A repost:

Four kinds of teachers give forced/required class homework:

  1. Those who are mean.
  2. Those who are afraid.
  3. Those who need approval.
  4. Those who can’t get the job done in the time they have.

I have never given assigned/forced homework. It just seems so insulting to the kids, most of whom don’t do it anyway. The teacher can get their job done in class. But the mean ones, those who are afraid, those who need the approval, those who teach such boring classes that the kids hate the class, those folks need to stop with the homework.

Homework is a national sickness. It hurts children. I’m now officially convinced of that fact, which is the fruit of a question that I have meditated on in silence for a long time*.

Why parents who love their children think it is so necessary is beyond me.

*Like in the Little Prince:

[C’était] le fruit d’un problème longtemps médité en silence…



47 thoughts on “Homework”

  1. I could not agree with you more!

    I have heard literally nothing but positive things from my students’ parents about not giving homework. My students see absolutely no need for it and never ask for it.

    Jealousy, and jealousy alone, are the only reason why I am forced to give homework. My department head is jealous of my ability to teach a class without crappy grammar homework. My Latin colleagues are jealous because our students MUCH prefer my classes to theirs. My colleagues are jealous because students are running from their classes into mine. Parents of students who take other languages are jealous because my classes are bursting at the seems, and their preferred languages struggle to run one section in the entire school!

    Because of these jealous, hateful, small-minded and cruel individuals, I now have to tell entire families how they should spend their time at home. I have to force parents to make their kids get less sleep. I have to force parents to waste their quality time with their kids on doing meaningless crap for my classes. I have to force parents torture their disabled children by forcing them to work a second shift at home. Forced homework is barbaric and it is causing a public health crisis amongst our children.

    Homework nazis…shame on you!

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Related: Alfie Kohn’s article – succinct version of the book, The Homework Myth.

    There are many, many parents that believe that homework reflects rigor and ‘serious academic programming.’ Without sharing research such as Kohn’s or engaging parents in a discussion about homework, these unfounded folksy beliefs will persist, kinda like grammar drills…

  3. I agree! My students are learning way more in my TPRS classroom without a single bit of homework. It is so much less stress on the students and teacher. We have these kids for 7 hours a day and then we expect them to go home and do potentially hours of homework and still love learning?? Who are we kidding!

  4. I remember seeing a tweet one day that homework hurts children of poverty and this perpetuates class separation between those who go to college and those who don’t.

    1. It is not random, I think teaching is very political.

      Disciplined Minds, author Jeff Schmidt



      “”Schmidt argues that what really makes an individual a professional is not technical knowledge, but rather “ideological discipline.”

      “Those who employ teachers see them as more than workers who present the official curriculum to the students. A computer or television system could make such a presentation. An important role of the schools is socialization: the promulgation of an outlook, attitudes and values. … The professional is one who can be trusted to extrapolate to new situations the ideology inherent in the official school curriculum that she teaches.” (p. 32).

      Professionals do “political work” but in a way that is not seen as political. Being “professional” is, in essence, accepting this hidden political role.

      “As a professional, the teacher is ‘objective’ when presenting the school curriculum: She doesn’t ‘take sides,’ or ‘get political.’ However, the ideology of the status quo is built into the curriculum. The professional’s objectivity, then, boils down to not challenging this built-in ideology.” (p. 32).

      When teachers are fired, it is seldom for being incompetent teachers. Usually, it is for challenging the system in some way, such as not teaching the curriculum. Schmidt provides examples of doctors and other professionals with fake credentials who are able to survive quite all right in their jobs, as long as they have the right attitudes.

      A key to creating docile professionals is professional training. Through their training, budding professionals learn to orient their intellectual effort to tasks assigned to them. Schmidt has a wonderful expression for this: “assignable curiosity.” Children are naturally curious about all sorts of things. Along the road to becoming a professional, they learn how to orient this curiosity to tasks assigned by others.””

  5. Not to mention: When I used to give homework it was usually just busy work that a lot of students cheated on (they would copy from each other and/or find the answers online), and/or simply didn’t do. It was a headache, and even having students correct it in class took up time that could have been better spent otherwise. Plus, it was just one more thing to have to keep track of and record, so that alone cut into my planning time and free time.

    I’m quite glad to not feel the need to give homework anymore! (And my students are also glad. There are a lot of classes at my school that give out ridiculous amounts of homework- particularly the AP courses…)

    1. …it was just one more thing to have to keep track of and record, so that alone cut into my planning time and free time….

      I am of the firm opinion that teachers have NO idea what sacrifices they make to the gods of tradition in terms of homework and grading. Like today I was in a class thinking how I was going to read all the free writes I’ve been asking for lately. Then I realized I don’t have to read them all. Just sample them. And here’s the weird part – because I want to! I really want to read them to get an idea how my kids are doing, what they are thinking when they are writing, how I can make a few suggestions to help them. But I do it because I want to! Dang boy!

      (An aside: I had three second year – first year TPRS – kids calmly walk out of the room at the end of class with these numbers of words on their 10′ freewrites: 240, 230, 210. I remember those numbers. They were so proud but tried to play it off as natural. I looked doubtful, and so two of them showed me their composition books. Sure enough. Pages full of words that I could tell in a glance easily communicate meaning. Dude!)

      But back to the point – I don’t need to read all of those free writes. I don’t need to “grade” them. What does that even mean? We have devised a way of assessment that doesn’t take any work. I spend exponentially less hours per week doing busywork than before. That’s what we have done. It’s magnificent!

      1. I always give credit/no credit on Freewrites. I pick a random set of students from each class 3-5. It gives me an idea as to whether I am providing enough reps/CI.

  6. I don’t give homework. I don’t give tests. I don’t grade anything. I haven’t had a single grade in the grade book for 2 years. And somehow my kids are still engaged and acquiring. Hmmmm.

    1. That sounds awesome what does Admin do? Do you just pass or fail each kid? By the way Eric want to thank you again for this Paperman slides presentation you made. It’s a great video and you’ve divided it up so well we’ve been using it all week and having a great time.

    2. I want to do that!!!!!!!! How does work in your school!? I am so done with all of this crap! Big tests are wastes of time. Homework is horse poop. Grades are utterly meaningless and undermine the genuine interest and engagement. I want to be able to get rid of that crap too! I’m tired of being told that I am not really teaching if I don’t have homework and hour long worksheet tests…

      1. I still have to give a numerical grade bi-annually, but I just make it up on the spot. And since my kids are great, I give them all As and Bs. There is a rare C, but you really have to “earn” that one if you know what I mean. I usually give a pre, mid, and final reading & listening test and I make comments on progress on the report cards.

        Part of my freedom is because I go under the radar. I’m a “special” for grades 4-8 and the only FL teacher in the building. I’ve also educated my admin and from their observations they can see how much my kids can do. They hear positivity from the parents. And the admin noticed a complete change in discipline problems when I took over. So they support me.

        Craig, Paperman is awesome. My subtitles are likely too advanced for beginners. I have since rewritten that picture book and it’s much simplified. If I get parent permission, I’ll post a video of my 4th graders re-enacting the video 🙂

        1. That sounds fun I’d like to see the video. I’ve been modifying my copy so it’s more CI friendly for my students but they’ve been doing really well. That along with regular 4truths every morning has made this week pretty enjoyable.

      2. I like collecting student writing (retells/their versions of the stories you were doing anyways-not a “special project”). Let students pick the best from the last couple of weeks. As a final, they submit their portfolio. We know our kids are acquiring language, but having documentation makes kids (some are really proud of their work), parents, and administration happy.

        (At our school, we have to do some kind of assessment the day of the exam, so they just write one more story, just like any other day.)

  7. An agenda item on our district meeting (5 teachers total) was about alignment, especially now that I’m teaching the new 7th grade Exploratory (Spanish, Latin French) which didn’t exist previously. We were asked to send in some thoughts about that agenda item. With the Bracey situation fresh in my mind, I wrote them this:

    I think any alignment between the schools should be broad and global, completely unrelated to any specific grammatical syllabus or language. ACTFL’s Proficiency Guidelines can inform what to expect from students after 5 years (i.e. grades 7-11) to determine the capstone of language study senior year.

    I would suggest that everyone in the department focuses on the “Super 7” verbs (i.e. there is, is, is in, likes, has, wants, goes) which account for most of what students need to understand and express within the first few years of language study. Those 7 verbs would be woven into daily listening and reading in the target language. Speaking and writing are a bonus, but largely unnecessary (and harmful if forced) in the beginning. After we all do this for two years, we see what the incoming freshmen are capable of, and set expectations beyond that. It’s likely that students entering 9th grade after two years of this kind of language focus will be able to understand and read more of the target language. The choice between whether to continue with reading and other communicative methods or shift focus to more language analysis would be entirely up to the high school teachers.

    Here’s a response from one teacher:

    Having taught Spanish, levels 1 – 4, I have a solid picture of the skills and concepts that students should have mastered, in some areas, or be exposed to, in others. At every level it is incredibly important that students understand and participate in vocabulary acquisition. They need to know how to study new words and internalize them. A quick sketch of the first couple of years of modern language study would hopefully include the majority of what follows:

    Level one:
    Days of the week
    Telling Time
    Interrogatives – how to ask and answer questions correctly
    First – Third Person
    Subject Pronouns
    What conjugating a verb means
    Present tense
    -ar, -er, -ir endings
    Stem changers (shoe verbs)
    Yo form irregulars
    Irregular verbs: ser, estar, ir, tener, dar
    Ser vs Estar
    Gender and articles
    Gustar and Indirect object pronouns
    Direct object pronouns
    Preterit tense

    Level Two:
    Review the grammar from level one. At each point, go a little deeper into the understanding of each concept.
    Regular verbs
    -ir stem changers
    -car, gar, zars
    -spelling changes
    Irregular verbs
    Present Progressive
    Ser vs. Estar
    Por vs Para
    Preterit vs Imperfect

    At this level students should be chatting informally in the target language as well as responding appropriately to questions, written or spoken. They should be working towards becoming proficient at reading level appropriate passages.

    These lists aren’t exhaustive of everything that one hopes to accomplish in a year, and the vocabulary will hopefully naturally flow from whatever reading students are doing. At the level three, everything from levels one and two should be reviewed, again in greater detail, and likely with greater speed, before jumping into the subjunctive, compound tenses and other more advanced grammatical concepts. This level also begins to bring in authentic texts and the study of Spanish history. The whole idea of Content Coordination is so we don’t find ourselves teaching the same thing the same way every year, thus resulting with a stagnant program. If we want our students to have a certain level of proficiency, we have to set expectations at every level.

    Jesus. That’s all I can say when reading something like that.

    1. I guess my answer would be Why? Why all that stuff? What will all that stuff lead to anyway? Why do they always focus on the most boring stuff possible for the whole first semester? Why do they have to know all their numbers at first? It’s all so labor intensive and meaningless and doesn’t have any vibrance or life to it. What a great way to make students hate learning a language. Honestly. Another thing. Why do so many teachers use stupid games in class? Does a bingo game really help you learn a language? I think part of the reason people expect so little of FL programs is because they don’t produce any meaningful results and half the time their playing these silly little games with flyswatters and stuff…. anyways.

      1. I think that’s how I’ve cultivated a reputation for rigor in the face of not doing the grammar dance. I don’t play games. We don’t do BS projects. When an admin comes into my room, they see students interacting with a text in a meaningful way. That’s rigor.

        1. Interacting with a text in meaningful ways. This is CCSS era gold!!
          Totally agree with the low expectations. Since thousands of kids have spent zillions of hours and have no real proficiency to show for it, that’s what’s expected of us.

    2. The teacher is saying what my perception of 80% or more of language programs in the US is like: grammar-based syllabus, topical word lists, and proficiency goals tacked on to that. I think this person is a teacher who doesn’t know any different or better. (Maybe also doesn’t want to hear any other way…)

        1. Hi Angel, I know very little Spanish. Can you please say it in English so I know what you mean? I’m a Chinese teacher… got some French reading skill still… but very, very little Spanish. Thanks!

          1. Yes, sorry:

            It means “eighty per cent or more”.

            I “suffered” these gramatical curiosity-kill approach in my four languages.

    3. Lance, I love your wording. I had that same frustration when trying to give input on a district proficiency test. Everyone else just wanted to use multiple choice questions from our textbook’s test generator software. Awful stuff. I’m curious if you got any feedback about your response.

      1. Not directly, and nothing out of the ordinary. Here are a few:

        The number of theories, philosophies, whatever, is mind boggling at times. In my master’s classes that I am taking now, so many ideas are presented, and I always feel like incorporating all into my classroom at once. Needless to say, that is impossible. I prefer a melange of many that I have discovered throughout the years I have been teaching.
        I think the longer I teach the more I am able to successfully patch together different theories and practices to create my own style.
        We all have ideas, some proven, some not, about how best to serve the needs of our kids. But when anyone thinks he or she has identified some kind of panacea for the “right” way to engage kids in language learning, watch out.

        Those replies all have that same cop out you hear about having many tools in the effing toolbox – a completely misunderstood and overused statement. That second one is laughable…as if one’s style has ANYTHING to do with changing how humans acquire language. It’s so absurd.

        1. You forgot “There is research out there that can prove anything.”

          Those types of arguments are really frustrating. The conclusion drawn is always “research trends and teaching fads come and go all of the time, so let’s just do things EXACTLY how I PERSONALLY want to do them.” I love how quickly they turn from saying that the possibilities are endless to “you’d better do things my way or else.”

          Watch out for these people, Lance. This all seems like reasoned discourse amongst professionals, but it might not be in their eyes. Your high school counterparts have all the time and proximity to turn you into the scapegoat for their problems.

          Keep up the good fight, my friend.

          1. To be clear, there is, and will not be any fight.

            My suggestion (along with the replies) was actually an “assignment” from our current Coordinator (again, new role this year without a description) for our monthly meeting as a district (yes, still only 5 of us). Alignment was only one agenda item, and I doubt much of anything will come from it this year, or that next year someone (who?) would be looking for hard evidence of a department overhaul in alignment, etc.

            Besides, the principal in my building is 100% behind what I’m doing, and I consult with him often about things I’m thinking of and would like to see. It’s the obverse of that BS coin tossed around the previous two years at that high school when I finally told the school to Eff off. I didn’t actually say that, but I certainly got outta there before things got worse.

        2. I agree we need many tools in our toolbox. The difference is I think the box should be called “Communicating Comprehensibly with the Humans in front of You” and the tools should be La Persona Especial, predictable routines, stories, read n discuss, etc.

      2. Erin, my goal is to become our next Content Coordinator (a new role no one wants) and plan for our monthly meetings to include doing demos for each other. The content alignment would really be an afterthought but start with bringing in writing samples. I would suggest that we all give a 5 minute Free Write (not retell) and then analyze a few samples from each teacher (low, mid, high) from grades 7 through 12.

        The funny thing is, I wouldn’t actually trust traditional teachers enough to get reliable writing samples on their own. Instead, I would ask teachers to be flexible in a given month to allow 5 min on a random day I show up with the papers. Why? I think teachers who don’t want to change anything about their teaching would give students a head start, practice activity, review activity, AND allow them to use notes during the Free Write. That way, when we all get together at the monthly meeting their kids would *appear* to be writing some impressive things.

        My goal would never be to change what other teachers do, unless it’s obvious that the teacher is killing the language program by doing what they do. My goal is really that I don’t want any of those idiots (can I say that?) telling me how to teach. Instead, those kinds of teachers need to be very real about what their students CAN’T actually do.

        1. Lance! That’s awesome news! Taking those jobs no one wants is such an awesome strategy. I’m trying to get on our district leaders team for next year right now. Apparently since it includes OPI training it’s very competitive. I’ve been asking everyone I know to call the dude in charge and advocate for me, because I doubt there would be many other voices like mine in the district. I’m waiting to hear back.
          I think your ideas on the writing samples are right on. Prolly the traditional folks would do exactly as you said. You’re so smart and I am in total awe of what you’re taking on. You’re such a force of change. Now I’m gonna go watch some more Lance TV. Your videos.

  8. This made me laugh / cry / puke: “They should be working towards becoming proficient at reading level appropriate passages.”

    Whaaaaaat? How about just reading? An actual story or a book. And getting into it. And talking about it and having fun. In TL. Like our kids do. “level appropriate passages?” Why would someone in real life (not as a test prep) choose to read a “passage?”

    1. You caught another “should” in the teacher’s comments. The one that bothered me more was about how they “should” be chatting informally in the TL. I think those “shoulds” indicate something about the teacher’s belief of what the students should do… if they’d just study more, work harder, etc.

      1. Yep. I am treading a delicate line here because I do what I do. My colleague (French) is awesome and we are mostly on the same page, but she is very fiery and confrontational. Scare tactics work for her. I don’t mean to judge. I recognize (and am making steady progress on) my boundary and spineless issues but I am not going to step into command by turning into a barking military general. That is not me. I’ve felt a bit of sting a few times this week with comments about “college bound” and “need to study a minimum of 15-25 min per night.” Stuff like that. She’s kind of a should-er and too output-focused for me. Day one she is making the kids do greetings. Trying to make it fun and all, but still to me that is forcing. I say the opposite to the kids. “You never have to say anything other than the one word…or just lip synch or gesture to respond to the questions. Working well so far, even with some “notorious heavy hitters.”

  9. I just read something equally disturbing in an ACTFL community reply. That forum is a guilty pleasure, for sure, but those peoples’ views are so fossilized it’s not even funny.

  10. Saludos,

    These posts make me think about the affective filter hypothesis. Holt mentioned:

    “Real learning is a process of discovery, and if we want it to happen, we must create the kind of conditions in which discoveries are made. We know what these are. They include time, leisure, freedom and lack of pressure”.

    This appears in his book “Learning All The Time” (page 100).

    Do we consider these conditions in our classes?
    Is lack of pressure what experts call “lowering the affective filter”?
    Is leisure something related to Free Voluntary Reading?

  11. Good luck Lance. I like your idea of gathering timed writes. I wonder if you’ll get protest if you don’t let them administer them on their own. Or if they might coalesce around a traditional assessment in addition to or instead of the timed writes and hope to change the focus to accuracy and precision as a common goal. Timed writes are just so much better though. And I think you’re right on with the intent to either monitor or admin them yourself.

    1. Dana I have been biting my tongue for a long time, many years, so your observation here is of great emotional support to me. I’m not yet to the point where I need counseling, but when Señor Wooley (Jim W.) write as they do it seems as if they enjoy it too much. On the other hand, maybe I need to be schooled on what I say. I really don’t know.

  12. For the record, I don’t give much homework. However, I do ask my students to occasionally review the vocabulary we’ve covered and the character descriptions and stories we’ve created. I think I’ll create audio files to go along with the stories and descriptions so students can listen to them also.

  13. I’m not a homework fan myself but with two to three lessons of 45 minutes a week I feel the need to ask my kids to practice reading and/ or review some vocab for 10 to 15 minutes.

  14. Those who are afraid.
    Someone questioned this idea saying that sometimes we have to give HW in our districts. Bob Patrick pointed out that doing something because we have to is the same thing.

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