Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homework or No Homework?

There has been a discussion for years about the value of homework and whether it should be given or not. 

Many years ago I was given the following guideline to help "judge" the amount of homework to give nightly.  The guideline was 10 minutes per grade level.  For instance a first grader should get about 10 minutes of homework a night total.  A sixth grade should get about 60 minutes a night. 

It was not until the last ten years or so that  have I ever been told homework was MANDATORY.  I couldn't believe my ears when I was told it was policy!  Then, another principal told to me that NO homework should ever go home.  I couldn't believe my ears on that one either. 

As a classroom teacher, I believe that is part of our job to make the determination of what should go home, etc.  As a professional in our field and as the adult in our room, we should have the best idea of what is necessary to help our students learn to the best of their ability.

Part of my normal homework is reading from a book they have chosen, and some years I have the parent's sign on a bookmark daily after their child wrote a one or two sentence summary of what happened in the reading they did that day.  The bookmark had a week's worth of  reading documentation.  At the end of the week, we changed out receiving a different color bookmark to mark the weeks.

Many of my students started reading aloud to a parent while dinner was being prepared or to younger siblings.  Some parents began questioning why their child didn't read better than did.  (They suddenly realized they weren't reading sixth grade level books.)  This made reading on grade level an important issue.  They also began questioning their child and realized they could pronounce words, but comprehension skills were very low.

I also send homework home in Math.  This is the time for my students to work 100% on their own to show what they know.  I know as a student and even as an adult I think I understand something completely at the time, but when I get home to put it into practice I don't.  I always tell them to write down any questions or at what point they started getting confused, so we could discuss it the next day.  Many mornings I have sat in the cafeteria while they ate breakfast and worked with students on the exact spot of their confusion.  I have also had my students tutor each other during breakfast.  No, they weren't copying they were explaining. 

I also weekly send home lessons from  language arts, science, or social studies for the class to work on.

One of  the favorite weekly homework lessons I  have sent home we call "Parent Homework."  The kids think it is great to be able to take homework to their parents. :0)

Parent homework is a lesson the parents and students work together.  It is reading lesson that the student reads to the parent and then they work together through different kinds of questions.  It also explains things to the parents. I give it to them on Monday and they have until the next Monday to turn it back in.  That way it gives them a week to complete it because not all parents have the weekend off, some work second shift, and many work two jobs.

I have only had one parent ever refuse to do them.  The child and I did them at lunch so she didn't miss out on the experience.  (My ELL parents worked them as well.  The students read it in English, then they summarized the story in Spanish to their parents or read it to a relative or neighbor who understood English.) The vast majority have told me by the end of the year that they looked forward to the one-on-one time with their child and they learned something in addition!  A win-win.  This is the book I use.  I am not endorsing it, I am just sharing.
As a student, I needed to do homework.  I needed to do it in the quiet and with no distractions.  When I am learning or practicing something new, I need quiet to be able to process it.  That was true when I was a child and is also true today as an adult.  I also would have never read a book for school if I had to read at school and not at home.  Look at the love of reading that I wouldn't have developed.
So is homework, necessary?  In my personal case, yes. 
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I know many will disagree.  That is okay, but as we all know every child and every situation is unique and different.  As professionals, we all need to recognize the value of different learning styles and the place of learning each of our students is in.  I think we all need to look at homework on a daily basis based on the needs of our students as professional educators.  Homework for the sake of homework is ridiculous to me, but so is the idea of never having homework.
Just my thoughts,....
Have a great day!
Vintage Teacher


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