Let's discuss the Homework Myth

Discussion in 'Elementary Education Archives' started by Peachyness, Jun 25, 2007.

  1. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    A while ago, I started this thread ( http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=38321 ) about dealing with parents who want more homework. I never felt comfortable about assigning homework. I had my reasons and philosophy, which I shared on this thread. The main reason as to why I don't believe in assigning homework is that I don't know how much of it is being done by the parent. I don't feel like adding Detective to the long list things that I already have to do.

    Alright, so, just now, I was scanning my Instructor magazine when I found an article called, "The Homework Myth". This article discusses the reasons why homework should not be assinged.
    - "no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high school age"

    -"more homework isn't correlated with higher scores for children in elementary school"

    -"the only effect that does show up is less positive attitudes on the part of the kids who get more assingments"

    -"In high school, some studies do fine a relationship between homework and test scores, but it tends to be small. ...there's no reason to think that higher achievement is caused by the homework."

    -"No study has ever confirmed the widely accepted assumption that homework yields nonacademic benefits"


    Soooooo... what are your thoughts?
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm secondary math, so you can guess what I'm going to say.

    I assign homework every night. The kids are instructed to stop at 20 minutes, done or not.

    If everyone in the class ran out of time before the assignment was done, it was my fault. Either the lesson wasn't explained right or the assignment was too long, but that's my problem.

    If most of the kids were able to do the problems correctly, they know that they understand the material. What commonly happens is that they take forever to do the first one, then the problems get progressively faster as they gain more skill.

    The kids who get stuck when the majority of the class didn't know that they need to get extra help on the material-- somewhere along the way they missed something.

    Math is all about learning a process to attacking problems. The kids need to internalize that process on their own, to see whether it makes sense.
     
  4. bdteach

    bdteach Companion

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    I'm in the middle. I've seen my son have ridiculous homework assignments over the years that were really just busy work. On the other hand, there are some subjects/subject areas--math being one that comes to mind--that students really do benefit from practice. Likewise, my son has had vocabulary assignments over the years that seemed like beneficial homework. I think reading every night is also important.

    I'll be starting my first year of teaching this fall, and my plan is for the homework to be meaningful, and if I can't come up with anything on a given night, then so be it.
     
  5. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    Alice, I like your philosophy! I've always told students/parents that they can stop if an assignment gets too frustrating, but I love the idea of a time limit.

    Do you have an issue with students who constantly say "I couldn't finish?" How do you handle that?
     
  6. Mable

    Mable Enthusiast

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    Isn't there a book about the homework myth? I thought I was going to get it at one point, but forgot. Maybe it's time.

    In the beginning, I was all for homework. Now, I am not. The kids that need to do it won't necessarily do it and they kids that do will. In my school, parents are mixed-some want it, some do not. So, our grade level assigns reading as homework (just to make sure everyone knows they need to read every day). If it were up to me, that's all I would assign.

    We assign reading for monday, tuesday is spelling, weds is math and thursday and friday are free days.

    It's a hassle to put it together. Then, you have parents that think it's too easy/too hard, etc.
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 25, 2007

    I ask them when they're coming for extra help.. as in "today?? tomorrow?? Obviously the homework has been giving you a lot of trouble, so you need to come..."

    Honestly, that's normally all it takes.
     
  8. bdteach

    bdteach Companion

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    Alice--that's an interesting way to do it. This year my son's 6th grade math teacher told the parents at back to school night we should NOT attempt to help our children at any time--that's what she was there for... I felt that was very awkward, and had issues with the idea that it was MY responsibliity to help my son if he was struggling...but once I let go, it made him more responsible for his work and getting the help he needed. He was reluctant (timid?) at first, but then I told him it was his grade and if his grade slipped because he didn't go to the teacher for help, that would be pretty ridiculous. Fortunately, he agreed.

    Of course, by the end of the year he'd progressed to math that I couldn't help him with (not my strong suit), so at that point I was even happier the teacher had taken me out of the equation!
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Honestly, by the end of the second week or so you have an idea of those who are struggling and those who aren't really trying. Those kids who pull grades in the 80s and 90s should not be struggling on the homework... if they do, then something is wrong.

    In my school, every teacher is expected to be available every day for 20 minutes or so for extra help, so it's not really insulting a kid to suggest he or she come... they know we're there anyway. Lots of kids stop by to hang out.
     
  10. bdteach

    bdteach Companion

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    Right - you know, once he stopped relying on me and going to her, he went from a low B to an A-...obviously, she knew what she was doing. And most importantly, he enjoyed math this year for the first time ever.
     
  11. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    I'm still not convinced that students at elementary age need homework.
    They are in school for 7 hours, then come home exhausted and are forced to do more work. Many of this work is in the form of busy work. What are they really learning here? That school is a drain. Learning is so forced that it's not fun to learn or become life long learners??

    In this article, it talked about this one school in Vermont where homework was not assigned unless "children ask for it or are so excited about a project they they continue to work on it at home. We encourage children to read at home- books they have selected."

    "Marta Beede, the school's top administrator...figure that kids work really hard when they're at school. To then say that they're going to have work more when they get home doesn't seem to honor how much energy they were expending during th day."

    This article goes on to say that "teachers ought to be able to exercise their judgment in determining how they want to deal with homework, taking account of the needs and preferences of the specific children in their classrooms, rather than having to conform to a fixed policy that has been imposed on them.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Again, all I know is secondary and my own kids.

    My kids have been fortunate enough (knock wood) to not have teachers who piled on the homework. So up to now at least it hasn't been a big issue.
     
  13. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Right, I'm sure it's a bit different for high school and college. Homework may be more relevant at these levels.
     
  14. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I wish every teacher had your philosophy Alice! I teach the little guys, and I have them read every night in books that are at their exact level, so it is a little work but not frustrating. Later in the year they have some spelling work, but its only purpose is to get them used to taking spelling tests in 2nd grade. Occasionally they have some math practice, but we do math practice just about every day in class. They will do a couple of special projects at home, but if so they are given at least 2 weekends to do it. I expect that they will have parental help, so I encourage the parents to HELP WHEN ASKED.

    I think for elementary kids, it is just awful to have them spending much time on homework. Most families have very little time together. There is dinner, clean up, baths, getting lunches ready for tomorrow, and the kids usually have WAY too many activities on top of this. I hate to see them spend their 30 minutes of together time doing silly homework.

    All that said, I do have them take home work they don't complete in class sometimes. At first grade, kids are usually excited to have homework. But it is against my personal philosophy.
     
  15. h2omane

    h2omane Comrade

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    Jun 25, 2007

    Coming from an Art perspective.

    It is impossible to achieve all the fundamentals of good artistic expression in a rushed 30-45 minute time period. In my art class I have a sketchbook that I give the kids. They are given weekly sketchbook assignments, which I spot mark on occasion for effort. A sketchbook, like a portfolio is a body of work, that in the beginning, might look rudimentary, but in the final pages, or submissions, will look polished.

    I agree that Homework is thought by some professionals as a waste of time, and no academic value gained, but they all got to their positions by a steady steam of organised classroom structure. They had homework. They had assignments, and now they are in powerful positions in Education. Dont say to millions of kids that Homework does nothing for you. It builds skills.

    An example. If I taught you how to ride a bicycle with diagrams on the chalkboard, and a brief 20 minute "now you try" session, would that person be comfortable to ride a bike? in the street? in a race? as a profession?

    another example.

    If you sat in gym class listening to how to play the sport of basketball, and attended one practice, you you be worthy to join the NBA? Play college ball? win a sports scholarship?

    Homework is skill building. if the child has mastered the skill, then homework is not necessary. it is the job of all, teachers, students, and parents, to communicate, to find a comfort level of skill mastery in regards to homework, how much, and how often.

    just my take.

    Mr. Skinner :D
     
  16. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    If I could... I would just give a few projects for the year as well as spelling homework and that would be it.

    However, our grade level has a newsletter explaining exactly what kids receive every night... and I don't know... I see the benefits as well as the detriments.
     
  17. h2omane

    h2omane Comrade

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    Also,

    to get back on my soapbox :)

    if children dont have a little bit of homework in elementary, how are they going to handle the flow of work in highschool? is their grade 9 teacher going to say:

    okay boys and girls, after school today you should not go to your job, listen to your ipod, watch mtv, yak on msn messenger, update your myspace webpage, post to your blog, play sports, date, help with the chores, etc, because you have a Shakespearian paper due next week.

    I dont think so.

    it will be a headache for the grade 9 teacher, when they hear from all the grade 8's year after year from the feeder school who doesn't believe in homework, that homework is not necessary, and I really dont have to do practice at home because in this article I read in...
     
  18. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Our little guys come to us with language delays. So my own opinion, as an aide, is that I see it as a language enrichment excercise opportunity for parents to expand their own conversations with their child and to provide teachable moments. The ones that have that readily available at home still benefit from the parent offering a different viewpoint than our own. Of course this isn't a guarantee and it also isn't the only valuable output I've seen through their homework. For example, deaf children have trouble with phonetic cues and so words tend to have to be spoon fed for most children. So the weekly word reviews/vocabulary/spelling tests tend to help them gain a vocabulary they can use in their writing and boosts their reading. Some children need the daily centers and then a break and then a practice later. Without it, I have often witnessed a decline in that week or so. Will this help them later in life? I have NO idea. All I know is the immediate effect I see on their learning. We don't penalize any student who doesn't do it, though our parents tend to write a note and do so sparingly. We also alternate homework so it isn't more than 15 min a night.

    As a parent, this was my valuable way of knowing what's going on in my child's learning. Otherwise I don't have a clue really. I like knowing what they are learning and what they are capable of. It helps me, as a parent, to see what their weaknesses are and these become teachable moments that are often also rewarding.

    As a student in high school, my parents didn't know what I did for homework each night. It was strictly hands off. I want to say this was true for middle school too but I think I did ask for help in Math. In high school, on my own and without prompt, I sought morning tutoring for my Physics class. Yet I struggle with my graduated 5 grader's sense of responsibility and sometimes can't leave it completely alone yet. I hope he will grow into it as I know it is early still.
     
  19. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    I believe in homework. I also believe in keeping it relevant and reasonable. I agree that some elementary schools go nuts with it - it is not uncommon for fifth graders to come to me with horror stories of 2 and 3 hours of homework per night. However, research does suggest that in middle school regular homework can result in a percentile gain of 10 - 15 percent and that as students enter high school it has a much higher return (i'd have to check my book for exact figures, sorry). Students can't suddenly show up in middle and high school and see homework for the first time and be successful. I like the NEA guidelines of 10 minutes per grade level. It builds the skills and habits of doing outside work without an undue burden on the student/family.

    My team works together to make sure that our sixth graders are spending no more than an hour a night (of real work, as Alice says) on homework. I also give out homework passes for those occasions when "life happens".
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Yep, I believe in letting life happen too.

    I let my kids miss (and make up) up to 3 homeworks per marking period without penalty. I figure that more than 3 crises in 4 months is a pattern.

    This year I also started a "get out of hw free" pass. Each student got one in September and put his or her name on it. (I wouldn't accept one with the name crossed/whited out) It was good for any one night all year. As I explained to the parents, it was really about responsibility-- the kids had to hold on to the pass as we would a credit card or driver's licence.
     
  21. DZH494

    DZH494 Rookie

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    I teach Elementary and I can see both sides of assigning homework, but the more I think about my very low students the more I think that they should have homework. I teach in a very low performing school and the students need the extra practice. As a elementary school teacher in a reading first school I don't get much time on each subject so the low students most of the time dont get nearly as much help as needed to understand. By assigning homework it helps the parents also be accountable for some of the students learning. I offer tutoring after school (for free), but the parents say that they have no transportation.

    I agree with h2oman when he say if children dont have a little bit of homework in elementary, how are they going to handle the flow of work in highschool? is their grade 9 teacher going to say:

    My students learn values that they can only get by doing things on their on like .
     
  22. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    As the parent of a former elementary student, I know that it was only through viewing my daughter's homework that I got a clear idea of what was actually occuring in the classroom. Just depending upon her description of "What did you do in class today?" (Usually the answer was "nothing.") would have been foolhardy. Also, in some subjects she needed the practice in order to master skills, while in others, she enjoyed the extra work because it gave her the opportunity to learn more than there was time for in the classroom.

    As a former elementary student myself (100 years ago), I know that, without the extra skills practice in math, I would have failed 4th and 5th grade math. For some reason, long division (do they still even use this term?) knowed my powers of reasoning for a major loop! It was only through the patience of my teachers (including extra tutoring) and the repetition of the homework practice that I eventually became comfortable with and mastered the concepts.

    I am sure that there are some elementary teachers out there theat assign homework that could realistically take 2-3 hours. I am also sure that there are many elementary teachers that assign little or no homework. My thought is, though, that in general, if it takes an elementary student several hours to complete an assignment, either that student "messed around" for much of that time (not working on the assignment), or had absolutely no idea of the material assigned, in which case he/she needs more one-on-one teacher help. Are there parents out there who do their kids' homework for them? Sure there are. A teacher would be foolish to think otherwise. I think the trick is to be able to tell when the work is authentically that of the student and not the parent.
     
  23. h2omane

    h2omane Comrade

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    I believe that all students say that around the dinner table.

    Imagine if a student came home and said,

    "today we learned quadratic equations in math, then dissected 16 lines of verse and authored stanzas of haiku poems, after recess We ran 14 laps worth of activity excercising our skills in lacrosse. Lunch was fantastic, thanks mom, and after lunch we had a special guest author come in and talk about what life is like as an author in new york city. he even had us write a circle story. It was cool. then after the last recess. Our student teacher taught us how to cut out stencils to screen print on t-shirts! What a day. I'm zonked, I think I'll skip playing world of warcraft tonight, and do the dishes, then hit the sack..."

    :D
     
  24. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Since I started working in education and I'm an aide in first grade, my middle son who just finished 2nd grade LOVES to share what they learned because I do so also. So it is relatable. He also is totally amazed when I know kinda what they are teaching (at least in social studies and science). When he was in 1st grade we were sharing what we learned about guppies!!! Each of us had different facts. It was fun. In reading, writing and math I'm not as knowledgable about what happens in 2nd grade or even what his progress is throughout. My 5th grader doesn't like to be left out of this kind of conversation so he tends to add stuff too. The only thing he tends to leave out is the fact that he DID have homework and chose not to tell me. Yeah...I'm still upset with him.

    Oh...By the way, since not only did he not have much homework and he chose not to do the little he had AND I didn't get very many papers throughout the year and got ZERO at the end of the year, I have very little concept of what he should know or what his progress is other than the letter grades on the report card. I did finally figure out that his writing sucks so this summer we are working on it. I know that in middle school I will probably start having even less of a concept but I haven't had any hints really for the past 2 years. That's kinda early I think.
     
  25. Bitsy Griffin

    Bitsy Griffin Companion

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    Jun 26, 2007

    Doing nothing at school - response to parent asking - is the flip side of "did you do anything yesterday when I was out?" to the teacher.

    Nope, we just waited for you to come back ;)
     
  26. Bitsy Griffin

    Bitsy Griffin Companion

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    btw, I teach secondary math too. HW is imperative. I give five passes a quarter. Nine weeks is a long time.
     
  27. trayums

    trayums Enthusiast

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    It pained me giving homework to my second graders this year. Honestly, the only homework that I feel is REALLY beneficial is READING READING READING!!! I did assign that. We have our district policy about homework so I was made to give it, but I didn't want to. The kids are tired and not available for more work after they have just worked hard for 7 hours. As a teacher, I felt guilty giving it. High school and middle school I can almost get behind, but not the little guys.
     
  28. ecsmom

    ecsmom Habitué

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    Different perspective here. I have taught k, 4th and 6-8 grade writing. In K we had a reading log. In 6-8 we had a week long assignment with computer lab for typing on Thursday and presentation of the final product on Friday. Students were responsible to keep up with their assignments and I did not accept assignments typed at home for obvious reasons. In 4th grade, I rarely assigned homework because #1 lack of parental support #2 HW didn't come back causing frustration for me and my students. #3 Many of the kids are involved in so many after school activities that they are exhausted by the end of the day. State tests scores are in and this years 4th grade did great (averaged in the 90's in all subjects.)
     
  29. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    When you assign reading, how do you actually know they are really reading?
     
  30. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    My thoughts exactly. It would seem to be too easy for them just to sign off on it whether they actually did it or not (or for the parents to just sign it to get the kid out of their face).
     
  31. ecsmom

    ecsmom Habitué

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    In Kinderarten the kids are very honest about this sort of thing. If you ask what they read they will tell you or they will tell you they didn't read or rather their parents didn't read to them.
     
  32. paperheart

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    I was going to ask you the same thing about students taking advantage of the rule. It sounds like that is a great way to deal with the excuse. Great suggestion. I think I'll try the rule with a 30 minute time limit next year and see how it goes.

    What kind of grades do you give for homework. If a student doesn't finish in time do you penalize them for it in terms of their grade?
     
  33. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    The book is by Alfie Kohn, "The Homework Myth."
     
  34. paperheart

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    I agree with everyone. lol

    I've taught 3rd, 4th and 7th grade. I think homework is more essential with my 7th grade math students than in elementary school. Still, I think daily reading and projects that involve the family are essential in elementary schools.

    I know sometimes parents do the homework for them. (I once had a parent show up at noon proudly holding a hanger-style time line of her child's life. It was actually due that morning and it was obvious she did the whole thing. It was also--by far--the worst one turned in. While that child gained nothing from the assignment, my other students gained a lot. The biggest benefit was probably the esteem they gained by completing something unique without the teacher's watchful eye making commentsa and corrections while they did it.

    Math--essential. I agree with Alice.

    I do not deny though that some of the traditional elements of educating our kiddos are just kept because of tradition. A different example of this is weekly spelling lists and tests. These are NOT supported by research, but its kind of a central element in nearly every elementary classroom, wouldn't you say?

    I think the better question is, 'How can homework best be implemented so it is most effective?" This thread is spurring me to look into this more.
     
  35. h2omane

    h2omane Comrade

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    just to echo

    the homework must be at a level for the student to master individually, without boredom, panic, and sleepless nights.

    Goal setting at the beginning of the year and each month can build skills in remembering what is being taught, and furthurmore, eases the burden of hours of homework per week.

    In my experience, and opinion, I have found that students that use class time wisely, are able to finish the assigned work by the end of the day and have a free evening of homework. Those who raise their hand the second the chalkboard lesson is over, and slump in a coma waiting for the teacher to explain it again, do not use classtime wisely and have homework.

    I try and make every opportunity available for the shy students who dont get the lesson, to ask for a recap. I have a lunch homework club, and also a homework club for 30 minutes after school. Free tutoring, twice a day. students with a high work ethic and goal set use this time effectively, those that do not, do not.

    I cant force the kids to stay in, but with the use of a homework note, after 4 occurances of homework not done, the student spends a week in homework club. (their choice of lunch recess, or afterschool) This way we can work out problems, recap the days lessons, and track improvement.

    It works well, but must be setup from the beginning. I share my goals with the kids too. achievable goals that they can achieve too.
    learn to play the guitar, eat more vegetables, sleep more.

    I also show the kids the progress in a chart, or goal notebook. You have to lead by example, so if you do homework each night planning the next days lesson, the students should know that they are expected to do homework as well.
     
  36. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I like the ideas of a lunchtime homework club and the after school homework club. Unfortunately, either the schools around here are too rural and the kids HAVE to make the bus, or Mom and Dad both work and the kid MUST be home X minutes after school lets out (walkers). Any way around this? When my daughter was in 7th grade, she had afterschool tutoring with her math teacher (a saint!) twice a week, but we set that up in advance, and I paid her for her time.
     
  37. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    That thought crossed my mind too. I figured I'd first ask whether homework was beneficial, but since you asked.....


    I once said on a thread that I assign homework in kinder because I want parents to be involved and for them to know what was going in school and how their child was doing. But then, when I was switched to 5th, I began to really think about things. Is homework really beneficial?? How can I make it so that I'm not wasting my time correcting the homework and they are not wasting their time doing the homework?
     
  38. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Jun 27, 2007

    I really like the lunch homework club. I can't do the after school tutoring, but a lunch homework club might be doable. How often do you do this? Is the lunch homework club just for homework, or do you also help them, say on a concept that they are stuggling in?
     
  39. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 27, 2007


    I give either done (no mark), not done( slash), or I for incomplete. At the end of the marking period, I turn them into a percentage ("I" counts for .5) That's their homework grade.
     
  40. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Jun 27, 2007

    I teach in a progressive school that never really did homework until a few years ago. I am finding more and more I want them to do for homework, and really need to work on WHY I am doing it and WHAT they will gain from it.

    First, I did spelling packets. I hated it. Then, I did nightly homework relating to the day. They would write or share something we did in math. I liked this and the parents did too. But I don't know how much it did for the kids. Then I did math fact practice. Really good for the memorization, but boring to do every night. Hmmmmm????

    I realize they hate it... why do I push it? I am going to make some changes next year, but I don't know what.
     
  41. h2omane

    h2omane Comrade

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    Jun 27, 2007

    everyday. I dont eat lunch in the staffroom, all the kids eat in the gym so I eat in my room with a couple of students that are shy in the gym.

    Homework club is for concepts, homework, extra computer typing time, proofreading, etc. in the fall, I will be introducing a red ketchup folder, called a "catch up folder", where the students can place their unfinished work for the day or special projects in it. during homework club hours, the students can work on anything that is not finished, or good copies of the process work in their catch-up folders.

    I also only have 5-8 kids in the homework club at a time
     

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