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, 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 work for high school seniors. However, studies have shown that students may be spending three times the recommended time to complete their assignments.
The Homework Debate
Those in support of nightly homework suggest that it:
- Helps students develop soft skills that include good study habits, time management, organization, prioritization, and personal responsibility
- Allows students to display their understanding of what they’ve learned without help from their teacher
- Keeps families involved in their children’s learning
- Fills in the gaps when teachers have less time to reinforce lessons and concepts in class
Those pushing for less homework (or none at all), especially for elementary students, argue that it 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 after-school work.
- Homework is being blamed for increased stress, sleep deprivation, and other physical health problems in students.
Breaking the Homework Mold
When determining your approach, remember this key point: quality over quantity. Consider the four common categories/purposes of additional work when creating assignments:
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 of 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.
If a lack of classroom time is a real concern, use outside work 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.
This allows you to see how well your students can take what they’ve learned and apply it to new situations.
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 experiences, no matter how much work 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.