Friday, August 7, 2015

Valuable Homework

So you're busy getting everything ready for the new school year. Homework, hopefully, is something you have thought about or will in the near future. I'd like to add a few things for you to consider when you do think about homework for your students this year.
Let me begin by first telling you where my experience comes from. I am a mother of four (some were gifted learners and some struggled with reading), grandmother of 11 (6 of which are in school now), and a teacher of the primary grades for 38 years. I've spent many evenings with crying, frustrated kids trying to complete their homework, some of which were trying to find the right costume for a book report or finding sugar beets from Idaho for a science project but some were nothing more than just useless busy work. I've had parents tell me to 'shove' it and others threaten to go to the principal and rat me out if I didn't find more worksheets for their child to do at home. When it comes to homework I think I've seen it all and even assigned most of it. There has always been a debate for and against homework. Does it really help create disciplined minds? Is learning accelerated? Are study skills learned? Does it interfere too much with home activities? Does it cause students to dislike school? And so the debate goes on. Many studies have been conducted and tons of books written on the subject.

I know many districts and principals require it and some parents want it and some detest it. The problem I always have is trying to make everyone happy. How much and what is valuable? Some parents complain that the homework is too much and too hard while others want more. It's hard to please everyone. 

After reading lots of research, talking to lots of educators and parents, and from my own experience, I came up with my own opinion on the subject of homework:

Please don't send home useless busy work. Parents are NOT going to think you are a fabulous teacher because you send home cutesy book reports or amazing projects to complete. Believe me it only adds to their stress level.

Research shows strong evidence that, when homework is appropriate it can benefit student achievement but too often the tasks are nothing but 'fluff' and time consuming which can cause frustration or take away from family time and extra curricular activities. In the Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) study they suggest: "homework must be realistic in length and difficulty given the students' abilities to work independently. Thus, 5-10 minutes per subject might be appropriate for 4th graders.  ...too much homework may diminish its effectiveness or even become counterproductive."

Here's a little guideline I use when assigning homework:
  • Design and assign purposeful homework. Make sure students can do it independently but not necessarily fluently. It should have a legitimate purpose such as practicing skills, elaborating on information to deepen knowledge or understanding, or provide opportunities to explore.
  • Involve parents in appropriate ways such as allowing them to see how well their child is learning. They should NOT act as teacher or police homework completion. Too much contention is damaging.
  • Be sure amount of homework is appropriate for students' age level and does not take too much time away from other home activities.
  • Be flexible, work with your students and parents to make it a positive experience.
So in conclusion, I just wish all teachers would think about the homework they assign and decide what is best for each child. 
Is it valuable or fluff?
 Is it quick to complete? 
Does it make learning fun? 

Good luck, dear teaching friends, trying to find the balance of good valuable homework.

This is a post I have wanted to write for a very long time. One that I should have written before now. And just let me say this is MY OPINION and I know others have a different opinion and I'm good with that. I agree to disagree.


MA said...

Beautifully said, Sheree! Missing you already!

MA said...

Beautifully said, Sheree! Missing you already!

Em Hutchison said...

Great post! Thank you!!