Homework in the Art Room: Yay or Nay?

Homework. This simple word is embraced by some and loathed by others. Believe it or not, homework has an extensive history. At one point in time, the state of California actually passed a law abolishing homework entirely for K-8th graders. That almost seems unreal in a day and age where students seem like they are constantly taking work home. The great homework debate will probably be around as long as the public school system exists.

This will cause art teachers to make a choice: Should I or shouldn’t I assign homework in my art room?

chalkboard with "due date" written on it

Why Should You Assign Homework?

1. It Increases Responsibility and Preparation for the Real World

There’s no question that assigning work outside of the classroom requires a student to understand the importance of punctuality and deadlines. These skills go beyond the classroom and continue into adulthood. For example, as adults, we have to pay bills. If we forget to submit a payment there can be serious consequences. The same can be said for our art students. If students want to participate in an upcoming art show or event, homework may be necessary to meet those deadlines.

2. It Extends the Classroom Experience and Promotes Independence

Homework in the art room almost always looks different than in other classes. And it should. In order to create authentic and meaningful experiences, art should be explored independently beyond the art classroom. For many art teachers, this comes in the form of sketchbook homework. This practice allows students to refine skills and rely on their independence to create.

3. It Can Be Hands-On Exploratory Research

I don’t assign homework in my classroom. But, that doesn’t mean the art experience stops as students leave my class. Instead, homework can be approached as research. For example, if students are working on a still-life drawing, assign them to bring in personal objects from home. This way, they’ll actually be interested in the subject they are drawing. You could also assign students to take photos in other settings outside of school. Students welcome the chance to explore, and, in turn, they’ll have their own reference photos to use for a more personal art experience.

still-life materials

Why Shouldn’t You Assign Homework?

1. It Emphasizes Grades Over Experience

When the act of art making becomes a task, the mentality changes. Students are no longer creating because they want to, but they are creating because they have to. Homework becomes a task completed for the grade, not for the art experience.

2. The Quality of Work Decreases

When students aren’t in the regular studio setting they have a tendency to forget and decrease the quality of their work. Homework should be assigned to reinforce a concept that has already been taught. Homework regarding concepts and skills they do not grasp will only result in poor quality of work. In these situations, students need support from the expert in the art room–their teacher.

student artwork

3. There Isn’t Enough Time

When it comes to education, time is sparse. Students are already spending 8 hours a day in school. Adding hours of homework takes away from the ability for students to become well-rounded citizens. If it isn’t a priority to find time for the work in class, is it really even worth it? Is assigning a worksheet in the art room going to make your students have a more meaningful experience? Probably not. Save your paper and your time by creating invaluable experiences!

4. It Can Put an Extra Burden on Families

One of the major reasons art teachers don’t assign homework is because of the access to materials. At my school, 60% of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch. Some of these students don’t even have markers and crayons at home. Why put the burden of completing a task on overextended families when students don’t even have the means to do it?

extra supplies

Whether or not you choose to assign homework in your art room, there are going to be students who want to take their projects outside of class to work. Generally, those students want to make the time to work on their art. They are choosing to invest on their own. But the issue of material access can still be a challenge. If you are going to allow students to take work outside of your art room you will want to put some procedures in place to manage materials.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a material check out system.
  • Tape materials in a plastic bag directly to the back of the project.
  • Roll the artwork or place it in a large folder made of construction paper so it doesn’t come back crumpled and destroyed.
  • Provide materials, like paint, in food takeout containers.

Wherever you stand on the homework debate consider the effectiveness before assigning work. Always keep in mind, homework in your art room should positively impact student learning.

What do you think, should there be homework in the art room?

Do you assign homework in your art classes?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

Related

  • Leo Barthelmess

    I’ve gone back and forth with homework. I use to assign actual long art assignments (2 weeks at a time) as I was assigned in HS and I did not get back the results desired. I switched to sketchbook assignments which gave even worse results. I can recall speaking with an irate mother about her son staying up all night to draw 3 pictures when he had a test the same day. She did not know that the artwork was suppose to be timed at 20 minutes each and spread out over a week. I now for the most part only assign a few take home projects for my advanced/ honors classes and that is assigned at the beginning of the quarter and due at the end.

    Our school district has just implemented a 2 hour maximum for homework in all student HS classes. This restriction includes AP classes which is the only class I routinely expect work from on a daily basis as they need to be working on their work to complete their portfolio in one semester. I even told the students to tell their core classes to lighten up on their homework because an hour a day is devoted to their AP art class!

    • Abby Schukei

      Wow, that’s really interesting to see that your school district is restricting homework to some degree. I can’t say I don’t disagree with the policy, but you can certainly run into some problems especially with those AP courses. The challenge will then become figuring out how to encourage students to work independently on their own without forcing homework upon them. You’ll have to let us know how it goes, thanks for sharing!

  • Dawn Kruger

    Photography students have a weekly photo assignments as homework. Before student presentations we spend two class periods on research. Beyond that they are expected to prep on their own time. I have found quality falls off in sketchbooks when homework is assigned. Instead I encourage students to take sketchbooks home. I like it to be an activity that they choose to do. I allow time to read chapters and work on vocabulary, but if they don’t work quietly the next chapter will be homework.
    I do not assign K-6 homework.

    • Abby Schukei

      I agree with you, forced homework becomes a task of monotony. Tricking your students to take their sketchbook home will hopefully make them draw and create out of want! Thanks for sharing!

  • Elizabeth Bass

    Because I teach high school advanced placement classes my student work on their artwork as homework because of the restrictions of time that the block scheduling places on creating 24 pieces of art in one semester. They do have to turn in their visual journals once a week for a grade. This is the homework type assignment I give to them.

  • Courtney Lyon

    Coming from a small town this sounds like a lot of what I had to do for homework in my art classes. This is a great idea to also keep their creativity going and not just in the classroom. There is not time to keep them and they have multiple classes to get to, but this could also be a release rather than another homework assignment. Thank you for the information!