New research suggests that a lot of assigned homework amounts to pointless busy work that doesn’t help students learn, while more thoughtful assignments can help them develop skills and acquire knowledge. How would you characterize the homework you get?
In the Sunday Review article “The Trouble With Homework,” Annie Murphy Paul reviews the research on homework:
The quantity of students’ homework is a lot less important than its quality. And evidence suggests that as of now, homework isn’t making the grade. Although surveys show that the amount of time our children spend on homework has risen over the last three decades, American students are mired in the middle of international academic rankings: 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, according to results from the Program for International Student Assessment released last December.
In a 2008 survey, one-third of parents polled rated the quality of their children’s homework assignments as fair or poor, and 4 in 10 said they believed that some or a great deal of homework was busywork. A new study, coming in the Economics of Education Review, reports that homework in science, English and history has “little to no impact” on student test scores. (The authors did note a positive effect for math homework.) Enriching children’s classroom learning requires making homework not shorter or longer, but smarter.
She goes on to enumerate some of the aspects of effective independent assignments, like “retrieval practice,” which basically means doing practice tests to reinforce learning and commit it to memory, and “interleaving,” in which problems are not grouped into sets by type, but rather scattered throughout an assignment, which makes the brain work harder to grasp the material.
Students: Tell us how effective you think your homework is. What kinds of assignments seem pointless? Which ones are confusing or frustrating? Which ones are most engaging and interesting? Which ones are you fairly sure help you learn and grow?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
Original Real World Homework Logistics
Students had to get 8 stamps throughout a unit, and any over that was the only way to earn extra credit in my class. At first it went great, students loved having a choice in their homework. They were supposed to show me what they had done before or after class, during work time, or before or after school. It worked great at first, until procrastination set in. Suddenly, the week of assessment when Real World Homework was due I would have a line out my door of students needing to show me ALL 8 completed activities. To make things worse, usually multiple classes were due on the same day, making for a quite irritated teacher.
To ease this frustration, I started assigning a certain number of stamps per week, such as 2 stamps by Friday. This was better but still not ideal, since I would spend a big chunk of that day looking over Real Worlds. I finally realized that I was trying to cram too many in, since I would have 1 sheet of 8 stamps due every 3 or 4 weeks. Students were getting burnt out and resented what was supposed to be a fun homework option and I dreaded the days that they were due. I knew this year I needed a change.
New Real World Homework Logistics
Since we started this school year newly one-to-one and using Google Classroom, I figured it would be a good time to try out a new choice homework system. I decided to try out the switch in just Spanish 3&4 at first, basing the point system on the one posted at Musicuentos. Spanish 1&2 still used the old Real World stamp sheets, since they were still new to them anyway. Every Tuesday by midnight students submit their "report" showing they did 3 points as a Google Classroom assignment in Spanish including "I did..." "It was worth__points," "I learned...," "I need to improve..." and a screenshot to prove what they did. Here is a link to my current choice homework options. Here are links to many other choice homework options.
|Example of an assignment on Classroom|
The new system was a welcome change for the upper level students who had already done two years of Real World stamp sheets with me. They like all of the new options included, and the flexibility of doing extra work one week, to buy a free week. I also love the creativity they had shown suggesting new ideas such as Trivia Crack in Spanish, presenting to their class about their mission trip to Guatemala, or the Day of the Dead Snapchat Story. Another new option that many students love is #spanstuchat, which I plan on blogging on soon! It also does not take into any precious class time checking for proof of completion. (But instead takes into my own time correcting them. It is not too bad if I stay on top of them, but if I forget to correct 3&4 when level 2 comes in it can be a bit overwhelming). Quarter 2 I started Spanish 2 on the same system, but completing only 2 points on Wednesday.
The topic of choice homework came up in last week's #langchat, and I got another idea that may change my structure yet again, Google Forms! @mrsbolanos brought up that her students fill out a Google Form as reflection for their choice homework. This would make correcting MUCH faster, but at the same time would not allow for students to include a screen shot of their "proof." I know that some of my students just screen shot the website and probably did not spend 30 minutes on it like they should, but such is life. There will always be those who feel the need to cheat the system, and who are really just cheating themselves out of a learning experience. I am going to keep Spanish 1 using the stamp sheets, because I like the one of one conversation and getting to know them as they turn them in, but they only have one or two per quarter now.