The Homework Churn
There is a seemingly endless debate over homework. What’s the right amount? How does student age affect it? What purpose should it serve? Is it graded? Those questions have been well-researched again and again, but my mind still isn’t made up. And for each of my students (and their parents), I’m met with different opinions that I must reconcile.
My Relationship to Homework
Let’s start with what I think about homework as a teacher: it’s a pain. It’s another thing I must plan, print, distribute, collect, hunt for, uncrumple, evaluate, hand back, and go over.
When I switched from language arts to math, homework was among the things I had to re-think. Previously, homework was “work on your essay,” or “journal,” or “read these pages.” As a math teacher, I had to confront a new frontier of homework. Would I do worksheets? Would we subscribe to some sort of online math platform that would track my students' progress for me? Would I decide to have no homework at all to combat the ever-present math trauma already in place on the first day of school?
I agree that kids need free time after school, yet I also agree that kids need practice and accountability. I believe that purposeful homework indeed has a purpose, yet I believe that I need to have boundaries on my own time.
Enter the concept of video homework.
I discovered this concept by accident. We ran out of time in class one day (shocking), and I hastily asked if any “brave student” would finish the problem for homework. “Just make me a video of you solving it!” I shouted as they raced to lunch.
Well, one student made a video. And we watched it, enraptured, as he taught us the answer to this problem. I’ve been assigning video homework ever since.
How it has changed my life:
They only need to do one problem! I don’t need to see 20! If they can explain one to me, fully, we’re done.
I catch so much. In their speech, I catch repeated errors and misconceptions in students’ work that becomes very specific to each student. I start knowing their brains.
They share their frustrations. They feel safe saying in a video, alone, that they truly don’t understand this concept.
Quiet students blossom. Not so quiet when they’re in their own environment!
Homework accountability sky-rockets. Unlike a worksheet, a video is not something they can scribble in the hallway before class.
Classroom engagement sky-rockets. I show (with permission) strong videos, and man, these kids LOVE seeing themselves and their classmates. They want to be chosen.
They get silly. Y’all, I can’t tell you how many pets/siblings/stuffed animals I’ve been introduced to in these videos.
My students are teachers now. They take pride in their instruction and thrill when they hear the "oohhhh" of a classmate's dawning comprehension as we watch their tutorial.
Adopting for Any Class
In Science and History, challenge students to “ELI5” or “Explain it like I’m five” where they boil a concept down to its most crucial points in order to distill the major takeaways. In Language Arts, require 60 stream-of-consciousness seconds about the chapter they just read. In foreign language, they must respond to a given question for one minute. In Music, make them practice on video to prove it!
How to Make It Work for You
It’s still homework. It’s still something additional that you have to do as a teacher. Here’s how I modify:
ESTABLISH A TIME LIMIT. I can’t overstate this. You’d be shocked at how the kid who never did homework before submits an 11-minute video of a fraction problem.
Doing it often? Don’t watch every second of every video. Sometimes, it’s triage time. Who is struggling? Who should be showcased? Who is exemplary? Watch those.
Teach five sections? Only assign videos for one or two sections at a time; the other three or four get regular homework on a worksheet. This maximizes your ability to evaluate them AND increases your likelihood of doing it again.
Use Google Classroom, or if not, Google Forms. Students can submit their files via Classroom or Forms, and Google will aggregate them into a Drive folder for you!