Eliminating Homework: No More Tears, No More Dirty Looks

This year I eliminated homework. No worksheets, short responses, or essays sent home. No more tears. And no backlash. No stress. More family time. Less anxiety. All work is done in class.

I request students read for at least 30 minutes a night a text of their choosing. I tell them that to become better readers we need to read more. I offer an Article of the Week (AoW) with a written reflection based on their reading for students looking for additional reading and writing practice, but the AoW is not graded. Students earn game points for completing the Article of the Week and reflection. The game points students earn unlock privileges: extended time on in class assignments, passes on notebook checks, or even having their teacher tell them if the quiz question they answered is incorrect while taking the quiz. Sometimes I might even bring in a sweet treat for those who have earned 2,000+ game points.

In response, my students tell me that they feel as if “the pressure is off” when there is no homework. The work that they do in class is their work – not their parents or tutors or copied from friends. Researchers, such as Alfie Kohn (2006) state that there is little or no benefit to giving homework and that it does not really lead to improved academic performance.

My eighth grade students are bombarded with homework in their other classes in addition to the countless after school activities and sports commitments they have. I have had my students tell me that they sometimes have sports practice or a game until 9:30 PM! Sleep and spending time with one’s family are essential during adolescence for brain development and one’s social-emotional intelligence. Homework only gets in the way of that.

I write this post as both a teacher and a parent of elementary school aged children. This past week I spent two and a half hours for three consecutive nights at the kitchen table with my fifth grader as he wrote up a science lab he did in class. Together we talked through the procedures and conclusion of his investigation. I watched him erase and rewrite countless times to get the words right. As he continued to get frustrated and cry, I tried to hold back my own tears as I told him that what he had written was good enough.  My son told me how much he hated this project and never wants to do a science experiment again. This homework assignment lacked any benefit in the long run. I did email to his teacher and included the following:

As a teacher of middle school students the amount of anxiety that I am seeing in my school among my students is upsetting to me. I am beginning to see the same anxiety in M***. He wants to succeed and do well and school is challenging. Sitting for almost 6 hours a day is challenging. We have hired a tutor to work with him and give him more individual time to go over his math which he struggles to grasp. His father and I tell him everyday to do his personal best, that is all that matters. We want M*** to be happy with himself. School makes that hard to do.
A fifteen year old boy in our community killed himself earlier this week. M*** knew him through our Temple. No one knows why he killed himself. As a parent, this is our worst nightmare.
When I am sitting at the kitchen table with M***while he writes and erases countless times on his science report to get the words right I tell him do your best. I encourage him. I try to combat his feelings of insecurity when he doubts himself. I hope that you can see M*** as someone who not only struggles in school but as a person who needs a boost of confidence from time to time and for you to point out when he is doing something right. Also, moving forward I hope that you will be considerate that many of your students have activities after school and two hours or more of homework defeats family time and bedtime curfews.


Weigh in on this debate. Where do you stand? Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post.

Need more information check out the following links:

The Case For and Against Homework by Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering (ACSD, 2007)

Homework vs. No Homework is the Wrong Question to Ask (Edutopia, 2015)

The Homework Wars (The Atlantic, 2013)

The Homework Debate: One Teacher’s Perspective (Cycle of Learning Blog, 2015)


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One thought on “Eliminating Homework: No More Tears, No More Dirty Looks

  1. Joy Kirr says:

    I’m with you. I assign 20min of reading a night for my 7th graders. What irks me is when they say they don’t have time to read – because of the rest of their homework and sports or other activities. I tell them the 20 min should be a treat. A retreat, perhaps, from the rest of their stressful day. We’ll keep fighting the good fight for less homework!

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