5 Ways to Make Homework Meaningful and Manageable

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/9c4Nbn

I’ll admit it: I love summer, but I love the start of the new school year even more. I think my kids do too, although they’re hesitant to admit it.

We are a family that thrives on routine, we love fall and winter sports, and since I’m an education geek and my husband is a huge history buff, we truly enjoy talking with our kids about the things they’re learning at school.

There is only one thing that dampens our back to school spirit: homework.

Plenty has been written about the horrors of homework, and I have little to add. I have watched certain kids fall in love with learning as a result of the homework they do though, and I’ve learned much about how to make that learning manageable from some pretty terrific teachers too. Here’s the best of what I’ve discovered:

5 Ways to Make Homework Meaningful and Manageable

1. Put kids in control of their learning. Attend to what must be learned during class time so that your students can choose the learning experiences they pursue at home. Many teachers expect their students to read every night. What they read is their choice, though. What if learners were expected to engage in research, write, or problem solve independently but had the opportunity to choose how they met this expectation and for what purposes?

2. Promote the use of digital tools and resources that empower students to learn independently. Teach students how to curate and share resources using social bookmarking sites. Introduce them to resources like Schmoop and Khan Academy. Better yet, invite them to make and share their own tutorials. Make sure they know how to access the databases that your school and community libraries make available to them as well as online communities that enable them to connect to others who share their interests.

3. Keep it real. When kids know that the stuff they are learning and producing will be shared and likely appreciated by others, they work hard to impress. Authenticity motivates in ways that worksheets do not. Save the guided practice for class so that students can use what they learn to create meaningful things for people who will use them.

4. Timing matters. My youngest daughter loves to play sports, and I can say with absolute confidence that the learning she does on the field and ice is just as important as the learning that happens in the classroom and at home. My oldest daughter is just as passionate about photography, design, and theater. Pursuing those “peripheral” activities helped her discover an exciting career path that she is incredibly passionate about.

We can’t assume that our course and the homework we assign takes precedent over other interests and hobbies. We can make sure that our students have every opportunity to achieve balance by providing them plenty of time to meet our expectations, though. This year, my daughter has a teacher who gives them a week to complete assigned work. This allows her to attend practices and still get to bed at a decent hour several nights a week. It allows her to give her full attention to her assignments on all of the other nights, too.

5. Inspire kids to focus on quality over quantity. How many times does a student need to solve a particular kind of problem in a particular kind of way in order to demonstrate proficiency? If we want a writer to engage in deep revision work, how many elements of craft should be attended to at once? If we want the new words that they learn to live in their day-to-day language and not simply in the blanks on a test paper, how many new words should we expect students to work with each day or week and how? Questions like these are powerful because they push us to consider the amount and type of homework we assign. This goes a long way toward curbing the homework madness.

Interested in considering other perspectives? This is what Mark has to say about homework. Good food for thought….

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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