Rethinking homework and the homework myth

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by seemoreglass, Oct 14, 2008.

  1. seemoreglass

    seemoreglass Rookie

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    Oct 14, 2008

    I have never been a fan of homework. When I was a student, I saw most of it as busywork and not contributing anything to my learning. As a teacher, I saw little results coming from the homework I assigned. Still, it's part of the culture and I persist.


    This year, my current class is driving me crazy. They are very low and are testing my patience at every turn. So I have set some goals that I absolutely will not bend on and I think I may have devised a homework plan that will help me out. My unbendable goals for my third graders:

    1. You WILL know your multiplication facts. No one from my class is going to go to fourth grade not knowing their facts.

    2. You WILL write in cursive. I have been really bad about teaching cursive as I think it's a waste of time. However, the fact is that the fourth grade teachers demand it, so I don't want my kids to fall behind because they don't know cursive.

    3. You WILL read AT LEAST at a third grade level by the end of the year and 80% of my class will be on grade level.

    So, what homework can I do? I think I'll have them head a paper every week divided in four sections (two in the front/two in back). Each day, they are to:

    write a summary of what they have read for 20 minues (goal #3).

    Practice 5 letters in cursive 10 times each (goal 2)

    Parent signature that they studied their time tables (goal 1).

    Turn it in at the end of the week.

    Thoughts? Thanks. I will pull SOMETHING out of this group!?! grr..
     
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  3. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Oct 14, 2008

    Depends on what you want as a result of homework. If you want busy work as you experienced then assign away. If you are interested in learning-achievement research is clear: no correlation between homework and achievement.

    My first year teaching I didn't assign homework until last quarter. I honestly feel kids learned more, retained it longer, had better attitudes towards learning-school and no HW saved me a whole bunch of time chasing after students plus eliminating a lot of clerical work. It wasn't until the "authorities" found out I wasn't assigning homework (I didn't know I was supposed to), informed me tradition was not something to mess with that students began to score lower, hate school more and made my pharmacist quite happy.
     
  4. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Oct 15, 2008

    seemoreglass, I think what you've decided is reasonable, realistic, worthwhile, and beneficial for your kids.

    I don't formally assign homework, but do require that my kids read something they've selected at home for 30 minutes. They are also required to earn 5 AR points a week. The AR perpetuates itself, kids want to earn the points, they learn to love to read, and I'm not chasing homework papers down and having to grade all that busy work.
     
  5. jwilliamson

    jwilliamson Companion

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    Oct 15, 2008

    I am also of the thought that homework is just a bunch of busy work and is not really worthwhile. However, I have to send something home so this is what I do:

    1. Reading Log - they read at least 20 minutes every night and write a short summary (a few sentences) about what they read.

    2. Math game - I send home game that reinforces the skill we have been learning in class. I figure if they have to do it, at least they should be having fun!

    3. Other - I will occasionally send home projects (for example, next week I am sending home a habitat diarama project). The projects are very sporadic. No more than once a month and sometime longer than that.

    I would agree that you need to send homework that reinforces the skills you are wanting them to know. But, I would encourage to make it more fun.
     
  6. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Oct 15, 2008

    I read the homework myth and totally believe it is true. I am giving homework to my first graders as a "choice." Sometimes kids WANT homework, and if they do, I am giving it to them. I don't do it every night, or even every week, but when I give out homework, they usually want it and they do bring it back.

    When I had 3rd/4th grade last year, I had pretty much the same goals for the kids. I DID assign homework on things that could not fully be accomplished at school- I gave homework on the skills that they needed work on that required MORE than I could do at school, like memorizing math facts. When this was explained to the kids, they didn't see it as busy work. When I demonstrated how quickly one would need to know their facts to do long division (which we hadn't even attempted yet) or algebra problems (beyond what they would do) they quickly saw how important it was for later.

    However, I gave them a bit more structure. I have found that even in my population which is high socio-economic and highly motivated and well-educated parents, saying "practice your math facts" is not concrete enough. They were not learning them, and it took me a couple years to realize this, unfortunately.

    Each week I double sided a page from math-drills.com and divided it into sections for each night of the week. They had to do some each night, and we "tested" once a week in class. I didn't do traditional time tests, but rather, I wore a stop watch. When the kids finished, them came up to me and looked at the watch and wrote down the time (certainly not exact) but they knew their time and most worked to improve it each week. By the end of the year, most were doing 50 problems in about 2 minutes, some doing 50 problems in 1 minute or so!! I felt this was good time for everyone. I still had a few kids who took 4 minutes or more, but they were kids with other issues as well (fine motor or LD.)

    As for cursive, they need to be writing more than just the letters. They need to practice connecting the letters and making words. Do you have a book? I would get a book and send home a practice page for each night.

    I like your idea, I just worry that there isn't enough structure to it! If you explain your goals to the parents and kids, I think they will see it as important and more than just busy work!

    FYI- My kids were already reading at level, but their writing was terrible. I did "paragraph a week" which was going through the writing process and turning in a final draft in cursive. This was great for my kids and I think it helped them a lot. My website has the information.
     
  7. teacherforlife

    teacherforlife Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2008

    homework

    As a first grade teacher I DO believe in homework, however my homework reinforces reading. My students are required to read , practice their word cards and complete a very short reading worksheet(maybe 5 minutes to complete). Parents have to check off that they have completed these activities with their child and return the folder to me. I check the folder to see if it has been signed. I do not take a grade on the worksheet but do check to make sure it has been completed. In first grade it is imperative that children read at home to improve fluency. Repeated readings of familiar stories improves fluency and gives the children sense of acheivement.
     
  8. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2008

    Miss Froggy,

    Homework as a choice? These kids are given too many "choices" these days don't you think. It is about time some of these kiddies learn that that whole "choice" thing is a big, fat myth in the real world. Your boss won't normally give you too many choices based on your interests and learning styles.

    How many choices do the "higher ups" give us?

    Ok off my soap box, back to the original post.

    I am with you on homework, but I agree with teacher for life. READ. I only give mine one ELA comprehension sheet that is written per week. EVERY other night, they are reading something OUT LOUD to their parents so the parents can hear how they are doing and we all know what "silent" reading is to an 8 year old anyway. :) Mine have even admitted it.

    As for cursive, I would review phonics in cursive if your kids are LOW readers. It may be "unnecessary", but it is helpful to know and the kids really LOVE doing it because it is the cool third grade thing. I teach them a different phoneme ( vowel sounds, blends, au, ou, oy, etc.) within the context of cursive. We have been doing it three weeks, and my kids can write words and sentences on their own already. We didn't learn the letter formations in isolation (that was just me, I am sure it is not research based to do it that way but I am impatient). I didn't have enough time in my 80 min. ELA period to devote to cursive writing so I had to make it work with something else. So far so good.

    I also make all of my homework in ELA due on Friday. I don't check it everyday. If they want to take a night off they can, but they know that if it is not into me by Friday morning then they receive 25 points off for each assignment not turned in ( 3 days of reading signed by parents and 1 comprehension sheet). I don't accept excuses because they are given a week.

    I like your goals for your kids though. Don't cave on them. They will get them. Kids rise to our expectations, and if you hold high standards, they will find a way to get there (or be a WHOLE heck of a lot closer than they were before).
     
  9. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2008

    And don't worry about not being structured enough either. You do what works for YOU. I have tried these super structured programs for various things only to find myself suffocating from the boredom that they were inflicting on me. I have learned that I am not the most structured individual in the world, but my kids learn every standard and obj, I just may do it differently. I am not anal retentive about the small things because I can't keep all those fires burning.

    You sound like an EXCELLENT teacher with lots of insight. Keep doing that and using that gift to your advantage.

    Your kids WILL do well this year because it is obvious you are demanding that of them. WAY TO GO! It is about time, teachers start demanding that kids do well, and not letting them choose what they learn based on what is interesting to them. It is not the "mickey mouse" philosophy that many specialists are pushing on us, but it will make them into far better individuals in the long run. :)
     
  10. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2008

    Don't drop the multiplication facts for hw. That was a great idea. It might not be "fun" enough (neither is getting up at 5:30 and taking your dog out or paying bills, but I mean whatever), but memorizing them is necessary. To me the multiplication facts should be memorized point blank. I mean you can make them fun and all, but at the end of the day, they have to bite the bullet and memorize them. So def. keep that. We are doing that for math as well!
     
  11. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Oct 15, 2008

    1- ALL of my kids read at home.... this is something I ask the parents do, but don't assign it as homework. I check in with the kids regularly, and sometimes ask that they share books they read at home at school. Also, almost all the kids in my class are above grade level.

    2- Some kids are super overwhelmed by the day as it is. We learn ALL DAY at school. I want them to have lots of PLAY time in addition to lots of work time. Healthy, happy children LEARN BETTER!

    3- I told every parent, that if a child is going to need more work than what we can do at school, I will require HW.

    4- Starting soon, they will get PLENTY of HW! I don't see the need to "practice" now. I don't practice walking with a cane so I can do it better when I am an old lady. I want my kids to ENJOY their childhood.

    Childhood is a JOURNEY not a RACE.
     
  12. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    :) Good for you Froggy.

    I like your analogy. Hmmm. Of course, you don't practice with a cane, but you do have to practice WALKING when you are a baby. A cane is regressing, walking is progressing.

    Plus, you didn't include all your ideas in your original post. Here is the part that you posted (just for a quick refresher):


    I read the homework myth and totally believe it is true. I am giving homework to my first graders as a "choice." Sometimes kids WANT homework, and if they do, I am giving it to them. I don't do it every night, or even every week, but when I give out homework, they usually want it and they do bring it back.

    You simply said that you give them a choice if they ask for it. NO where do you list this new homework policy that you just so happen to post after I questioned (I mean I don't care what you do really, I was just commenting really). Had I read the extensive list earlier then it would have been a lot more clear. Those "supporting" details would have helped me (your audience) understand your main idea better :)


    Childhood is a journey, but some of this ideaology is ridiculous. I am not personally attacking you, I am talking about the "fruffy fluffy system" we have in education today. For example, we can't "hurt" their self esteem, they need lots of play time (which I don't disagree with actually), we can't give them anything lower than a 60? What??????

    Sadly, the whole cane analogy is rather weak compared to the REAL world. They have to learn as kids. You can't learn to be a hard worker, good citizen, and contributing American as a 19 or 20 year old. They start learning as a kid.

    I believe King Solomon (as inspired by God) said it best, "Train up a child in the way HE should go and when he is old he will NOT depart from it." Now, I certainly like "childhood is a journey not a race, but this quote came from God. There has to be something to that right? There aren't many places (if any) where it tells us to give kids lots of choices.

    Anyway, to each his own. But who says a little homework will affect the health or happiness of a child? Kids back in the day used to do (gasp) required chores BEFORE school each morning. I bet they were sick all the time and hated life. It's amazing really that kids are fatter, sicker, and more mentally unstable now in this (do what makes you happy society). I wonder why that is? I know this much, my own kids will not be raised with that philosophy......I don't care how popular it is.

    And No one is saying to give them four hours of homework:) I believe in spreading the love and leaving enough time for them to clean when they get home too. What can possibly be more rewarding than a clean room and sparkling toilet? Now that's a lesson these kids could afford to learn. ha ha ha ha ha

    Have a nice Thursday!
     
  13. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2008

    And the kindergarten teachers that your kids had must be very good if most of your kids are above grade level. That's really good for this time of the year! Tell them thank you for making it easier for you this year.

    So many times, we quickly point out the flaws, but you seem very proud that most of your kids are above grade level. That's awesome! Let them know how much you appreciate that! Without their hard work last year, it would be more difficult for you at this point in the year. :)
     
  14. seemoreglass

    seemoreglass Rookie

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    Oct 16, 2008

    This is a great idea. Thanks!
     
  15. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    I will message you later and send you the link to this program I found. It is called "Blend Phonics" and it is free to download. I don't use every component, but I did get the cursive words off ot it. They are listed in order of phonemes starting with short vowels and then end consonant blends. It is really neat. Anyway, if nothing else you could use it for some cursive words right?

    We don't have cursive books this year so I kind of had to make my own. I went on that same website and downloaded a copy of the cursive alphabet. I gave one to each kid and made them a "cursive notebook". They take it home as part of homework to practice writing cursive (ahem and their sounds). :)
     
  16. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Oct 16, 2008

    I've stated my HW policy before and it has not changed, and it's been on my class website for weeks.

    No one so far has received "extra" homework, though once parent conferences hit, I have one child who will get extra homework, which she will need to do every night, because she is very, very, low! She also needs an evaluation.

    So, yes, for most of my kids it is a choice. I want my kids to have a lot of choices, but we also have a lot of responsibilities. The kids have a lot that they are required to do, and required to do well! I would say, I expect them to do those things to the best of their ability. And when it gets too easy, I make it harder by adding new concepts or expectations. That's how they grow!

    And they as a group, doing great academically, and none of them had homework in K.
     
  17. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 16, 2008

    Ok, Froggy I don't really care enough to get into with you. I am glad your kids are doing well. I don't read your website. You didn't put the policy on the thread which is the only thing I had to go by. But like I said I really don't care.

    What I am going to say is that I am finished with this conversation with you. I should have never made a comment to you in the first place. This was a thread posted by Seemoreglass, and I am going to revert back to the topic at hand. Homework ideas for HER. So you can feel free to message me if you would like, but I think we owe it to her to discuss her issue.

    Seemore,

    I had another idea for you for the multiplication facts. Did you know that School House Rock has a video with all the multiplication facts on them. We have used them in years passed, and the kids love them.

    I will email or post that link for you in a little bit. If I don't, send me a message to remind me. I am a bit scatterbrained. :) Bless it! :)
     
  18. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 16, 2008

    Seemoreglass,

    I am sorry we got a little off topic. I really do hope that you get some helpful ideas. :)
     
  19. seemoreglass

    seemoreglass Rookie

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    Oct 16, 2008

    HIM!! :)

    Anyway, I actually am a bit of a musician and we make our own multiplication rap songs and put em on a CD. Still doesn't work for all the kids.

    One thing I did do last year that seemed to work was put them into "teams." I spread ability levels out so I had each team with some kids who were lagging behind. Then we started a multiplication "league". We played almost everyday. Pretty soon there was a lot of peer pressure (positive) for the those lagging kids to learn their facts. Little study groups would pop up. Seemed to work well.

    I tried the cursive/phonics combo today, the kids loved it and they did really well with it. One of my kids who always fails his spelling assessments got an A on the assessment today. Thank you so much for that idea!
     
  20. Beatifulchaos

    Beatifulchaos Rookie

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    Oct 17, 2008

    I am so sorry. I just assumed you were a HER. I am so sorry!

    That multiplication rap sounds cool. Did you write it or did you get it from some where?

    I use songs with EVERYTHING. I love to sing and always wanted to conduct a choir so I sort of push that on my kids. ha ha ha ha ha

    They have fun with it though.

    So what did you do with the cursive/phonics things today. I am curious to know how you did it. I might be stealing your ideas now. :)

    Sorry Mister. :)
     

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