"The Homework Myth"

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by BethMI, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. BethMI

    BethMI Cohort

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    Have any of you read The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn? I want to check it out from the library, but was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on what he has to say??
     
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  3. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    A lot of our parents read the book and stirred up some controversy. I have not read it but have read other things by him. I generally approve of what he has to say, but HW is something I feel I have to give. I give about 10 minutes a night, which is a lot less than many people- especially for fourth graders (just a math fact drill sheet and spelling word practice.)
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I haven't read the book, but I've read a lot of the same research he used in compling the book. From what I've gathered, he takes basically the same stance I do, in that homework is basically useless until secondary school, and might actually be counter-productive in the very early grades.

    Many teachers assign homework because they feel the "must", but why do they feel that way? When did it become required? I'm only 32 and I don't remember getting homework other than to finish classwork or study for spelling tests until Jr. High. My primary education wasn't that long ago. I think we need to let kids be kids. A 6-7 hour school day is enough. Even we adults need time to rest and rejuvinate in the evenings in order to function our best the next day. While we take work home with us, how many of us don't dread it. Just food for thought.
     
  5. PowerTeacher

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    I have read parts of the book, and seen discussions and excerpts of much more of it.

    I have to say I agree with his conclusions. This year I have not given much homework and student attitudes toward class, and overall achievement have increased.
     
  6. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    I have read the book. I guess it depends on your purpose with homework. My goal is for parents to see what we are learning in class and to be aware of where their child may be struggling so that they can provide additional support. Even for a kindergarten student the homework takes less than 5 minutes per day 4 days per week. We also send home guided reading books a few days a week that may take another 5 minutes 2-3 times a week. I do agree with Fred Jones about not needing to do 30 problems to assess when 5 will tell you the same thing!
     
  7. SarahJ

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    Jul 3, 2008

    Perhaps homework is given more and more nowdays (esp in the younger grades) to try and enforce parent participation in their childrens' education?

    I've not read the book but I do think that only a small portion on homework should be given..just to reinforce the learning done at school
     
  8. TeacherC

    TeacherC Connoisseur

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    I have never read the book but I am interested to check it out. In our district, we are required to give out homework . Like Tasha said, most of what I give out is to show parents what we are doing in school and to get them involved in the student's learning. It is less than 10 min. a night. We send home books to read together as well...not really homework, but just for practice. I never thought of it as being detrimental...
     
  9. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I use Saxon Math so that is 4 nights a week. I then expect the kids to read for 20 min. per night. I think that is sufficient.
     
  10. BethMI

    BethMI Cohort

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    I ask my kids to read 20 min. a night too. I got the book today, I am anxious to see what he says. I agree that many teachers give hwk to give hwk, to show parents what we are doing, or b/c they have to. I really only agree with the 2nd reason, but what if we sent home example sheets and they are not required to bring them back?? I don't know, like I said, I'm anxious to see what he has to say.
     
  11. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I'm going to be using choose-a-chart this year, which will review concepts learned in class. I guess I see it as a way to review while the students show parents what they've learned. Something simple to do after dinner as they settle down. My principal was like 'just give them the odd problems out of the book...' What?? That's so pointless.
     
  12. Chef Dave

    Chef Dave Companion

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    At the beginning of the book, Mr. Kohn writes, "Well, I began with the premise that, as parents know, homework is often responsible for stress and family conflict, that it gets in the way of other things kids would like to do after they finish six or seven hours of school, and that homework is viewed so negatively by children that it may diminish their interest in learning."

    The problem with this book is that it starts with a false premise.

    Homework is NOT RESPONSIBLE for stress. Stress results from a number of factors. It may include a lack of understanding of instructional content because the child simply didn't understand the lesson. This problem could easily be compounded if the child has a novice teacher who is still learning how to teach.

    Some students may have problems attributed to social promotion. In this instance, students who lack the academic prerequisites to succeed are promoted to a higher grade level where the subject matter becomes even more difficult. Is it any wonder under these circumstances that homework creates stress?

    Amazingly enough, some children have never learned HOW to do homework because nobody ever taught them basic study skills.

    The only observation that I found in this book that I really agree with was the notion that some students develop such a negative view of homework that it sours them on learning.

    This does NOT mean that we should dispense with homework altogether. If students are having problems with homework becaue it's repetitious or even non-relevant, the obvious solution is to IMPROVE the QUALITY of homework. Make homework meaningful. Make it relevant. Don't give out homework for the sake of giving out homework.

    Getting rid of homework altogether is an unjustified overreaction.
     
  13. Pencil Monkey

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    I personally do not believe in giving a ton of hw. I think 15 minutes should be enough for an elementary student. However, when parents expect (demand) a teacher to give a lot of hw, that is another story. There were parents in my class last year who used hw as discipline at home. It makes me sad to think that these parents are forcing thier children to do more work than I assigned as a punishment.
     
  14. buck8teacher

    buck8teacher Devotee

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    I expect my students to read 100 minutes a week, and they can fit it in whatever time intervals they wish, and then I do a spelling contract. Occasionally, I'll assign math homework, but I try to send home a game that we learned in class, so it's more hands on. However, I don't see the point in assigning it to just assign it. I try to send home more engaging spelling activities, so that my students and their families can complete them together.
     
  15. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    What's the one thing we want them to do at home every night?

    Read.

    So we assign 20 minutes of reading each night. OK, fine.

    But then we add a math worksheet. Oh, and write out your spelling words. And don't forget next weeks project.

    But here's the deal. Of all the things we've assigned the kids to do at home, which is the first that's going to get trimmed because of soccer practice, Wednesday night church, or a family trip to the mall?

    That's right, the reading. Even though we know that's the most important.

    When I was a kid, I struggled with homework. Mainly because I had zero time management skills. Of course, I'm not sure exactly how much time management skill a nine year is supposed to have, but I didn't have any.

    When I started on my homework, I began with the assignments that resulted in a piece of paper that I had to turn in. These were also the things I had to show my parents as proof I was done with my homework and thereby cleared to watch TV. So reading chapter 8, pages 171-182 out of my history book was a much lower priority than doing page 224 in my math book, problems 1-39 (odd). In my little dufus brain, I always figured I could just claim stupidity if quizzed about the history pages, but there no faking not getting the math done.

    On a good day, I managed to finish the paper-producing assignments that went to the teacher with my name on it. But very, very seldom did I manage to get to any kind of required reading.

    The sad result was that I entered high school with absolutely zero independent study skills.
     
  16. shasha379

    shasha379 Devotee

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    I know exacty what you mean. I assign 3-4 comprehension ques. to go along with the reading, but must of the kids would just skim the chapters for the answers. I guess I could assign the questions the next day as a quiz?
     
  17. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    If you're trying to convince us he's begun on a false premise, you've picked the wrong argument. You've reinforced what he said. He never said why homework causes stress, only that it does. You've backed up his statement by providing reasons. Maybe elsewhere in the book he says that the simple assigning of homework causes stress, but not in the statement you've quoted.

    As a parent, I have to respond to the teachers saying they are assigning homework to let the parents know what is going on. Couldn't you do that by sending home already completed classwork? Do I have to coax a whiney, tired 5 year old into doing yet another worksheet when all he wants to do is chase the cat? I'm sorry, I see absolutely zero justification for any homework at all in kindergarden, and only reading and spelling in the first grade. The older elementary grades I can see 15-20 minutes a night being okay (in addition to reading), and maybe a little more than that in the 5th and 6th grades (say 30). Keep in mind, that as a math teacher, I'm a huge fan of reasonable homework, but I have yet to see my kids come home with what I would consider "reasonable".

    Out of idle curiosity...Have you ever wondered why we're having more trouble now than we used to? Or are we? There was a time when kids went to school and came home and dumped their books and went outside to play till mom called them in for dinner. Homework was non-existant until they were older. In spite of that these "kids" went on to do things like figure out how to land a man on the moon, invent the super computer and the internet, among other highly skilled accomplishments.

    Maybe, just maybe, the idea of putting older heads on little shoulders isn't such a good idea, and we're actually hurting our kids chances of success by expecting more than they're developmentally capable of handling. just my :2cents:
     
  18. Andrea L

    Andrea L Habitué

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    In our district, we are required to assign 30 minutes of homework a night for third grade (total). I include my reading in that time frame. So, students generally get a review worksheet of the concept taught in class that day and then they are required to read for 20 minutes.

    I have mixed feelings on assigning homework. The kids that need the extra practice don't do their assignments most of the time. It's generally the kids that are doing well that complete their homework. I too feel as though kids need to be kids and go outside and play. So, I'm on the fence. This year, I'm going to try sending home a homework packet for the week with review information and nightly reading. The packet will be due on Friday and we will correct the information and then send it home. I do believe that assigning homework does make the students responsible, but too much is not okay either. I even tell parents that if the homework is taking longer than a half-hour that they should stop jot a note on the homework. My purpose is not to make a child hate school work, but to practice their skills.
     
  19. Andrea L

    Andrea L Habitué

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    Oh, and I'm 28 and do remember having homework from kindergarten on...
     
  20. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    As a parent, I have to respond to the teachers saying they are assigning homework to let the parents know what is going on. Couldn't you do that by sending home already completed classwork? Do I have to coax a whiney, tired 5 year old into doing yet another worksheet when all he wants to do is chase the cat? I'm sorry, I see absolutely zero justification for any homework at all in kindergarden, and only reading and spelling in the first grade.

    I don't really send worksheets per se - more things like: find some things around your house that are red, sing the red song to your parent/s. We don't have much class work either because we focus on hands-on activities and group work.
     
  21. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    That I could live with. My kids' kindergarden teachers sent home practice worksheets. I have to admit, when push came to shove, the homework didn't get done, and that's more me than them, but I just don't see much use for that sort of thing. Your idea of homework, on the other hand, is allright.
     
  22. Mrs_B

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    Boy this is really making me think. I gave a math sheet most nights, spelling activity and sometimes something else (grammar, etc)! I guess I gave too much this year although no one complained.

    As a parent, I wish my K and 2nd grader did not have hw. I don't think it really helped them too much (except the reading) and it was stressful and they HATE IT!

    The only reason I do think it is valuable is to teach responsibility and organization skills. In 4th, I feel like I need to start getting them ready for Middle School. Skills like writing down their hw, remembering to take home the worksheet/book, getting it back to school and not all scrunched up... If they don't practice now how will they do in Middle School?

    I agree with Sarge that reading will go by the wayside if there is no paper work. That is why I require a reading log with a brief summary/reflection and parent signature as to time read. I hate that this turns reading into another worksheet but I figure that is the lesser evil.

    I'd like to do away with spelling since the report card only lists it as "using correctly in their written work" and I don't see the skills transferring but I am afraid the parents would have a cow and it will only be my second year at this school....perhaps this is fodder for a different post:)
     
  23. MissFroggy

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    I don't assign reading HW because I don't want it to become a chore. I want the kids to LOVE reading. I also give the parents LOTS of information at parent night about the importance of reading at home. I have a population of parents that already do this for the most part. But it is clear who does not. Those kids I do have to push a bit.
     
  24. pinkpotato

    pinkpotato Rookie

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    I stopped assigning homework to my kinders this last year, and instead assigned reading (not a specific number of minutes or pages, which is pretty silly) where kids take a picture book home to read with their families every night. Well, I noticed the kids' reading improved, their interest in books increased, and they seemed less stressed out overall. It was a nice change from getting back half-finished, sloppy homework packets.

    I do want to add that Alfie is NOT against nightly reading. He is against busywork.

    Regardless of what people say, the research has been very clear - there is no tangible benefit (in the elementary grades, at least) that homework has any benefits or negatives. Like grade retention, we simply continue to believe in its benefits because it seems intuitive. The problem is, our intuition is sometimes flat out wrong.
     
  25. Mable

    Mable Enthusiast

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    I don't think hw is worthwhile. The kids that need it don't normally have the support to complete it at home (which is the idea anyway-right?) and the kids that do hw- usually have a parent helping them. My son had hw in kdg and I thought it was ridiculous. We read every night and I don't want to burn him out. I'd rather have family time when we're outside playing or inside doing crafts or playing games.
     
  26. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    There was another thread on this. I don't know howto find it though. I did away with spelling mid-way through the year. I had very few parents ask me about it. Those that did, I told them that the kids learned the words for the test, but it wasn't carrying over to their writing.
     
  27. Yank7

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    Amazingly enough many of the parents and even some of the children become upset if they don't receive some homework. My school has a homework policy in which the amount of homework increases as we go up the grade.I do feel homework does have some purpose in that in allows the student to see how well they understand the work gone over in class,gives some parents the idea of what is being covered in class and provides a sense of responsibility for the child.However,I try not to give homework on weekends,Only give homework that I can quickly cover in class the next day,keep very accurate homework record and reward those who show a sense of responsibility and only assign homework that has a purpose and is not just to keep the children busy with too much homework every night.
     

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