Give Homework an F! (or three)

Melody McAllister


Whether you follow educators on Twitter, parents on Facebook, or just talk to any student, you could get an earful about how they feel regarding homework. As a teacher and parent myself, I absolutely HATE homework. I hate it for the same reasons any working parent hates it, but I probably hate it even more because I am a teacher. It is a time suck!

Unfortunately, some public school districts require it, or you may even see it in a school policy expectation handbook. Some educators say that so many children are coming to school under grade level, there is no way they can be prepared for the state standardized tests without the support. These educators make a strong case. Aside from worksheets, we teachers generally agree that if students don’t read outside of the classroom, they are more likely not to grow in this area…which just happens to affect all academic areas. Researchers at the University of Tennessee found that reading boosts younger students’ academic performance more than assigning them traditional homework

But in this crazy life we live, when we leave work and school, we need downtime. My own children come home from school tired and hungry, so I completely understand the fights homework sparks. If it weren’t for my awesome husband, who is in charge of this area after a couple of years of me saying, “I can’t do this all day and do it at night, too” my kids would probably never have their homework turned in on the due dates.

After reading all of that, I must confess that I do assign homework…does that make me a hypocrite? Well, you decide after reading my homework policy. I give homework the three Fs.

After years of nagging students and reporting late grades in the gradebook, these are the guidelines I use for homework.

The First F is that it must be FUN! Yes, that’s right. FUN! After long days of working and studying hard, kids need a break, they need fun, and they need play! So if you must assign homework, make it fun. You’ll probably find that you are chasing kids less and reporting late grades less.

The Second F is homework must be FLEXIBLE! When I assign my homework, I assign it two weeks before it is due. Young people today have busy lives. They are in football, cheerleading, gymnastics, and every sport known imaginable—by the fourth grade! By the looks of reality TV, some families have invested thousands of dollars each month for these kiddos’ extracurriculars. So keeping due dates flexible helps them get it done with these crazy schedules.

The Third F is keep it FAMILY-Oriented! If it’s fun and flexible, than parents probably won’t mind joining in. As a parent myself, if something is going to bring us more time together, I will accept the challenge. So keep this important F in mind!

I’m not Wonder Woman and I’m not the best teacher in the world, so how do I keep these three F’s in check? I rely heavily upon two classroom essentials–ClassDojo and Flocabulary. My students have Flocabulary logins and I keep my parents informed and engaged through ClassDojo. And okay, here’s where I should be even more transparent, I’m still learning these tricks, too. But I’ve already had success and more importantly, my students have loved it.

Flocabulary has allowed me to utilize student logins to make class assignments that are engaging through hip hop music while learning extremely important vocabulary. I can assign a read and respond piece (the most rigorous part in my opinion), the quiz, and now they have vocabulary cards and lyric lab! So even though these are fun homework assignments, they are actually pretty tough. I keep the due dates flexible because I’m teaching them not to rush, and that the learning process is more important than anything to help them reach their goals.

To make sure I’m hitting on the third F (Family-oriented) I invite parents to join ClassDojo, that way they can see all the great stuff their kids are doing during the day and continue that learning at home. One assignment I love to do is making a recipe together. I decided to do this when I saw my students lack of understanding in fractions and real world applications for math. And I thought making a meal together would spark this interest and family tim. So I sent a message to parents with directions on how to participate and–big surprise–everyone loved it! Not only did the kids learn fractions, the whole family had a great time. Parents even sent me a picture of what they made through ClassDojo so I could see the finished product! Come on, that’s pretty sweet, right?

Utilizing this three F system has allowed me to keep homework relevant and fun for my students. They actually do it without complaining, and at the end of the year, the student growth and confidence are really what it’s all about. But don’t take my word for it, try it!

Are you a parent or educator? How do you feel about homework? Enquiring minds want to know!

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post on January 9, 2018

Melody McAllister

Starting my 11th year as an educator. I have been blessed with four beautiful children and one more on the way, and a very supportive husband who is part of the village of bringing up our future! I am an avid KC Royals fan because I'm from Missouri, but Texas is my forever home.

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