I think we all agree that homework should not be assigned just to give students something to do. Homework should have a purpose and align with the goal of the lesson. This forces me, as an educator, to determine what is really important for students to know and be able to do to reach the lesson objective.
The value of homework is that students can share with you what they know and do not know in a way that does not take up valuable class time.
If I do grade the homework assignment, it is after we have spent time in class discussing the topic, and students have participated in activities around that learning goal. If that is not the case, I may do a quick check of students’ homework to see where they are, determine where they need additional support, or I use it as a pre-assessment so I know where to begin my instruction.
In my own classroom, assignments that are not completed in class are expected to be finished as homework. However, the expectation is not always the reality. Learners today are busy with extracurricular activities and busy families. Some students simply choose not to put in the time.
Therein lies another great challenge for educators: to follow through with expectations while being understanding of what’s going on with students inside their minds and outside the classroom.
Yes, even with homework, we must take each student and each situation as it comes and use our best judgment about what’s best for the student.
Johanna Ibarra is a sixth grade teacher in West Fargo, North Dakota. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in AMLE Newsletter, September 17, 2013.