The dreaded ‘what’s for homework’

I don’t give homework.

My kids cheer when the year that, but then I clarify. I expect my students to spend about an hour a night on completion, study, and preparation, but I do not assign busy work that is assessed. I actually don’t assess anything that goes home, because it’s too darn hard to figure out which parts were done by the student, and which parts the parents completed.

So, quite simply, my kids have three ‘jobs’ each night:
1. complete any practice from class, and then spend time comparing your own notes to those online and add what you missed
2. Add new vocabulary to the book of knowledge, review yesterday’s vocabulary, and complete one graphic organizer based on something we did today
3. Read the articles online for tomorrow’s class.

That’s it. A simple routine that should take an hour or less. But look at all the amazing support built in to this routine.

First, this gets students accessing my website every night, which ensures they know how to find the information, and also ensures complete notes. Second, it allows students to focus on content-area language, in order to build their capacity for clear communication. Third, it encourages students to own their own learning, choosing a graphic organizer from a range I have available to help them dig into their class content. Finally, it teaches the essential academic skill of reading the lesson for the next day, and being more able to engage during class.

Students need specific teaching for the routine to work. The first day, they get a list of what to do, including which organizer to complete for which idea. I usually keep the first few ‘prep for tomorrow’ pieces short, and include videos where I can to increase engagement. As the weeks pass they need less explicit instruction and I can simple say ‘review history and prep science tonight.’ That simple phrase gives them everything they need to know.

This approach borrows from flipped classroom teaching, and returns to the old time study methods of yore. My own childhood nightmare of writing out vocabulary lists and redoing practice questions at home doesn’t seem so far away either. I’d like to think I’ve found a good balance between depth, breadth, and engagement, and my students seem to benefit.

Give it a try! One hour a night. Try it for a week and you’ll see a difference. 😉

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