Homework: Myth or Legend?

Homework is a tough topic to figure out.  In my house, I have already seen how the homework routine can affect a family’s routine.  Kids need to play, I’m convinced of that.  Even so, some assignments that bring us together as a parent and child have been rewarding experiences.  Which brings me to a place of turmoil as I think about homework in my courses.  Because of my experiences with my own child I lean toward judicious use of homework.

How much homework is appropriate?  What kind of homework is appropriate?  What should we do with homework that is completed?  There seem to be hundreds of answers to these questions that seem to fit specific contexts.  Some parents want homework for their kids.  Parents like myself, want opportunities to engage with my child’s learning, which we have found doesn’t always happen with homework.

In my school’s context, in general, World Language courses seem to be viewed as an extra.  Students have district issued chromebooks.  Many students take 6-8 classes out of an 8 period day schedule.  Many students take the most rigorous courses that they can handle.  Many take multiple AP classes per year and in my experience, those are not the students who take my AP course.

Because of all of these challenges I have developed the following guidelines for myself in respect to homework.

  1. There must be multiple benefits for the time spent on the homework if I am to assign it.  If I cannot identify multiple benefits I will not assign the task for respect to family time.
  2. I consider all types of family situations.  Tasks that cannot be completed easily for families without internet or tasks that create confusion for the highly involved parents is not worth it in my view.  I stay away from these types of assignments.
  3. Tasks that require expert knowledge about the Romans or Latin above the students proficiency level are off limits.  It’s not worth the student or family’s time if the task takes the student down a rabbit hole, especially if simple guidance from me can remedy that problem.
  4. Simple, short tasks that encourage students to connect to other curriculum areas and with their family over Latin take precedence.
  5. Any homework must not create a burden of reporting or scoring work on my end.  If I can’t give feedback quickly, I do not see the value in the task as feedback over practice is most important.
  6. After a change in our district’s grading practices that requires reassessment, homework is connected to a student’s responsibility in reassessment opportunities.

Because of 1-5, there has been less and less homework in my courses over the last few years.  Missing assignments took up so much time.  Messages home.  Days for catching up.  This time didn’t seem to uplift learning.  Secondly, I spent so much time creating feedback that students didn’t really want.  Only a few read feedback, especially when homework was scored.  Lastly, copying and google translate were never the intended practice items, yet these were clearly happening more and more.  Google translate was an easy remedy as those types of texts can be scored as novice low performance pretty quickly as the odd vocabulary never matched the familiar of class.

But this year the context of my school has changed a bit.  We have 5 effective grading practices to implement that will move us toward standards referenced grading.  1 of those practices is that students have reassessment opportunities.  A second effective grading practice to implement is to separate behavior grades from content grades.  A third effective grading practice is graded items must be based in standards.

At my school specifically, we have a reassessment guideline that is:

  1. Students have 2 weeks to contact the teacher for the desire for reassessment after they receive feedback on an assessment.  For my courses, students will complete a survey on canvas, our online course management system, to inform me of their desire to reassess.
  2. Student and teacher will conference to make a plan toward reassessment.  We have a 57 minute encore session every Tuesday to support this part.
  3. The plan should involve some type of reflection, reteaching and learning by the student.
  4. Students can reassess until the last day of the semester, but they cannot reassess a final assessment.

This move toward standards referenced grading has opened up new doors for homework.  A quality homework assignment will now have at least 2 benefits.  Acquisition of Latin and as an accountability piece toward a student’s reassessment opportunities.  As I consider ways to implement homework I still want to provide simple activities that encourage students to share learning with their family or to connect to other curriculum areas.  Therefore I’ve decided to create a weekly independent choice board for students to complete.  These weekly assignments will not count toward the students’ final grade, but if a student is to reassess on an assessment he or she must complete all weekly independent work as the 1st part of the plan that they make with me to reassess.  Below is my initial draft of the weekly independent work choice board.  I plan to add options as students suggest them or I find other ways for students to connect across curriculum or share their learning with their family.  What successful homework procedures do you have in place?

Homework Choices

 

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