Discussion on Homework

I'm interested in starting a discussion on homework, hopefully my education friends and colleagues will play along.

  • What is your typical homework assignment?  
  • What are the goals of that assignment?  
  • What % of your students complete the assignment?  
  • Are there negative incentives for non compliance? 
  • Why do you assign what you assign and how do you determine how much is enough?

For those that have read about Operation LAPIS so far, you know what a typical night looks like for the students in this particular class.  For those who haven't, I'd encourage you to read back a few entries and see what my Latin I students are doing this year.

For my other classes, the "traditional" Latin courses, most homework assignments consist of either translation passages or exercises.  The goals are either to improve translation ability (and thus grammar and vocabulary) or to hone in on specific grammatical elements via those sentences.  On any given night I probably have between 50 and 75% completion of the assignment.  Traditionally I don't give any negative incentive but the positive incentive is that most of the homework looks and feels like the larger assessments do, so if the students are staying up on their homework, odds are they'll find more success on the quizzes and tests.  The determining factor for me is a rough estimate on what should take the average student 20-25 minutes to complete, knowing full well that some will take more and some will take less.

Who else is willing to participate in this conversation?


  1. I can't believe you tagged me!!! Fine, I'll share my awesomeness with everyone... I don't believe in "busy work". It's a gross misuse of authority within the classroom. Homework in my class is completed between 80 and 100% of the time. And yes, I have had 100% completion before. Students normally are asked to read and review the material using a worksheet that emphasizes Bloom's lower taxonomy levels. Students familiarize themselves with vocabulary independently, so in class, the flow of vocabulary is understandable. There are no negative or positive incentives aside from grades. Homework may be graded for completion, graded for content, or graded in class to review key concepts. Students are NEVER expected to work on new concepts without in class modeling prior. If students work on material prior to officially learning it in class, they reinforce incorrect ideas, which can later prove extremely difficult to correct. That said, here's the rundown: 20-25 minutes of reading and basic regurgitation of vocabulary and key concepts usually given 3 times a week. I try to give homework over weekends, and NEVER over vacations.

  2. Well we had such a great start of a conversation at lunch, I just wanted it to spill over here and hopefully bring in a few more, thanks for playing along :)

    I love the 'misuse of authority' quote, I have a feeling that I know what you mean by it, but care to elaborate more?

    And why don't you give homework over the weekend or on vacations? Won't they forget everything if they aren't compelled to work on projects or other assignments?

  3. Ideally I'd like to see homework become an extension of the class, and therefore taking no more than 15-20 minutes to complete. Once homework begins to feel like something that would never be asked of them in the classroom, I think it begins to lose its efficacy.

    That is not to say that homework has to mirror exactly what was done in class since the environment in class and outside of it (not necessarily home) are so different. Ideally I'd want the same environment to exist both in and out of the classroom and I think we're getting closer to that with the advancement in online fora.

    With that said, I usually only give homework to my students when they first meet something and only about 2-3 times per week. My AP class is excluded from this as they have translation homework every night due to the tight schedule.

    I also like the 'misuse of authority' quote and I feel it can be applied to a lot more than homework!

  4. The misuse of authority comes from the idea that educators tend to give work in vast quantities simply because they can. It's the "because I said so" idea. Just because we were taught a certain way does not mean that we should feel compelled to pass that on. While I am not overly enthusiastic about some ideas (podcasting, blogging, etc.) in my class, we shouldn't be doing things the way we were taught just because. We as educators are better than this. While some things, like making flashcards, still have merit, some menial activities could be, and should be, eliminated as homework. On a personal philosophical belief, I feel as though are students are becoming disconnected. By this I mean that they are bombarded with schoolwork, afterschool activities, and sports. Our students are forced to use online conversations as their sole communications probably because of time constraints. To improve student morale and get kids happy again, I propose minimal homework and more time to be young. Also, a healthy dose of sitting outside and listening to the birds would be good.