What’s the Point of Homework?

Before I begin, I feel I should point out that I agree with homework. I quite often set homework at the end of a tutoring session: sometimes it’s because I can see they understand what we have been working on but I feel that they need more practice for the method to become embedded. Sometimes it’s because I want to see whether they have the confidence to work through a problem without me sitting next to them saying, “Yes” every time they ask, “Is this what I do next?” And sometimes it’s because I want to see how they do with a particular topic before I decide how, or if, I need to teach it.

Regardless of the reason, we’ll go through the homework together afterwards. If it’s maths, we’ll address any areas where they went wrong; if it’s English, we’ll look at what was good about what they wrote, and identify any areas where they could improve. But their independent work is always used as a basis for “where next?”

When I go to a child’s house to tutor, they or their parents will often ask me to help with homework. I’m happy to do that – helping children to understand what they do in school is my job. Obviously I never do the homework for them, but I make sure they understand how to approach it. Increasingly however the homework in question is some sort of puzzle such as sudoku or a wordsearch, which leaves me wondering, “What is the point?” What are the children going to learn from Sudoku? How is it embedding or improving their maths skills?

And wordsearches? So many times I have had children tell me they are stuck with their homework and saying they can’t find some of the words. I do give wordsearches sometimes –  I use them to help children focus on vocabulary or spellings, but I tell them why they have a wordsearch and what to do if they can’t find the words. Where is the learning in not being able to find the words in a wordsearch?

As I said at the beginning – I do believe homework is a useful idea….as long as it is meaningful. I can’t help but feel sometimes that children are given homework for the sake of homework.

What do you think? Do you agree with giving homework and how do you decide what to set?