“Well, when I wrote it myself I thought about it more.”


The most recent blog by Exit 10A references Dan Meyers’ suggestion that we all “be less helpful.” Tracy Zager talks about her frustration with homework in a way that struck a chord with me. This is all related, I swear…

So often I meet with teachers. We cover topics such as formative assessment, standards-based lessons, academic discourse, high quality tasks. We read Hess’ Matrix, Dylan Wiliam, Jeff Zwiers, Smith & Stein, and so much more. We watch TED Talks and YouTube videos. Teachers get excited as we talk about inquiry lessons, incorporating engineering and science. We plan gorgeous lessons that are matched to students’ ZPD and challenge them in new ways finding inspiration from Marilyn Burns, Kathy Richardson, Van de Walle and so many like them. And then the ball drops…

[Serious look, as if to say “C’mon, don’t be ridiculous] “But Nova, we can’t do this. What would we assign for homework?”

Why are we letting homework drive our instruction? It’s crazy. I’d love to know what actually went into the creation of the homework that goes along with instructional materials. Tracy’s example of her daughter’s homework is such a great example of CRAP homework. In addition to what Tracy already identified, here are some more reasons why:

  1. There ARE different ways to add. In this case, however, both of these strategies involve place value and hence are two ways to use the same strategy. Clearly they are simply building up to students using the traditional US version of the vertical algorithm.
  2. “Use models if needed.” The standard aligned to this 2nd grade homework is:

Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds.

There should not be an option to use a model, it should be required!

  1. The homework is entitled, “Exploring Adding Three-Digit Numbers.” As per dictionary.com, to explore is to:

verb (used with object), explored, exploring.

1. to traverse or range over (a region, area, etc.) for the purpose of discovery:to explore the island.

2. to look into closely; scrutinize; examine: Let us explore the possibilities for improvement.

3. Surgery. to investigate into, especially mechanically, as with a probe.

4.Obsolete. to search for; search out.

I do not see any exploring in this homework. LIES!

I’m all for only having a few problems, but the level of cognitive rigor for these is trivial. So the question remains, how do we develop meaningful homework that is not overwhelming, is aligned to the lesson (and therefore the standard, since we are teaching standards based lessons), and also challenges the student, all without the child needing help from their parents? As a bonus, how do we get students to be excited to do their homework? In my opinion, if your homework does not do all of the above… don’t give any!

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