBER to get it for free!

What do you think about homework? Tell us in the comments!

*El desarrollo del lenguaje y cultura is an assignment that requires the kids to do a minimum of 3 activities (one reading, one listening and one speaking) of their choice. They must complete a minimum of one hour of development.  I also make recommendations to students who need it.  This could be an assigned tutorial with me, a practice email assessment, or a grammar based activity if I see red flags.  We plan, create achievable goals and the kids complete those assignments, logging hours reading articles, Instagram posts and short stories, talking to friends, family or doing  simulated conversation, and listening to music, podcasts and watching shows and documentaries on Netflix. 

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