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The Great Homework Debate-2How many of us remember sitting down to complete 40 math problems, write spelling words 10 times each, plus read a section of history or science and answer the questions? How many of us remember the fights and tears that this homework caused? Would you believe that this is a nightly occurrence at my house? As far as homework is concerned I see both sides of the coin (if there were a third I would see it since I’m also going to graduate school)…so let me break down the homework dilemma from 3 points of view.

Parent: Kids are at school for 8 hours, forced to sit and listen and work. Kids need time to be kids, without restrictions and expectations. Kids need time to be active, try new things, and broaden themselves. Most importantly, I am tired from working all day, getting dinner on the table, getting my kids to their 50 million activities and I don’t want to fight my kids at 10 o’clock at night!

Student: I’m working hard for 8 hours forced to sit and listen.   How do I know my teacher isn’t just assigning me this to fill time or to punish me? How do I know that this homework will help me in the long run? Basically, what’s the point?

Teacher: I have been working with my students for 8 hours and by golly, I don’t want all that hard work to fly out the window when3:15 rolls around. I have standards and assessments that hold me accountable for these students’ learning; I need to see that they understand.

Funny part is all three of these opinions are so very valid, and all three I have dealt with. In new teacher training, many years ago, homework (purpose, amount, type) was never mentioned. One brilliant professor brought to light the 40 math problem disaster, if they can do 5, why make them do 40? Genius! Many teachers are told they must assign homework every night and then the teachers create useless/meaningless homework. I feel that when the homework is a meaningful practice of information that was covered, and if all three parties can buy into that thought, then homework will cease to be a nightmare (for most of us).

In my school district, students have a log-in to an online math program that is accessible from almost any mobile device. Our school’s upper grades have assigned this as the nightly math homework with the duration of time varying depending on grade level. Who can argue that math shouldn’t be practiced every night? What child doesn’t want to get onto their parents Ipad or computer and earn animated prizes? In my own classroom (Science), I have found short non-fiction articles with comprehension activities attached. There are 6 themes; I do one theme a month. Many of them don’t fit perfectly with my curriculum…my defense is it is close, nonfiction reading. Something everyone needs to keep practicing. When I explained the purpose to the parents of my students, I still hit a few brick walls of stubbornness, but many of the parents have told me that they enjoy the watching their child is challenged, and some families have turned it into a family activity! In my mind that is homework success!

Katie Sluiter is currently an 8th English teacher in West Michigan. She has taught middle school,...

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