The Homework Debate
Homework is a hot topic in education these days. Is it valuable or is it a complete waste of time? How much is appropriate? How much is too much? Shouldn't children be allowed to play after working hard at school all day? Should homework be done independently or should parents be expected to support their children through difficult assignments and complicated projects?
I'm fairly confident that if I took a poll, your opinions on the topic would run the gamut from "Stop the madness!" to "Keep it coming-we want her to get into Harvard!"
No matter where you stand on the issue, I think we can all agree that homework should be meaningful, and it should not be overly time consuming. Your child's time is far too valuable to be spent filling in endless packets of worksheets.
As a parent I have had my share of difficult homework sessions. It's heartbreaking to watch your child reduced to tears because they don't understand or bored to tears because the homework is repetitive and mundane.
The challenge for a teacher is of course making sure homework is appropriate and meaningful for all students. Just as class work has to be differentiated to meet a variety of learning needs, homework must be meaningful and accessible to all as well. This is no easy task, and I am the first to admit we don't always get it right.
In math, too often students who are able to complete homework correctly and independently have already mastered the skill and don't need the "drill and kill" practice. Those who need more work on a particular skill, need guided support with immediate feedback. When students practice a skill incorrectly without any intervention, the brain starts to build pathways that are difficult to reverse. So how do we as teachers ensure this doesn't happen when we can't be there to support our students through their homework? We are trying out Moby Max Math this year because it is Common Core aligned and designed to assess individual need and deliver individualized instruction targeting specific skills. This program also gives immediate feedback and strategy review/instruction. Students are asked to do 15 minutes of MobyMax math each night.
For more info about Moby Max Math, see the link below:
Word Study Homework
We began our word study routine last week. Here's how it works:
Students take a spelling pretest every Friday. The spelling pretest consists of five spelling pattern words and five high frequency words. Words that are misspelled on the pretest are transferred over to "This Week's Words" along with additional pattern words to practice if needed. Students self select the rest of their words (10 in total) in order to build writing, speaking, and content vocabulary. Each student will come home with an individualized list each week based on need and interest. Students practice these words for homework each night by choosing from the "Spelling Cafe" menu (each activity should take only 5-10 minutes). We have a spelling "Quick Check" on Fridays. Misspelled words are transferred to the following week's word list. Word study lessons throughout the week are based on the focus spelling pattern (ex. digraphs-th, ch. sh).
Partners give one another a spelling "Quick Check":
Establishing Life Long Habits
As a class, we established purpose for reading and writing. We brainstormed many advantages to becoming life-long readers and writers. We are working to build fluency and stamina as readers and writers by reading and writing everyday.
We believe that reading is the most valuable "homework" we can give. There's simply no better way to become a better reader, improve spelling and writing skills, expand vocabulary, and increase background knowledge. Children should be able to select their own books. They need to read a wide variety of genres and read often. They need to be read to by caring adults who share a love of reading, and they need to share and discuss their reading with peers. We decided to stop assigning a required number of reading minutes for homework after reading several articles that said this practice completely takes the joy out of reading (even for those who otherwise love to read). We hope to generate enough excitement about books in class this year to carry over into at home reading.
Students will be creating and maintaining a blog throughout the year using kidblog.org. Blogging gives students the opportunity to write
for an authentic audience (peers, family, friends). Students need to consider their purpose and their audience as they write about the things that matter most to them. In class we use 5-10 minute "Free Writes" to build writing fluency and stamina and to generate writing topic ideas for blogs. At times students may be asked to write in their Free Write notebooks or work on a blog for homework.
Here is the link to our "Free Write" page:
We use this website to post homework assignments in science and social studies as well. We hope students enjoy watching educational videos, exploring related websites, and posting their thinking.
Keep Me Posted
School is an important part of your child's life, but participating in life outside of school is vital to becoming a well-rounded, interesting,
and passionate human being. Children need
ample opportunities to spend time with friends and family, play outdoors, exercise, imagine, create, explore, and pursue their passions.
Please let us know if your child is consistently experiencing difficulty with homework at home or if homework is taking too long (what takes one child 20 minutes can take another child two hours).
Learning should be a positive experience!
*Blogs about reading and writing instruction in our classroom coming soon.
**In addition to your child's agenda, you can find daily homework assignments posted here on our class website under "Nightly Homework."
Who we are:
What we are Working On:
~Close Reading fiction and informational texts
~predicting, wondering, picturing, making connections, figuring out
~Identifying "Big Ideas"
~Supporting thinking with text evidence
~Writing to express an opinion
~STAR revising (substitute, take-out, add, rearrange)
~ Magnets and Magnetism