As a new school year begins elementary school teachers are often very busy with setting up their classrooms, learning students’ names, and developing a classroom routine that works. Once everyone is settled in and the first few weeks of review work is over, it’s time to get down to the business of teaching new material.
How will your students best learn their new, grade-level concepts? You’ll have countless strategies on hand to help your young elementary kids learn and you’ll likely incorporate group work and play time.
What about homework? Some parents expect it, some parents hate it and you may think that some students genuinely need the extra practice.
Just like adding more playtime to an elementary student’s day is currently a hot topic, the homework/no homework debate is one that rages off and on with various intensity. Sometimes principals or other administrators will set a homework policy that teachers must adhere to. However, it’s more likely that principals allow teachers to make that call on their own. If you’re struggling with whether or not you’re going to assign homework, consider the following questions:
- Are the homework assignments more like “busy work?” You may believe that parents want to see homework, and some do, but nearly all parents can spot assignments that seem more like unnecessary time fillers.
- Will parents need to help? Obviously, it’s ok to assign projects now and then that will require a parent’s help. After all, parents should be involved in their children’s education. But, if you regularly assign homework that parents need to help their child complete, it may be better to find a way to do those assignments in class.
- Can you set up a “study hall” time instead? Use homework as a time management tool. Assign a few pieces of homework and then let students know there will be specific time during the day in which the assignments can be completed. Set it up like a study hall and allow only homework or reading during that time. Encourage kids to do the homework at that time to avoid having to take it home. Teaching kids how to manage time at an early age can only help them as they advance through school.
Many education experts believe that homework isn’t necessary in elementary school and may not even provide a single academic benefit. If you have the freedom to decide whether or not you’ll assign homework, consider adopting a no-homework policy, especially if you teach in one of the younger K-5 grades. Encourage kids to be active after school and save the academic work for the classroom.
If you must include homework in some way, consider assigning reading time. Probably one of the best all-time homework ideas is to require kids to read for 10-20 minutes at home. You can even include some kind of logging system, either on paper or on a device.
The point of homework/no homework discussions is really more about a student’s free time and less about whether or not they are spending enough minutes on academic work. A typical elementary student probably attends school for at least 6 hours per day. Factor in before school care and after school care for students that have working parents, and kids as young as 5 and 6 years of age are spending lots of time in a structured environment. So, try to ease up on the homework if you can and ban it altogether if you’re allowed. Let’s give elementary students more free time when possible.