So excited to share the wisdom and ideas from authors Matt Miller and Alice Keeler. You can read Matt's amazing overview on his blog by clicking here. You can also read Alice's overview on her blog by clicking here.
I'm an instructional coach (TOSA-Teacher on Special Assignment), but an English teacher at heart. I read this one as I reflected on my own homework practices as a classroom teacher. But I also read it, considering the current practices in my district and the staff I work with.
Before saying anything about what's in this incredible book, I want to reiterate what Matt and Alice advised about embarking on a ditching homework journey: take it a step at a time, keep everyone in the loop, and be open minded. They also said that change is a lot like pushing a huge boulder. It's not going to move right away and get rolling without lots of work, and without many people coming together for the benefit of our students.
Summer Spark. He had just written the book, Ditch That Textbook: an acronym inspiring moving away from traditional lessons to experiences that are Different, Innovative, Tech-laden, Creative & Hands-on. A few educators and I started a Twitter book study that led to a weekly #Ditchbook chat which continues each Thursday at 9:00 CST. Stay tuned for an October book study of Ditch That Homework, in that same time slot.
I love the way this book is laid out, with chapters on ditching not only textbooks, but lectures, referrals, resistance, habits, remediation, compliance and the red pen. I appreciate the many visuals that highlight particular strategies, which simplify key talking points for use in discussions. I dog-eared the numerous practical ideas for how to actually move from assigning and correcting daily homework (or whatever your grade level/building/system does) to what educators can do instead.
Matt and Alice start out by defining what homework is (and isn't), why it is/has been traditionally given in schools, and who holds certain beliefs about homework. Then, they advocate for ditching homework by sharing ways to make every minute count in the classroom, where the teacher is there to offer immediate and helpful feedback and clarify questions.
They offer alternatives to uninspiring worksheets, and provide links to ways you can connect students to others (including experts) outside the walls of the classroom. The authors advocate for students owning their learning and for educators to support them and their often untapped skills and talents. In addition, they make a strong case for a more successful and timely feedback cycle that traditional paper homework can't provide, including the in-class flip (also known as blended learning).
Important partners in your students' learning are their parents. Improving relationships with parents, including sharing rationale and your purpose/vision can pave the way to better understanding and more supportive advocates for student choice and deeper, longer-lasting learning. Also, using parent communication tools like Remind, social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, and email newsletters or parent surveys using Google forms can further open those communication channels. Parents truly want to know and be involved in what's going on in their child's class/school. Homework should not be the default, or the only way they get a glimpse into their child's learning experiences.
I especially enjoyed the chapter on ditching habits. The way students learn and retain information best is not memorization, one and done lessons, or doing homework outside of class in isolation (with no immediate feedback). An understanding that spaced retrieval, physical activity/movement, working through the struggle, practicing elaboration and synthesizing, adding more discussion and increasing critical thinking (moving to Depth of Knowledge DOK 3 and 4 vs levels 1 and 2) all lead to student learning that lasts long after the assessment.
In the chapter on ditching compliance, Matt and Alice offer ways to encourage students to own their learning through increasing choice (knowing that they will end up making some bad choices along the way), transitioning responsibility from teacher to students, and teaching for mastery in the way that fits them best. Empowering students instead of belittling them.
Finally, in the chapter about ditching the red pen, the authors encourage useful and timely feedback to help avoid overwhelming students, which has often led to discouragement and possibly shutting down. They offer suggestions like using digital tools to automate grading whenever possible, going deeper with assignments instead of broader (less can be more), making the learning last (through repping, or spaced repetition, explained on pages 146-147), and sitting with students to provide feedback as much as possible.
If you aren't already sold that reading this book can improve classroom/building culture, help build stronger relationships, and lead to deeper, long-lasting learning, then telling you that Matt and Alice have placed links to examples and strategy explanations throughout its pages certainly will.
There are just so many resources to get your started and help guide you along the way.
I'm excited to share the messages and ideas about ditching homework with the educators I work with, and prepare for ways I'll ditch homework when I eventually return to my English classroom.
If you want, add your name to the Ditch That Homework crowdsourced spreadsheet on Alice Keeler's blog, and join the community.