How Much Homework is the Right Amount of Homework?

In the past, assigning mounds of homework was a way of life for most teachers. But now, many schools and teachers are opting to pull back on heavy homework to allow for more quality time at home—reading a good book, enjoying a family dinner, or playing outside. This change is in response to the growing question about the real value of homework and the changing dynamics of families with two working parents and multiple children with extra-curricular activities.

In the current debate of how much homework is the right amount of homework, many schools rely on the 10-Minute Rule that is supported by the National PTA and the National Education Association. It equates to assigning 10 minutes of homework per grade level, per night. So, 20 minutes for second graders, 60 minutes for sixth graders, and so on, maxing at 2 hours of homework for high school seniors. However, studies have shown that students may be spending three times the recommended time to complete their assignments.

elementary student frustrated or bored with how much homework he has

The Homework Debate

Those in support of nightly homework promote the following benefits of homework:

  • It helps students develop soft skills that include good study habits, time management, organization, prioritization, and personal responsibility.
  • It allows students to display their understanding of what they’ve learned without help from their teacher.
  • It keeps families involved in their children’s learning.
  • It fills in the gaps when teachers have less time to reinforce lessons and concepts in class.

Those pushing for less homework (or no homework), especially for elementary students, argue that homework does more harm than good. They point to these facts:

  • The link between homework and academic achievement is not as strong as previously thought, especially for students in elementary school.
  • Too much parent involvement can lessen the positive effects students should gain through homework.
  • Homework is being blamed for increased stress, sleep deprivation, and other physical health problems in students.

Breaking the Homework Mold

When determining your approach to assigning homework, remember this key point: quality over quantity. Consider the four common categories/purposes of homework when creating assignments:

Practice homework:

Tailor, tailor, tailor! It’s easy to get lost in the sea of homework resources at hand these days. By keeping each student’s needs in mind, you’ll find the right practice for everyone. Zero in on review for the specific skills that individual students need to master. Using a variety tools for different students, or even assigning a cluster of problems instead of the entire worksheet or book, can help you differentiate homework to make it more impactful.

Preparation homework:

If a lack of classroom time is a real concern, use homework to give your students a jumpstart on the next day’s lessons. This can include watching a video or completing a reading assignment that will give them valuable background on what they’ll be learning next. This concept is successfully used in many flipped classroom lessons.

Extension homework:

This allows you to see how well your students can take what they’ve learned and apply it to new situations.

Integration homework:

Integration requires your students to apply several skills into a single assignment, whether it’s a research assignment, science project, presentation, or book report. It may be more time intensive, but students are practicing many different disciplines.

Homework Tips for Parents

Homework time can be a little difficult for a busy family, resulting in stumped parents and frustrated kids. In our Homework Tips Parent Guide, we offer the following advice that you can share with the families in your classroom to help create more positive homework experiences, no matter how much homework is assigned.

Set a routine, but be sure to get your child’s input.

Some kids are okay to tackle homework as soon as they get home, while others may need to decompress for a while before they get back to work. Bookworms might want to save their reading for bedtime and early risers might knock out a math worksheet first thing in the morning.

Homework time should be free from distractions.

Unless a tablet or computer is required to complete the assignment, homework time should be done without TV or cell phone distractions.

Be a low-key homework helper.

Be available to check work or walk your child through an example problem if he is having trouble with a concept, but don’t let him rely on you for every small detail.

How much homework do you feel is the right amount of homework? Have you found the right homework/life balance for your students? Share your advice in the comments below.

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