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Learning at its Best

A Week without Homework Challenge #aweekwithouthomework

I’ve written before about my belief that homework is far more destructive than constructive. I don’t think it increases learning, adds to motivation or develops a strong work ethic. For a long time, I assigned homework out of a sense that I was “supposed to.” I never questioned it as a practice. After getting rid of it, I remained quiet on the topic. After watching my sons lose necessary playtime and learning time to do extra-duty schoolwork (mostly packets), I grew more vocal.

I want to see a change.

So, here’s how it works:

  • The concept: If you typically give homework, take one week off of assigning homework and see whether it made a positive or negative impact.  If you don’t give homework, you can still participate in
  • Reflect on it: How did you respond to the lack of homework? How did your students respond? How did parents respond? After the week is up, will continue to go without homework or will you assign it regularly again? What were some of the pros and cons of this? How did students spend their free time?
  • Communicate your results: You can tweet about it using #weekwithouthomework or you can comment on this Facebook page. You can blog about it and e-mail me the link ( or leave the blog link at the bottom of this post. If you plan to abolish homework completely, you can add your information to this spreadsheet.

About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


10 thoughts on “A Week without Homework Challenge #aweekwithouthomework

  1. Homework sucks. Ask anyone…students, parents or teachers. It serves no purpose other than to keep everyone very busy doing the mundane. But, when you mentioned the “P” word…NOW you’ve pushed my buttons of contempt! Packets, perhaps the worst nonsense in education. Talk about unproductive, boring and injurious to learning! This insanity doubles down on the complete waste of time for students, parents and teachers. Students either regurgitate what they already know OR repeatedly “learn” something wrong by doing it wrong, unsupervised at home or on the bus. Brain research suggests that indeed, to relearn something requires twice the effort it would take to learn it in the first place. In other words, a student learns the content in class, forgets and does the work wrong on the packet, returns it to school, teacher grades it (which in itself is insane!), gives it back to students all marked up and in some case student doesn’t get the chance to redo it, though redoing it would mean he just keeps guessing or gets it wrong all over again. The typical “packet” of homework is a big pile of risky business for the learner and a nightmare for the teacher because s/he has the grade that damn thing which takes days if not weeks to accomplish because s/he is grading up to 30 other packets in the classroom. I’ve witnessed the crazy dance of the packets during my own childrens’ school experience and at the school where I teach. Some teachers, for some whacked reason, associate giving packets and lots of homework as a unique badge of excellence in their teaching. Wow, see how much homework my students do? They are learning more than your’s are….I’ll put that feather in my best teacher cap, thank you very much, and make myself crazy every night trying to grade it all! Even some parents request a certain teacher b/c s/he gives lots of homework…or often avoids that one, as well. It’s not really the student doing the learning as much as it is the teacher doing the work to keep up with it all. I only gave math homework last year to my 3rd graders and one weekly writing assignment that was meaningful, productive and interesting. They were asked to read for 1/2 hour every night, even on the weekends. My parents were so relieved to have appropriates amount of homework that was reasonable and relevant. I guess it’s a big problem in mid and high schools with all the teachers assigning homework each day which produces massive amounts of grading for them to do…and the cycle of insanity continues. Homework in today’s age of information/accessing/technology should consist of inquiry-based projects ongoing with outcomes that can be measured and also used as learning models for the whole class. Interactive, instead of intra-active. Takes a lot of trusting of the students but it’s worth the effort. It is what learning should be…individual pursuit of knowledge with lots of time and space to support the relevant learning. Novel idea!
    Didn’t mean to take so long in joining the conversation…the mere mention of the word “packets” sends me into a rage!

    Posted by Sandy | September 22, 2012, 6:47 pm
    • I am reading these articles and I see alot of arguments for no homework, this is what I don’t see What about the students that do not finish their work in class. Their work becomes home work you do not have to assign homework. It is just some student’s assign it to themselves

      Posted by Doug Smith | September 28, 2012, 7:37 am
  2. If one week without homework is productive and appropriate, then why not 36?I spewed my opinions about this topic on your blog. Sorry for the lengthy rant.I so enjoy your blogs, John. Big fan.

    Sandy Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2012 21:59:47 +0000 To:

    Posted by Sandy Hume | September 22, 2012, 6:50 pm
  3. I think this is an important challenge if people actually commit to taking it. For those of us that already don’t assign homework, I have found leading by example doesn’t really work! Each individual teacher needs to reflect on how not assigning homework worked in the classroom, how it impacted learning, teacher and student workload, attitudes towards learning etc. A week is a nice safe amount of time. It is a trial but long enough to potentially be habit changing. Thank you for proposing this! Would love to say that I could send this to all of my homework giving colleagues and ask them to blog/tweet about it but none of them have blogs or tweet . . . Hmm. Think of what they could do with that free time saved by not marking homework packages!

    Posted by Carrie Gelson (@CarrieGelson) | September 23, 2012, 1:19 pm
  4. I think this is a great way to actually see if homework actually contributes more to the learning process. I agree with Carrie Gelson (@CarrieGelson) that each individual teacher needs to reflect on how not assigning homework worked in the classroom etc. I think the kids would enjoy have just a little more free time. The smarter kids and adults will study. I believe this trial should be done world wide. This is a great concept, and I will definitely be spreading the word.

    Posted by Byronn Brye | September 23, 2012, 4:30 pm
  5. Like anything else, good homework is useful and bad homework is not. Worksheets with 100 math problems are not effective. My science students checked out a box of 99 cent store materials from the library at the beginning of the year and did 50 to 75 chemistry and physics experiments at home. They’ve been published as books, Take-Home Chemistry and Take-Home Physics with the hope that many other students would get to experience good homework. The results were impressive and can be downloaded in a free sample chapter in the National Science Teachers’ Association store.

    Posted by Mike Horton | September 25, 2012, 4:54 pm
  6. I do not assign homework never have. I recall to a time I was in public schools, I always had homework in math, science, and english. However nothing in social studies. Funny because I teach Social Studies, I figure my students have enough homework with other subjects. Now I look back in college and to make the grades I made, I had homework for every class even in Social Studies. So it is very hard to make this argument, for or against homework. After all aren’t we attempting to prepare our students for college. Where, most certainly they will get out of class and spend hours, days in the basement of a library searching through periodicals to write a paper on. I do not believe after reading what I wrote this is about too much homework I believe we need to prepare our youth with the knowledge of how to study more productively.

    Posted by Doug Smith | September 28, 2012, 7:54 am


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