It's almost Christmas - so don't shoot me OK? I am not a fan of grading homework for about a million different reasons. For me, homework was an all or nothing mark in the grade book. You either do it - with effort or you don't. I know many teachers who do grade homework and if that's you, rock on!
Students in Middle School are different (as if you didn't already know that). Homework shouldn't be given unless you know students have an understanding of the concept. Why? Middle schoolers are grumpy and often lack patience. If they have homework on a skill that is difficult, brand new or just plain hard, they aren't going to do it. You and I both know it. Don't punish them because all you will end up doing is punishing yourself.
Why homework shouldn't be graded:
- You have enough to do. Seriously. You are grading classwork and exams, going to meetings (PLCs, IEPs,) dealing with parents, dealing with students, trying to have a life outside of school. You don't need to take up your time to sit and grade every single homework assignment.
- You shouldn't pick and choose when you grade HW and when you don't. It isn't fair to the students. They need to know what is and what isn't graded. Going back and forth isn't providing them - or you - consistency. As you know, consistency is the KEY to successfully managing Middle Schoolers.
- Not every student has the same resources. Some kids will go home and have their mathematical engineer mother help them with their homework. Others will go home and ask their big brother who is in AP Biology to do it for them. There will be kids who go home and take on the role of parent because their own parents work in the evening. When students are in class, they are given the same resources and opportunities. Outside of school, the environment isn't controlled.
- It really isn't that important. Gah. I know... terrible right? Think about it. What is important? Classroom interactions, cooperative learning, assessment performance, classroom behavior, kids being GOOD people. Those things are important. Outside of schools, kids need to focus on things that will really truly matter in the future. They need to spend time with their families. They need to play sports and participate in other activities that will teach them how to work together and be a team player. School takes up enough of their day (think about how much of your day it consumes). Don't let it take up their evenings too.
- Going over the homework in class requires the students to pay attention to their own work - and you! If you pass back homework that is graded, students will not pay attention to you when you are trying to go over it. The kid who had nothing wrong has zero reasons to pay attention. The kid who has most wrong will be irritated and not pay attention - probably shoving the paper in his or her notebook. Giving back a paper with a simple checkmark ensures they will at least listen to the answers you give and check their own paper. Often this will lead to questions. Learning from mistakes is one of the best ways to learn!
Now. I'm NOT saying homework should never be given. Before a test, absolutely. Real world projects? Go for it. I'm simply saying that it doesn't need to be graded - unless your school requires a homework grade. And even then, grade for completion. A simple check or zero gives you points in the grade book without taking tons of time to check every single question.