Duane Graber

Duane Graber is an elementary counselor at Briarcliff Elementary School, a professional learning community in the North Kansas City School District in Kansas City, Missouri.


Is it possible that the word homework could be relabeled? As educators, we know that the purpose of homework is to make sure students can do the work independently. Unfortunately, many classroom teachers know the problem with this concept is that so many students do not return their homework to the classroom. Also, teachers sometimes say they know students did not do the homework, which eliminates the purpose of students doing the work independently.

Another issue is that parents complain about the amount of time required for homework. Students today are very active and have many after-school activities, which are also important for growth and development. So, parents are asking when the homework is supposed to get done. And some parents will argue if the student is having a difficult time understanding the homework, they may not understand or know the proper way to give guidance. Of course, this problem suggests that the student is not able to work independently, and therefore, the homework should not have been assigned.

I would like to purpose an alternative. I offer this alternative knowing that time for teaching in the classroom is never enough. What if classroom teachers allowed, let’s say, the last 30 minutes of the day for homework? By using this approach, we eliminate the homework never returning to the classroom and the student getting help from others. We also eliminate the frustration of the parents.

If we use this approach, the teacher can observe and determine which students are capable of working independently and which students might need additional explanation. The teacher also has the chance to help motivate the student. This gives everyone a win-win.

If we believe:

  1. The purpose of our school is to ensure all students learn.
  2. It is our responsibility to create the conditions that promote high levels of learning for all.
  3. Completing homework is essential for students to be successful.

Then should we not be willing to make changes that will ensure success for all? It may be that not everyone will finish in 30 minutes; however, this alternative will eliminate some time at home. It will also give the teacher a chance to explain to students who do not understand.

Perhaps the word homework could be changed to independent work. I believe the purpose of the work is much more important than where it is done. If some of you decide to make changes in your homework policy, I would love to hear how it has made a positive difference.

My work as an educator is in elementary school, so I am writing this with that setting in mind. I know the issue of schedules immediately comes to the forefront. The question becomes: “Where could we put homework time in our schedule?” By working through the PLC process, you may end up with five or six solutions, and then you can choose the one that will work best for you.


Sarah Walls

I've been struggling with homework this year as well. I am a 1st grade teacher. I've struggled in the past to get students to complete their homework. This year I created a Take Home Reading Folder. Students put a book on their level in that folder and take it home each night. As they become more fluent, they can revisit the library to get a new book. I also have a 1 page paper that students complete based off of the reading skills for that week. I started the year off having only a few students complete the homework. I then implemented a new system where students who turned in homework could eat lunch with me. I now have almost every student get their homework done. I do feel like homework is an important part of the learning process, so I'm going to continue to reward my students for putting an importance on their education.

Posted on

Demia Johnson

As a middle school reading teacher, homework is really important. My homework consists of answering five guided reading questions from our class novel. Because our class time is so short, students must be able to read at home for 20-30 minutes each night. To insure that they are reading and not just copying answers from one another, discussion questions are given the next day. Now the first few times many of my student bomb the discussion questions, but they catch on rather quickly. I know some may disagree with this strategy, but it is working for me.

Posted on

Nicole Kelly

I am a Kindergarten teacher. I have noticed the past few years I have been having difficulty with students completing homework. My teammates and I created a weekly homework packet that we send home on Mondays and is due on Fridays. The number of students completing this homework packet in the past couple years has greatly decreased. Many students are saying they have a sporting activity and could not complete the assignments. Then I have students not completing the assignment because their parents’ work late and there is no one at home to help them.
My administrator has decided to implement a little or no homework policy this upcoming school year. She believes the students that are completing the homework are the students that already understand the concepts. The students that do not complete the homework are the ones that could use the extra practice. I am curious to see how this school year goes without the extra practice at home working on school assignments.

Posted on

Stephanie Ham

I have struggled with the idea of homework myself. I teach in a primary grade in a low income area. I have some students who routinely do homework and others who never. I have never felt like it was fair to reprimand the students who did not do any homework when there is no one at home to assist them. I have thought about trying to make homework a part of my daily spiral review. I would have the students do it at home the night before, then review it the following day. If the student didn't complete the homework, they would get a quick explanation during the review.

I have some parents who would be upset if there is no homework, I feel this might be a happy medium where I am not relying on the parents to teach any new concepts, but rather reviewing things throughout the school year.

Posted on

Randy Squier

One argument for homework is it prepares students for college and career. College, yes; career? Is there any studies that look at what percentage of workers bring work home with them? Though colleges require independent work, how much of that is reading and note taking? It should be independent work meaning kids can practice the work, with some struggle acceptable, but not need parent help to complete. Duane's solution is being taken further by secondary teachers who are flipping their classrooms and using their class time to coach, support and help students to an independent level of understanding the content. Another concern is teachers continuing to grade homework sometimes at a similar % of the overall average of tests. This is where secondary needs to follow elementary model and separate out reporting the effort, and class participation from the overall grade.

Posted on

Judy Prettner

Many times in the past I have felt that the work I was given or I was giving out was just busywork. Duane Graber suggested that one solution would be that if classroom teachers allowed, let’s say, the last 30 minutes of the day for homework, we’d eliminate the homework never returning to the classroom, student’s putting in long hours doing homework, and eliminating the frustration of the parents battling with their children to get homework done every night. I like this solution. I think it would eliminate a lot of the evening turmoil of students trying to complete homework that they and their parents do not understand. I think this method would be worth a try. Something needs to be done about this and soon.

Posted on

Lori Carson-Loveless

I agree that many times, assigned homework is not completed, or not returned. I also have observed that families and children are very busy with extracurricular activities and may not have the daily down time that is necessary to support homework. I do think that the name is important. I believe that the accountability for elementary students falls to some degree with the parents. Parents need to be involved in their children's learning. If we stop expecting them to encourage homework, then they just might let go of any ownership of their children's education.

Posted on

Stephanie Black

Homework always seems to be a topic of debate for students, teachers, and parents. I understand the importance of homework for our students, it teaches them independence as well as accountability. However, I also see where parents struggle to help their student’s do the work at home especially if it is a parent who has not completed school in the first place. I think Duane Graber nailed it when he said that “the word homework could be changed to independent work.

Posted on

Jennifer Grainger

I found it interesting that you discuss that homework is not necessarily a tool that should be used to evaluate learning because it is more of a "behavior." I think you hit the nail on the head when you state, "Students need daily learning that is engaging, connected to the real world and stretches them to always seek more. " This is not necessarily being done through homework packets sent home weekly. What do you think it will take to change this traditional practice as well as the attitudes that accompany it? I have found parents questioning why their students are NOT receiving homework and actually being concerned that they are not "getting enough."

Posted on

Brenda Yoho

Homework is an assessment of the student’s support system. When dealing with a high population of students in poverty, homework is not an appropriate way to assess academics. When students do not complete homework it is a behavior, not a lack of skills we are seeking to discover.
We can find appropriate ways to support student's by understanding the resources they have available to them by providing students who are in need of enrichment or reinforcement of the skills we are teaching.
Sending home packets of activities is not the way. I agree with this statement. Students need daily learning that is engaging, connected to the real world and stretches them to always seek more.

Posted on

Jennifer Grainger

I have found that students simply do not do much outside of the classroom. I teach in a high school setting, so I do not necessarily assign homework but expect the students to finish what couldn't get done in class. I wish that the elementary level would do the same instead of handing out "packets" to be completed at home. A lot of it seems like busy work and not necessarily a continuation of what is happening in the class.

Posted on

David Blake

This year i have been trying to experiment with this idea. I have not assigned any "homework" meaning they only have time to do it outside of class. I have assigned work that can be done in class but I do it in a different way. I teach for a few minutes, about 10, then we do some problems together and some independently, then repeat. As we make our way through the lesson the student do between 10-20 problems on their own. I have found that my student do as well if not better than other teachers' classes on our common formative assessments. I believe that students need practice but how much is my experiment. I teach 7th grade math.

Posted on