Homework seems to be a four-letter word in the world of education. I totally get that students often spend WAAAAY too much time at home doing schoolwork, but then again, I think that American kids today are too over-scheduled. But that's another can of worms! (And let's not even get into what other countries do!!)
Anyway, back to homework in MY classroom. I assign it. Not often, and not a ton, but I believe it can serve a purpose. This is what I wrote to parents this year regarding my homework policy:
My philosophy on language learning is that the majority of the work we need to do happens in the classroom. Because I want to ensure that French is fun for students, I do not want it to become the subject of a laborious task at home. That being said, there may be times when students will need to practice some of our material at home. In addition, it can be fun and rewarding for students to show off what they have learned. Therefore, homework in French class will consist mostly of assignments that engage other people: retelling a story from pictures, describing or summarizing a video, reading a book or poem. The “audience” of these tasks will sign a paper indicating that s/he participated in the activity and indicate how easily the student completed the task.
Please let me know as soon as possible if your household does not have Internet access, or your child has very narrow parameters for working online. For homework that involves retelling or summarizing a video, I post those videos on my website for student to access. I will need to come up with an alternative assignment for your child.
Click here to see what I give to students when I assign a Movie Talk retell as homework.
Depending on the situation, homework may be applicable and helpful. I don't think it's a black and white issue. I do leave the mega homework assignments to the math and ELA teachers, but something it fits with what we're doing, and I believe in my heart that homework can accomplish a goal. It must be assigned deliberately and thoughtfully, but it can't be completely disregarded.
I do make my sixth graders memorize poems. I assign projects that allow students to express themselves in a way that fits their personalities and interests: a video, drawings, a PowerPoint or the like. I give students my Google Voice number so that they can leave messages, answering questions or summarizing a reading or video or story. But I never give an assignment "just because students need homework." (Plus, from a very selfish standpoint, I don't want to spend hours looking at student work!)
What are your thoughts on homework? Do you do anything differently depending on the level?
Allison Litten teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This year she is teaching kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 4, and 6.