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Homework: to be or not to be?

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Homework: to be or not to be?
Old 05-03-2011, 07:39 PM
 
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Our assistant principal is doing a book study on homework. We have been discussing the types of homework that are actually suitable for students in this day and age and how grades can be based on responsibility of bringing in homework and don't reflect on the student's ability. Any thoughts?


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Old 05-03-2011, 09:02 PM
 
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I feel that we should not have homework in Elementary school. Many will disagree. It's my personal opinion. Teachers should encourage nightly reading for pleasure but we shouldn't be giving assignments/busy work that requires lots of materials or support from home. I certainly think homework should never factor into a child's grade in Elementary school. My school requires nightly homework and I have some parents who want more than I give, others who are happy with the amount, still others who would like less. I try my best to limit it to reading (20 minutes) and some math problems to practice. Rarely they have some writing (this week they are doing poems which they love). I have also stopped having students keep a home reading log or having parents sign off. My experience is that those who read for pleasure will do it not matter what, and those that don't want to read will find sneaky ways of recording their reading and having parents sign off. I used to do all sorts of incentives but the usual kids got the prizes and I spent a lot of teacher time and energy on it without getting the unmotivated readers to read.
Sorry, I rambled on.
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sorry purplecrayon
Old 05-03-2011, 11:13 PM
 
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I guess I didn't really answer your question well.
Further thoughts...
Suitable homework:
-relevant (not busy work)
-motivating
-incorporates technology if it's enrichment/bonus work
-does not involve undue support from parents or require extensive materials.

As for responsibility, I think that should always be a separate grade/note on the report card. A student can be able in a subject but struggle with being responsible. A student can be responsible with homework and be struggling academically. These two should be separate.

Other thoughts...
I taught my 7th grader for 5th and 6th and assigned minimal homework those two years. Mostly it was Math they didn't finish in class, occasionally studying for a science test, a bit of spelling/vocab, or maybe working on some writing. It was definately less than an hour a night, including reading for pleasure. In his first few weeks in 7th grade, he complained a lot about homework, and it took him longer because of his complaining. After a few weeks, he figured it out and now he comes home and gets the job done quickly. Some nights he has a lot, some nights little. Point being, he did not need excessive homework in Elementary in order to "prepare" for Middle school. He missed his homework a few times and got a detention- lesson learned. So many times, I hear that they have to have homework to "learn responsibility". There are more ways to instill this than forcing kids to do boring homework assignments that are not motivated by the kid themselves.
Perhaps giving students ideas for independent study is another way. I have done this with my 4th graders. We learned together how to make a Glogster and I often have challenged them to make one for another topic of study. It is amazing how many will do this and we make time to present these to the class when the student is finished. Is it graded? No! Is it required? No! But over half my class has done one Glogster on their own time, willingly, and learned a lot in the process. That, to me, is being responsible for your own learning!

I do not think that elementary aged kids need to spend all day at school and come home to excessive homework. My 4th grade son has a lot more homework this year from his teacher and some of it is IMO busy work. He is by nature hardworking and responsible. But, I've noticed he doesn't enjoy school as much. He complains about not having enough time to relax at home. I often wonder about the necessity of him doing certain assignments as I don't see the point to them other than "homework". Is he still responsible? Definately. Do I think this is "preparing" him? More like unmotivating him IMO.
OK, I'll step off my soap box now.
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Less is More
Old 05-04-2011, 10:30 AM
 
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I feel homework should serve one of three purposes -

1) connect home and school
2) practice needed skills
3) deepen individual knowledge

An example of the first type is for a kindergartener to find three things that begins with the letter of the week.

An example of the second type is for a 3rd grader who needs more practice with multiplication tables to do some extra problems.

An example of the third type is a report on an animal the student chooses - something allowing the child to go a little deeper than you have time for in class about a subject that interests him or her.


I don't think there needs to be homework every day, and I definitely don't think things should be assigned one afternoon and due the next morning. - Every family's schedule is different, and I think a little more flexibility would end a lot of homework battles, and improve the attitude toward it in general.
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:58 PM
 
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Quote:
how grades can be based on responsibility of bringing in homework and don't reflect on the student's ability
I try not to give too much homework. When I do assign homework, I base their grade on whether it was completed or not, not on how they did on the assignment. Some kids have parents that can help them and some don't, so I don't feel it's fair to judge the kids who don't have any help; so it's a check or a zero.


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practice
Old 05-04-2011, 03:45 PM
 
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You have all brought up interesting points. I agree that less is more, but in 5th grade I think nightly math homework is a must (Mon-Thurs). I don't use that homework in students' grades - it's used to guide instruction - but I need to know if kids can transfer what we learned in class. I'd love to say that those assignments don't need to be a worksheet, but I've found that few kids actually do those more authentic assignments. I hate that, as I'd love to assign more authentic homework, but it's the truth!
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Homework
Old 05-04-2011, 08:30 PM
 
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Our sixth grade teachers put a high emphasis on homework. It counts for 20% of their grade. I have a problem with that because not every child have supportive parents. My homework grade is a credit and not credit grade. There are kids who have disabilities and not to forget our English learners. I have been pressured by colleagues into giving homework slips for students who do not pass or complete an assignment. I have resisted as much as I can.

I think homework reinforces skills, especially in mathematics. I also do require reading logs because I want kids to read, but you may have a point. I do not assign more than an hour, including logs for homework because a kid needs to be a kid.

I rarely assign writing homework. My incentive is class money for all the homework completed and returned. My money cashes in for class prizes about every 6 or 7 weeks.
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Right on!!!
Old 05-05-2011, 02:46 PM
 
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Stay up on your soapbox you are doing great. I agree 100%
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Thank you!
Old 05-05-2011, 07:13 PM
 
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Thank you for all of the replies! I think this topic is an important one to discuss. I work in a suburban district, but I still have those students who have a poor home life (and I've worked in urban districts - so I am able to compare and contrast). I've started to re-evaluate homework this year and how it's graded - especially with Math. I've realized Math is getting much more difficult for my 5th graders and some students don't necessarily pick it up the first day. I'm struggling with some of my grade level teachers getting them to see that taking these responsibility grades or grades based upon one day of teaching is not what's best for students.

Hopefully more people will keep this conversation going and we'll get some interesting perspectives and different methods of how people use homework as a teaching tool.
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:51 PM
 
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I teach a younger grade than 5th, but I believe in a daily homework 4 times a week, with an older grade maybe an occassional project to work on as well. (I teach 3rd and 4th) I do believe in it being a reteaching/reinforcement/extra practice. I very rarely send home something they haven't done with me in class before. We also try to follow the gradual release model in my district. Also, if my class is having problems retaining a concept and we can't spend anymore time in class reviewing it in depth, I will send more practice/reteaching home for homework(like when getting ready for state testing). Also, the math homework contains all levels of questions: easier and harder, as well as problem solving and computation, so I know which ones would be okay if the child didn't do it, while other problems are expected, etc.

As far as marks, I give them a sticker(full credit) if it is completed to the individual's best ability. It's okay if a tiny bit is missing depending on the student. If the child is fully capable and doing poor effort, etc, I make them redo it. For instance I give credit to my lowest students for whatever they complete even if it is way wrong, etc. I know each child's level. I know what each child can do: for instance a lower student might do it wrong and I won't hand it back, but a student who knows his math facts and is just lazy, he needs to fix it for me and do better effort!

I give an M for missing work or PE for poor effort(on the chart), zero for not completing anything/very little or not returning it. Students who don't do it, do it at recess. They can play when they finish. Work done incorrectly and/or with poor effort is corrected and returned to me(usually at recess, sometimes when work is done early in class, occassionally at home).

I check homework on the spot and when I collect it from each student at their desk, I can spot check to see how they did: if they made some mistakes, etc, I share/teach them individually how to fix them and have the child spend a few minutes correcting/completing it. If most of the class is making the same errors, then I reteach/show the whole class at one time(on the board) how to fix the homework and have them spend a few minutes fixing it. It's only if Poor Effort or a TON were wrong does a child need to do it at recess. As I said, I know what each child is capable of and understanding.

For each homework chart, I give them a grade in my gradebook, but it's an effort grade: E, S, Needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. Homwork is important in my school: we are in a poor neighborhood with a lot of ELL kids, they need LOTS of practice in order to RETAIN the info and master it, and to push the higher kids as well.


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Old 05-06-2011, 04:49 AM
 
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I do not give much homework. I teach the all the language arts. Many times it will be the work they did not finish in class is for homework. They do read for 20-30 minutes a night Monday-Thursday. They might have spelling/vocabulary for homework, but it is not hard work. My sister is a Math teacher and she assigns homework every night. It usually is maybe 10-20 problems a night. When they come in, they grade it together. She gets the papers and this is how she puts it into the grade book for homework:

100%-85% ~ 5 points
84%-60% ~ 4 points
any thing lower received 3 points.

The students have to try the assignment to receive any points. There are a few students who still do not go the work, but it does not hurt that grade to much. She tells them this is practice for the test.

I have done with with any homework I give and it does help. I agree homework is not a top priority today. I have families who are homeless and single families who work to pay the bills. There is not much supervision anymore because of all the circumstances!
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I HATE homework!
Old 05-10-2011, 06:08 AM
 
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We are required to give weekly homework but I hate it at the elementary level. Kids have the rest of their lives to do more "serious" homework in middle and high school. It's especially hard assigning homework where I teach (Title 1) school because the kids who really genuinely need the homework don't have support at home for help, and then the homework becomes school work because they don't have help at home. Then of course there are always the usual suspects that turn it in every week like they're supposed to with everything perfectly correct.

ANYWAY - sorry for rambling -

My principal believes in sending minimal to no worksheets home with the students. Instead we have to do what is called 'Something I Choose Chart' where all subjects are on the chart and they have one mandatory assignment in each subject that they have to do (such as for reading - read a newspaper article and find the main idea of the article with 3 supporting details). Then they have 2 assignments that they can choose one to complete from each subject. Sometimes the mandatory assignment is a worksheet. They are required to read for a total of 100 minutes a night and summarize what they read. They have nightly spelling assignments to complete Mon-Thurs. Also the theory behind the 'Something I Choose Chart' is to have an actively engaging homework activity that the parents can participate in as well and it becomes more of a "family" thing. I like the concept but it's a struggle to make this beautiful concept happen across the board.

It is district policy for homework not to count more than 10% of their six weeks grade, but I never take a grade on homework. Every once in awhile I will take a completion grade...but referencing to what I said above, it's a neverending battle.
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Trouble with math homework
Old 05-31-2011, 04:44 PM
 
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This year I built in a 25 minute block at the end of the school day that is flexible time. Most kids use this time to finish up any class work, get started on projects, do enrichment activities, update our class website, or meet with me for more help. About 1/3 of the way through the year, I consistently started pulling my students who struggled with the morning's math lesson. Instead of making up some reteaching lesson, we just started the homework together. We would do a few problems of each type, so that they got more instruction and sample problems to refer back to when they started doing the work independently. If the students were up to date with all the required classwork then every one got to start their homework in class. It was a great motivator to keep kids on schedule with long term projects and also gave me a chance to check and see if the kids were really independent.
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