connie hamilton homework

5 Ways to Hack Homework and Get Better Results with Connie Hamilton

Today Connie Hamilton @conniehamilton challenges us to re-think homework so we can get better results. After you listen to these five steps, you'll have a process to determine what homework should be assigned, what shouldn't, and how to better support parents at home. You can make homework work for learning and not just be busy work. Let's hack homework!

Connie co-authored the book Hacking Homework with Starr Sackstein.

connie hamilton homework

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Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.


Transcript for Episode 120 

5 Ways to Hack Homework and Get Better Results

Link for this show:

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[Recording starts 0:00:00]

VICKI:   Today we’re talking to Connie Hamilton @conniehamilton, author or Hacking Homework.  And we’re going to discuss 5 ideas to hack homework and make it more worthwhile. You know, this school year needs to be different so we need to think about homework. Connie, what is our first way to just level up homework this year so it’s just not the same old thing?

Homework Tip #1: Make sure you have the right mindset about homework.

CONNIE:    Well, the first idea or the first mindset is around making sure that you’re really intentional with how you are thinking about homework just to begin with. So a lot of teachers have the perspective that everybody has to do the same thing in order for it to be “fair”. And one of the things that I would challenge us to begin thinking about is if students have mastered a concept, is it really necessary in the spirit of fairness that they have to do homework on top of that and to just consider all of the activities that students are already involved in outside of their normal day and determine, is it more worthwhile for a student to do the homework that I have planned or is it more worthwhile for the student to take a piano lesson or have a job or be in dance class or have time and play a game with the family.

So I’m not necessarily saying don’t do homework at all, I’m not an anti-homework person but I’m just suggesting that we be really intentional and we don’t give homework just because that’s what we have always done. So the first idea is just a mindset.

VICKI:         And you know what, the status quo, we just have to fight against the status quo if it’s not working. Okay, what’s next?

Homework Tip #2: Why we shouldn't just assign what they didn't finish in class and what we should assign instead.

CONNIE:    The rest of these are going to be assuming that you have deemed homework to be necessary or inappropriate. So the next one is looking at using a spiral instead of, “Hey, we run out of time her in class. So go home and do the rest of this at home as homework.”


                  That is not the most appropriate use of time because in the classroom we provide supports and scaffolding when learning is new. And if students have just learned a brand new concept today and we send them home to finish it at home, the supports and the scaffolds don’t exist. So you’re better off to spiral something that is a couple of weeks old, to keep it fresh to keep it alive and particularly select those skills that we want students to increase their fluency in.

VICKI:         And what’s when parents push back and say, “Okay, who’s the teacher here? My child doesn’t know this.”

CONNIE:    Exactly

VICKI:         And I as a parent say that. I’m like, “What? They don’t have a clue.”

CONNIE:    Yeah. So if they’re doing things at home to increase their fluency, we want them to be at the independent level, not at the instructional level.

VICKI:         Okay, what’s next?

Homework Tip #3: Support parents with links, “cheat sheets” and tips.

Note from editor: This is a great use for today's sponsor, Bloomz. Post these in your parent-teacher communication system or even link to videos. Give parents what they need to support students at home! 

CONNIE:    Third one is, you segued beautiful into it, Vicki, is to supporting parents. When parents feel like, “Oh my goodness, I don’t remember this stuff” or they get the pushback from their kid, “That’s not the way my teacher does it.” This is a way where maybe you create a little cheat sheet for parents that give them some talking points that are generic. So things that prompt cognition.

So, for example, maybe you give us parents a list of asking students questions like where should you begin? What strategies can you use? Where have you done this before? What seems to be the problem? How are you going to break this into steps? Where can you get more information?

So all of those questions allow students to go back internally in order to process the task that they’re working on and it doesn’t require a lack of contact knowledge from the parents but it helps them to trigger and support their kids.


VICKI:         What a great idea. And even, you know, links to videos or links to resources or links to places where they can get help or reinforcement games. I remember when a teacher told me about Spelling City  and they had already set up the words and all I had to do is just to bring that up for my child to study. Okay, what’s next?

Homework Tip #4: Have students create the homework assignment.

CONNIE:    Quizlet  is another for that. So the next one is instead of using worksheets and sending those home with students because we all hate work sheets, right? Have the students actually create the homework assignment. So hey, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve learned about this concept. So if you were the teacher and you were assigning homework what would that look like? I want you to go home tonight and I want you to design a homework task or a homework activity and bring it back tomorrow.

And what that will do is it really forces students to be focused on what is it that that they were supposed to be learning and then how awesome would it be for you to be able to lay all those out and offer a variety of choice for students to be able to actually participate in the activities that students designed.

VICKI:         I love that. It just seems like, though, it would be so hard to go through and pick. But I guess if you really have the kids doing peer review they could part of that process of selection, couldn’t they?

CONNIE:    Yes, absolutely. And then they would be able to critique each other and take a look at what really gets to the heart of what the learning purpose was. So there’s a lot of benefit to really flipping that and having students be the creators of the assessment rather than students just doing the task. Awesome. Okay, what’s out fifth?

Homework Tip #5: Use homework for front loading and topic introduction.

CONNIE:    The last one us to flip the sequence of when we provide homework. So traditionally, we think about homework happening after instruction. So the last idea is instead of having it post-instruction, use homework to create that anticipatory set and get students excited about what learning is to come. So maybe it’s gathering some pieces of evidence or maybe it is doing some reflection on things that you already know.


                  Maybe it’s taking pictures of certain geometric shapes. Whatever it is then students bring those things in and share their experiences from home into the classroom as a lunch into introducing a new topic, a new unit, etcetera.

VICKI:         Now, Connie, l love that one because we know that frontloading works. We’re going to talk about butterflies. So find something interesting about butterflies. And plus it really plugs in your curiosity, doesn’t it?

BONUS TIP: Build anticipation in your classroom.

CONNIE:    Definitely. I remember a teacher telling me that he brought in a box on Monday and the kids were like, “What’s that box?” And he said, we’re going to do that on Friday. Honestly, I don’t even remember what was in the box but it was a launch toward a new unit and those kids were so excited about what was going to happen on Friday, every single day they bugged that teacher to say, “What’s in the box? What’s in the box? Can we open it now? Can we open it now?” They’re like sneaking in the box, etcetera.

I mean, you could do that with anything, just bringing that in. That’s not homework but it links to what you said about just creating curiosity because that triggers a different part of the student brain than just regurgitating what it is that we were supposed to learn.

VICKI:         And build in anticipation and excitement. So teachers, as you start back to school. Really be in intentional about your homework. Think about homework is not just – we didn’t finish it in class. Also remember how you can support parents and give them resources. Don’t just do worksheets. Oh my goodness, I mean, how many of us love worksheets, but it’s just what we’ve always had, we need to break out of the status quo.

And I love this idea of frontloading concepts and flipping the secrets of when you provide homework and using it to introduce a topic. But make homework intentional purposeful and to really improve learning. And please, teachers, it shouldn’t be busy work.  Get out there and be remarkable and part of it is how we assign homework.

[End of Audio 0:10:15]


[Transcription created by Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email]


Full Bio As Submitted

Connie Hamiltonconnie hamilton

Connie Hamilton Ed.S. is a K-12 curriculum director in Saranac, Michigan where she has served the staff and community for the past 13 years.

As a teacher, Connie taught various elementary grades and 8th grade ELA. As a national presenter, she provides professional development and coaching for teachers around many instructional topics such as questioning, assessment, literacy, and leadership.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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