Saturday, September 19, 2015

The #1 Homework Mistake Teachers Make

My father was a high school math teacher, and I was a math phobic. From seventh to twelfth grades, we sat together at our dining room table every.night. so that he could help me with my math homework. This topic is pretty personal for me.

I'm a big fan of Robert Marzano and his research on instructional strategies. In fact, one of my hats is that of a PD facilitator, and I enjoy helping teachers come to grips with the researcher's findings on homework.

Here's the short version:
There are only three reasons to give an adolescent homework:
1. Practice
2. Preparation
3. Extension

The most damaging homework mistake we can make is to mess around with #1practice. Take a look at these two scenarios:

A. Jacob has been working on paragraph construction in his English 9 class. He can rock a topic sentence, and he's pretty good at concrete details, but his elaboration is weak, weak, weak. His teacher models, holds a couple of short conferences with him, and sends him home with a differentiated assignment that includes three juicy, debatable topic sentences, and his job is to practice writing paragraphs.
B. Jacob goes to baseball practice after school. He's the pitcher, and his coach wants him to work on his curve ball. At practice, Jacob works on fingering the ball, but his attempts are largely incorrect. His coach watches and corrects, models, encourages, corrects, and so on. When practice is over, the coach tells Jacob to go home and practice throwing with the finger positions they worked on.

These two scenarios are the same. The student is sent home to practice a skill he does not yet have. Without a writing coach or baseball coach with him, he is likely to practice the skill incorrectly and reinforce errors. He will come to school tomorrow with three weak paragraphs and go to baseball practice with poor finger position.

Practice makes perfect, right? No. Practice makes permanent. A student must be proficient at a skill before he or she tries it at home. We send practice home to get a proficient student to mastery, not to get a weak student to proficiency.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I happened to chance upon your blog and found it very interesting!

    We have recently launched a science app that uses augmented reality to enhance classroom teaching. The app has 3D models for kindergarten to grade 12. I thought you might want to check it out and may be review it on your blog, if possible.

    It is a paid app(with a few models free) but in case you are interested in trying it out I will be happy to provide you with a free copy.

    The link to the app is:



    You can also search for the app on the app store as 'Augmenter'.

    Do let me know if you would be interested. I am really Looking forward to your response.

    happy teaching!