Be the change, homework, new year, no homework

How To Get Rid of Homework in 11 Steps – Or At the Very Least Limit It

image from icanread

I was asked by SImpleK12 to do a webinar on how to get rid of homework and realized as I prepared for that although I have written a lot about the reasons why to get rid of homework or at the very least limit it, I have never written about how I did it in my own classroom.  With the advent of a new year now is the perfect time to get rid of homework or at the very least limit what you assing!  (Note by homework I mean the traditional worksheet, out of school projects and such. ) Here are my ideas:

How to Get Rid of Homework in 11 Steps:

  1. Find the desire.  Be honest with yourself; how many times do you know exactly what the results will be from the students when you assign a piece of homework?  How many times do you know who will hand it in perfect, who will hand it in half-finished, who will never hand it in?  I knew and I think many of us do.  This was a huge reason for why I got rid of homework and here are more.  To get rid of homework you first need to have the desire to do so to be able to stand behind your decision.
  2. Do your research – You are going to face an uphill battle in some situations so you need to know your research.  Fortunately a lot exists to support the idea that homework does not enhance learning as much as we think, particularly at the elementary level.  Look up Alfie Kohn and read his stuff, he has done a lot of research for you already.
  3. Involve your administrators.  You have to be upfront and transparent here, particularly if you work in a more traditional school setting where you may be the only one getting rid of it.  Explain your reasoning and present them with the research. Perhaps they will not support getting rid of all of it (perhaps they cannot because of directives) but they should be able to support you to limit it.
  4. Involve your team.  I think it is vital to also involve your team and explain what you are doing and why.  My team knows that I don’t believe in homework and they respect that.  It is important that even if they do not agree with your decision that they see that it is not a rip on how they do things.  And the more you discuss it, the more they may start to come around as well.
  5. Front load with parents.  I tell my parents in our welcome letter that there will be very limited homework and why.  Invite the conversations and questions right away so that they can understand why your classroom may be different than others.  You may be surprised at how parents react so give them a chance to speak to you about it.
  6. Think about each subject.  What do you traditionally assign and why?  Can you structure your time differently to include work time or practice time?  How can you still cover what you need to cover to check for understanding and depth?
  7. Start at the end.  I plan backwards meaning I think of where we need to end up and then try to envision how to get there.  This works incredibly well with student choice as well since that way I can include student ideas and thoughts in the process.  This also means I know exactly what my learning outcomes need to be and where we are headed.
  8. Stop talking!  The biggest consumer of time in a classroom tends to be the teacher.  I know I felt like I had to be the knowledge bearer and thus had to impart that knowledge on my students through lecture.  I now realize my mistake; students will understand and love whatever they are learning about if they get to explore and dig into it rather than sit and listen to me explain.  While I still do openings and support throughout, I got rid of homework by letting students work on concepts in class rather than listen to me.
  9. Check for understanding through conversation.  Often I used worksheets or projects to see how much my students understand, now I accomplish that through conversation.  This seems so simple and yet conversation and checking for understanding is the quickest and most accurate way to see what a child knows and what you need to help them with.  I often have a clipboard or a notebook with me as I check in so that I can jot down any observations and assessment I take throughout class.
  10. Start small and easy.  I got rid of homework in almost every subject my first year of doing it and I now only ask students to read 30 minutes outside of school but do not check it (I can see who reads and who doesn’t).  You don’t have to do what I did though, you can just find one subject area and cut back there.
  11. Don’t beat yourself up.  I thought getting rid of homework meant that I never assigned anything ever again.  This is not how it is in reality for me.  There are times where I assign students tasks but I try to make them meaningful and worth their time.  I limit the times I do and I try to give them a long time to do things outside of class.  You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference.  I have written about my struggles here so don’t feel you have to be perfect as you get rid of it, but do take steps to think of the meaningfulness of the things we ask students to do outside of our classroom.  Start somewhere and reach out if you have questions.  I am here to help.


I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.