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Why You Should Give Way Less Homework

I think we teachers tend to view homework as our sacred cow. Or at least some of us do.

And, believe me, I really do understand the value of homework. As a math teacher, I firmly believe students need to practice on their own, and homework is a great way for them to see if they can solve problems on their own without the teacher’s help.

Why teachers should give less homework

But while I believe homework is important, I’ve also come to realize that the amount of homework we give is important too.

And, unfortunately, we often give way too much homework.

Here’s why…..

Why We Should Give Less Homework

  1. Busywork is a waste of everyone’s time. If the homework we’re assigning is busywork (and, let’s be honest, sometimes it is), then it really is a waste of everyone’s time. It waste’s the students’ time doing it, the parents’ time helping it, and our time tracking and possibly even grading it. Just because a worksheet is part of the curriculum (or even came with a Teachers Pay Teachers lesson), doesn’t mean that we need to assign it. If it doesn’t serve a vital purpose, then what’s the point?
  2. More work doesn’t necessarily mean more learning. Sometimes we assign homework because we feel like it’s the studious thing to do. But just assigning more work isn’t necessarily going to mean our students learn more. Especially if the work is busywork, and especially if the student is already overwhelmed or if they don’t know how to do it correctly.
  3. Students can be overwhelmed if the homework is too long. The tough thing about homework is that the time it takes students to complete it is immensely different. What takes a sharp kid 5-10 minutes can take a struggling kid 45 minutes or even an hour. So imagine how a struggling student feels when he looks at a two-sided worksheet of 30 math problems that he doesn’t understand. The sheer volume of work is incredibly intimidating and often causes him to give up before he even tries.
  4. When you limit the quantity, you can expect more quality. When you limit how much homework you give and/or how long the assignments are, then you can expect the students to do quality work on what you do assign.
  5. Because family time is valuable. If we truly want our students to have strong families, then we need to not take up all their family time with homework. And, yes, I know that for lots of students it’s the TV that’s their companion at night instead of their parents. But that’s not how it is with all the students. There are definitely families out there who want to relax together in the evening but simply cannot do so because the kids are entrenched with homework.
  6. Less homework means less tracking and grading for you. If this were the only reason for giving less homework, then it would not be a very good one. But as it stands, there are lots of great reasons to give less homework, and this one is just a little perk for us teachers. 🙂

How to Give Less Homework

Okay, if you’re still reading then you’re at least intrigued by the thought of giving less homework. But exactly how to do that can be a bit challenging.

When I was teaching our administrators were continually pushing us to give less homework. Sometimes that would come in the form of a memo stating “You must immediately reduce the amount of homework you give by half.” I have to admit, I did not like getting those memos. They were a bit intimidating and pretty overwhelming to try to implement. But over time I found some great ways to reduce my homework and ended up being much happier with the results.

Here are a few things that helped me reduce my homework. I hope they can help you, too.

  1. Eliminate all busywork. Sounds simple, but the problem is that we don’t always recognize busywork for what it is. So before you assign anything, ask yourself what the point is of the assignment. If it doesn’t have a definite point and isn’t absolutely necessary, then don’t assign it.
  2. Assign as few problems or questions as possible. Instead of assigning all the problems in the book – or even half of them, I started to just assign 6 or 7 problems per section. This was the smallest number that I felt would still give them the practice that they needed. So instead of just assigning a whole worksheet ask yourself what is the smallest number of questions they can complete that will give them the knowledge or skills that they need.
  3. Ask students to write down how long each assignment took them to complete. Simply ask them to track this at the top of each assignment. While their answer won’t be completely accurate, they should give you a general idea. Pay special attention to how long it’s taking your struggling students to complete their assignments. If it’s taking too long, then you’ve really got to get creative to figure out how you can shorten it. And remember, the goal is to give as little as possible, not to add more if your students are getting it done quickly.
  4. Give time for students to start their homework in class. Work hard to finish your lesson a little early so that students can start their homework in class. Not only does this shorten the amount they have left to do, but it also allows you to answer questions, correct misconceptions, and gauge how quickly students are working.
  5. Turn some homework into classwork. Just because you used to assign something as homework doesn’t mean it has to be homework. Can you find time for the students to do it in class? You might be surprised how much the quality of work increases when you do this.

Want more help managing homework? Check out the post “How to Manage Homework Without Going Crazy”

I’d love to hear your thoughts about homework. Do you assign a lot or try to limit it? How do you determine what to assign? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

Photo by GoodNCrazy

What to Read Next
  • Yes!!!! I’ve always felt this way, and even more so now that I’m a parent. No more busywork! Great post!

  • My son struggles in school and homework has made him hate school even more. We can easily spend 2 hours a night on homework. He would fuss and complain and I’d get angry and raise my voice. He’d cry and I’d feel like crying. Lately things seem to be clicking a bit better so it hasn’t seemed quite so overwhelming but I’m still not a proponent of more than a token amount of homework.

  • I agree if you do the math students usually have about 5 out of 8 classes that have homework assignments every day. That’s 25 a week and about 100 every month and there’s usually about 20 problems or more. That’s 500 problems a week and 2000 a month and that’s just one class!

  • As a first year third grade teacher in a high-poverty school, I only give homework on Mondays, and make it due on Fridays. I am amazed that I still have some students not turning it in. But, I also remember the background of some of these students. I don’t give a lot (I give one ELA assignment a week, which is like Tic-tac-toe, but with their vocabulary words; I also try to give a Social Studies sheet every other week that deals with what we are learning in class), and neither do their other teachers(Math is the same every week, and Science rarely has homework), but some students still don’t turn it in on Fridays.

    • Even though they have a complete week to do the assignment, do you receive the late assignments? What grading system do you use for it? In my case, I give them a week too, but if they don’t deliver it, I ask the reason for it and don’t give more time. It’s something we’re allowed to do but reading about homework on these posts today has made me wonder about what’s the best way to manage late homework. Ideas from other teachers are welcomed! Thank you.

  • I learned this from a high school teacher I had 25 years ago and have implemented it into my classroom ever since!!! So I love it.

  • I am currently struggling in school right now. I have an advanced Math teacher, and I feel as if she she gives enough homework, but all of the homework is nothing like she teaches us. When she gives us homework, it’s homework from 1 unit ahead of what we’re learning.

  • I totally agree wish I can send this to all my teachers! I just got done finishing a 2 hour word search for music in high school and still have more homework for actual important classes.

  • Thanks for the resources people, I am writing an essay on this and honest to god i ave easily 2-3 hours on homework a night, and on top of that I have Track practice until 4:30, the meets go all the way to 7:30. It sucks doing homework at 8:00 at night.

  • This is awesome! The funny thing is I’m doing this for my college assignment that overlaps into my free time being a fortnite gamer called nija

    • This is not (and is not intended to be) a research article. This is purely an opinion and advice piece. It is intended to give advice to teachers, not to be used as a formal source in a research article. Thanks for pointing that out. ????

  • Yeah, I thought it was gonna be hard but now it is easy at middle school but I’m still struggling about the future when I grow up.

  • I as a student am writing an essay on this topic and your article proved to be very useful and my math teachers solution is she allows us to work in groups on homework.

  • Amazing Tips!!! I like it very much.
    Complete your Assignment on time is very essential for your great grades and results.

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