There has been lots of discussion over the years about homework. I’ve seen an increase in that since the emergence of common core. Parents, students and teachers lifting their voices to say the same thing.
So, the question I put to you is…
Homework has always been around since schools started! We had it. Our parents had it. Our grandparents had it too. It is a common expectation in an academic experience. The problem is that we went from just learning spelling words and multiplication tables to these HUGE projects…or bazillions of worksheets that students have to fill out nightly. And, if you’ve been following my series, you know my thoughts on the reading log.
There have been more than a few blog posts written on the idea that homework is irrelevant to academic learning. Probably the most quoted research on homework as a negative comes from Alfie Kohn. You can check out her thoughts HERE, and HERE. She’s even written a book on the topic entitled ‘The Homework Myth‘. In short, since kids and parents get frustrated with homework, and there is no research that shows conclusively that homework aids academic learning then, we should at the least reduce it…but…go ahead and ditch it if we’re not willing to think outside the box and create something that’s not a worksheet. For those of you who do assign homework, you might be interested in THESE thoughts from my bloggy buddy, Leigh from the Applicious Teacher. She has a great post on homework where she shares a lot of research on how grading homework doesn’t really impact true student achievement in the primary grades.
So, where do I fall?
I gotta tell ya, I’m a homework gal.
I teach first grade, and I’ll tell you the honest to goodness truth.
A BIG part of my job as a primary teacher is to give my students practice at life skills that will help them throughout their LIVES. I know that when I wear the hat of ‘teacher’ my job consists of making sure that my students are making academic learning gains, but my children are just that…children.
They are NOT a data point.
How many things do we do in the classroom with our learners that have nothing do do with test scores and everything to do with LIFE.
If I don’t do them in primary…something will be missing for a long time until my kiddo figures out through tough lessons that they need to learn.
Here’s what I KNOW happens as a result of primary aged children getting APPROPRIATE homework.
1.) Students get the opportunity to practice responsibility.
This is probably the BIGGEST reason. Students need to learn to be faithful in little things so that when they have bigger things to do they have the stamina to persevere through the difficulties. The routine of the classroom just during dismissal time is a HUGE way that teachers support our parents in helping children learn to be responsible. In a primary classroom, we spend a good bit of time trying to help them learn to personally organize themselves so that they can be independent and responsible. The added extension of doing a task outside of the purview of the classroom and returning it completed builds stamina towards self-discipline.
3.) Parents have the opportunity to add value to a child’s educational experience by prioritizing the academic experience.
When a parent creates a routine at home for something, anything…it adds value for the child. If you’re a church going bunch, and a parent prioritizes that experience, they might tell you the night before that tomorrow is church and go over what happens at church and what the expectations are. If a child is in an after school activity like dance or karate, in the morning a parent might go over the schedule and what needs to be done, such as preparing a bag with the clothes etc…so that we can get to dance on time.
When a parent does this for academics, it’s HUGE.
I remember when I was very young my mom would talk to me about doing my homework well so that I could go to college and get a good job.
I mean…I was like…8. LOL!
But…I went to college and got a good job. 🙂
It may seem like a small thing, but in this busy world we live in, we must remind our parents that disciplining their children to have a desire to learn actually DOES start with them.
I am a support for whatever culture they are creating.
This blog series is all about rethinking things we do…
So, this is what I did.
I actually DID my homework. LOL.
I know that I am the teacher, and I’m faster…but I wanted to see what it was like to do it.
Here’s what that experience made me think about.
1.) Talk to parents and students about their expectations for homework.
I will tell you that not a single parent that I’ve spoken to on this topic has ever said, ‘Mrs. Russell, I wish my kid didn’t have homework ever.’ What they HAVE said however is, I really wish my teacher would respect the limited time I have with my child when we are home and not assign tons of things for me to do with them every single night. Honestly, I can respect that! 🙂 I try to be really careful about how much actual WRITING homework I give to my kidlets. Neat handwriting is tough when you’re little and it’s usually one of the things that will get a homework session at home spiraling out of control. So that lead me to my next thought…
2.) Can I come up with some non traditional ways to do homework that will be a good review, but also a lot of fun?
The answer to that is yes!
I do a spelling bingo chart with my kids monthly. They know that they need to do three assignments a week. Whenever they get a bingo, they earn a reward coupon. They LOVE that! 🙂 The assignments are mostly physical, but there are a few written and oral ones as well. I even added some tasks like…email me your spelling list after you type it! Our math series has homework that goes with it. I send it home a few times a week. Each of my students have differentiated fluency that they do nightly and a reading log or poetry journal reading for the weekends. The homework can be done in about 30 minutes–tops.
I don’t EVER grade my homework, but I do check each thing I send home for completion.
When I do that, it shows the kids that I value the time that they spent on the work, and it makes them feel like it’s worth it to do, because I’ve made it important.
So, here’s what I leave you with friends…
Consider the idea that homework should be educationally relevant and fun, but it should not be ‘school number 2’.
Check in with your parents routinely to make sure that the children are not being overworked.
Be willing to adjust your homework to support the needs of the children and parents.
Would love to hear what you do with your kids! 🙂
Share your thoughts in the comments so that other teachers looking for additional ideas can have a chance to see some other takes on this hot topic! 🙂
I look forward to hearing what you guys do with your kids! 🙂