So often, what comes home seems either mind-numbingly excessive (25 long division problems, anyone?) or beyond the scope of what is reasonable (three-page book reports, typed please, and make a diorama to go with it). My experience as a mother of four and as a teacher with 18 years’ experience has led me to the realization that practicing something, or being asked to produce something for which one lacks the skill, does not breed perfection, or even learning. It breeds frustration.
I can tell you from experience how homework is done in my world. If MT is at home it is completed, checked, discussed, rechecked, rediscussed and then put away. Nice and neat. If I’m home, I think I usually remember to say “Hey, did you finish your homework?’ She says yes, I say great, and we’re done. Nice and neat. And I’m the former teacher, remember!
I want you to think about the homework you’re assigning. Just repeating something does not automatically strengthen learning. If you’re unsure of a skill or concept, actually doing it wrong repetitiously may do more harm than good! There is no research that supports homework as a tool for increasing academic achievement in the primary grades. Are you assigning it because you want them to practice? How many times do they genuinely NEED to do something in order for you to feel better? Do you have a goal? Is there a way to assess what they were “practicing” and see a correlation to what you are doing in class? Because if there isn’t, you’re creating headaches…we discussed at the beginning of the year students sitting out from recess because they ” didn’t do their homework”. We don’t like to see that happen, especially when in some students you’re depending on the self starting initiative of an 8 year old to get it completed.
ASCD had a great article in its September Educational Leadership magazine (hush, I’m behind in my reading!) that provided an awesome chart that gave some homework alternatives.
|In This Learning Situation. . .||Instead of This||Try This|
|You introduced new material in class.||Assigning a question set so we will remember the material.||Ask us to think up a homework task that follows up on this material and to explain our choices.|
|You want us to read an article before a class discussion.||Making us answer questions that prove we read it.||Ask us to write down two or three questionswe have after reading the article.|
|You want to see whether we understand a key concept (such as literary irony).||Making us complete a worksheet.||Ask us to demonstrate the concept for the class in small groups, using any medium.|
|You want us to see how a math procedure applies in various situations.||Assigning 10 word problems that involve this procedure.||Ask small groups to choose one word problem that applies this procedure in a real-world situation, solve it, and present it to the class.|
|You want us to memorize facts (such as dates in history).||Handing out a list that we will be tested on.||Ask each student to share with the class a memorization trick (such as a visual cue) that works with one item on this list.|
|You want us to remember what you taught last month.||Assigning a review sheet.||Give frequent short pop quizzes about earlier material. Go over each quiz, but don’t count the grade.|
I would love to see you experiment with some of these options. In the same way that the dynamics of the way we’re teaching has changes, let’s think about homework in a different way as well…