There is a fine line as a teacher between trying to prepare your students the best you can and simply overworking them to the point that they hate school. Homework has always been a hot topic ever since school began. It doesn’t seem like the issue is going to die down anytime soon either.

Recall the Days When You Were a Kid

As is often the case, students become excited a week or two before school starts for a couple of reasons. First, they want to know if their friends are in their classes. Second, they are hoping they get the teacher that assigns less homework. I can remember when I was a young student going through first to fifth grade and hearing from the students ahead of me a grade level or two which teacher I should want because they assign less homework than the others.

How Much Homework Should Be Given

According to the National Education Association, every educator should follow the 10-minute rule per grade level. This means that first-grade students would have 10 minutes of homework a night, second-grade students would have 20 minutes of homework a night, and then the pattern would continue all the way to being a high school senior with having 120 minutes of homework a night.

However, after research was completed on how much homework was actually given, the American Journal of Family Therapy recognized that more than three times the homework amount was being handed out to the early elementary students. This means, for instance, that third-grade students were receiving an hour and a half of homework a night instead of the 30 minutes that the experts recommended.

Differentiating Between Busy Work and Needed Practice

Every teacher assigns different amounts of homework. You may have one educator at the 3rd-grade level handing out 50 minutes of homework a night and the 3rd-grade teacher right next door is only giving out about 10 minutes of homework a night. Is one teacher preparing their students better than the other? Perhaps. But it has nothing to do with the amount of homework.

The classroom should be the place where the students are learning new topics and concepts. As a group, they can then discuss and learn together. Homework, in elementary school especially, is only meant to strengthen these skills that they learned in the classroom through practice. This is what homework was originally intended to be. It’s meant to be practice for what they already learned in the classroom. When teachers start to use homework to introduce new skills and topics that have not been covered yet in the classroom, this is where an avalanche of frustrating homework can occur.

In addition, if a new equation has been taught to the students in math class and the teacher realizes they need practice putting it to use, 10 to 20 problems for homework would likely be efficient. But when a teacher assigns 50 problems for homework, the first 20 problems might be needed to make sure they are nailing down the equation, but the last 30 is just time-consuming busy work. The problems assigned are excessive and are basically not needed.

The same can be said for learning new spelling words in elementary grades. There are teachers that have them write each spelling word ten times to help learn the patterns of the letters. Wouldn’t it be just as effective having the students write them five times for homework?

My Own Experiences Assigning Homework

Even though teachers ask their students to think outside the box frequently, the educators themselves have trouble doing it. They assign too much homework every night because this is how it has always been done. Instead, they must figure out a way to make better use out of their classroom time so there is not such a need for hours of homework any longer.

I fully believe having more than an hour of homework a night at any grade level seems excessive to me. As an educator with more than a decade of experience, kids must be able to follow their other hobbies, too. Plus, family time should be needed every night as well. If a sixth-grade student is having an hour of homework a night, this doesn’t leave much time for anything else in their life.

I have always been a teacher that has assigned less homework than my fellow grade level teachers. On average, I assign 10 to 20 minutes a night of homework for my 4th and 5th-grade students. And if they work really hard in the classroom, they can even get this homework done before they leave school.

But on the other hand, if a student is struggling with something and I have given them all the extra tutoring time I can manage in my own classroom, I will give them individual homework that they must complete at home with their parents in an effort to get them caught up to where they need to be.

Every student presents a different situation for the teacher to closely look at. Perhaps more individual homework should be the answer. Instead of assigning mass homework to all of the students, pick and choose homework for each student on the subject they need help with the most. Just thinking… outside the box!

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