Stop Bringing Home Homework to Correct: Two Years Later

Nearly 2 years ago I wrote a post about a new system for homework.  My principal told us: "Stop correcting homework!I wrote about what I imagined the pros and cons to checking homework would be, but of course I did what I was told; I started checking homework instead of calling one group at a time to hand it in so I could schlep it home.  The new home routine for my fourth graders goes like this:

  • First thing in the morning, kids put their homework on their desk.  They keep a bookmark (Post It) on the page in their workbook so I could flip to it as they did their morning work.
  • I glance over the work and draw a smiley face at the top to signify it's been looked at.  If I notice errors related to following the directions I mention it then and there and ask, "Do you think you can fix it?"  Or if I'm noticing several kids with the same error I'll get together a small group to reteach.
  • I walk around with a clipboard to keep track of who is absent, does not have their homework, or did the wrong page. 
  • One thing that has stayed the same in my 8 years, before and after this switch, is I collect assignment books of any student who doesn't have their homework.  I write a quick note to the parent such as "Johnny told me he left his homework on the kitchen table and he will bring it tomorrow."
  • I still give kids a "pass" if they forget once in a week's time (they still get the note in the agenda).  However if they miss 2 they have the naturally occurring consequence of missing Morning Meeting and/or recess to complete it.  They can rejoin the activity if they put in effort and complete it in time.
I've been using this system for the past 2 years so I'm due for an update to this post! Obviously, from a purely selfish point of view, it's been great not bringing home piles of papers.  It has freed me up to focus more on how to be a better teacher!

  • I have been creating checklists and curriculum maps to stay on track with the Common Core. 
  • I've been reading more professional resources (for example, persuasive writing is more of a focus in fourth grade so I've been brushing up on how to teach it). 
  • I've created more engaging activities for my students to use in class (I have lots of math games and task cards for topics covered by the Math in Focus program that we adopted 2 years ago).
  • I feel more free to "recharge my batteries" one day per weekend to go do something fun with my husband instead of playing catch up on piles of papers.
As for how it's impacting the kids, I feel that there have been a lot of positives in addition to those above.
  • By having homework on their desks instead of handed in, those who have their homework are more...visible.  What I mean is, it's more of a norm for students to see others with their homework on their desk and talking to me about how they did, what was challenging, and how to fix it.  More kids are apt to be part of this norm, especially those in grades 4 and 5 who are at the stage in their social development when they are starting to notice and care about social norms.
  • It's not just a routine to either bring up papers or not; it's part of the teaching and learning process between student and teacher.  Because let's face it; not too many 10 year olds get their homework back and read over the problems they get wrong in order to work out what they need help with!  Instead, if I notice glaring errors, I will stop to point it out and in some cases I can say, "Do you know how to fix it" and they can! 
  • If a group of kids get something wrong, I might need to change my lesson for the day to reteach before I can build on the concept they missed.  Back when I'd stick the pile in my bag to look at that night (or the next day, longer) I wouldn't have known; I'd have plowed ahead and the kids fall farther and farther behind.
  • Kids can go home more empowered.  For parents who have homework concerns, they can either hear from their child about the immediate feedback they've got or they'll see your corrections.  If you need more help with communicating your homework expectations to parents I have homework policies available.
The only real drawback which has lessened over time is the amount of time it takes to check each student.  My "shortcut" to the system is to check one student per group and have them "look over" each other's assignments and share strategies they used to get their answers.  Obviously there are pros and cons to that system too, and the success varies greatly depending on how well your students work together.  Let's just say I used it very sparingly this year!  For classes like mine this year it's a good opportunity to practice cooperative work, although it's not a substitute for reteaching. 

So overall, I think this homework system has worked BETTER than the old system.  It's not perfect, but if there was a perfect system everyone would be using it.  If you haven't tried it before, I recommend you STOP CORRECTING HOMEWORK!
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  1. Wow Amber! In one way it sounds like more work to fit into the day, yet on the other hand it seems like you are more able to track kids progress. I do like the immediacy (I don't think that is a word!) of knowing what you have to re-teach to which kids. My own children have just started at a school where NO homework is given except for reading and or work they did not finish in class....not sure how I feel about it yet, but I do plan on doing a blog post of my own on homework (or the lack thereof) soon.
    Mrs Poultney's Ponderings

  2. It can be tricky to do it in the morning, but again, the goal isn't to correct every paper; it's to check it. Bookmarks in workbooks are critical. Sporadic peer checking helps with speed without letting kids feel as though homework isn't important to their teacher.

    Having no homework sounds...interesting! Looking forward to hearing how that goes after an adjustment period. I don't think I'd like that for my students only because we have one of the shortest school days in the state. For kids who are working hard at school for longer hours, maybe it would work out better.

  3. Hi There! I popped over because I saw you are a Mass blogger. Myself and another blogger are planning a blogger get together july 10. Email me if you are interested in the details
    A Burst of First

    1. Hi Deirdre,
      I sent you a reply. :)

  4. After working through Rick Wormeli's "Fair Isn't Always Equal" book, I revamped some of my ideas about homework and grading.
    Similar to what you are doing, I have students keep their work at their desk so I can come and spot check to see if it as A) done, and B) accurate on a glance. This works great for daily work or rough drafts and allows me to see which students are participating in the assigned tasks.

    Question: I assume you still grade quizzes and tests?
    Question: What do you do about bigger projects, like a book report, essay, short story, etc?

    Thanks for this great blog article! I am always looking for ways to focus more on teaching and less on homework / grading.

  5. Thanks for replying, Mrs. Lindquist. It's nice to know I'm not alone in the no grading homework camp. :)

    Quizzes and tests are definitely graded! I take grades very seriously and I make my tests look and sound like our standardized tests (in MA our 4th grade MCAS has multiple choice and short essay responses).

    As for bigger projects, they are nearly all done during class time. I teach the process and we do "practice" pieces (for example, a narrative) with mini-lessons on technique each day for a few weeks, then I give a piece as a narrative writing prompt and let the kids know it's an assessment. Rubrics are given to the kids before, during, and after when it comes to writing.


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