Homework (Part 4 of 4)

You’ve probably heard a rule about 10 minutes per night per grade level. Meh. The bottom line is that teachers should be giving homework at strategic places to reinforce knowledge. Instead of emphasizing the amount of homework, we should be assessing the quality of the homework. Homework should be meaningful and not too repetitious. If a student has proven mastery, it does him or her no good to “master it” 45 more times. Not to mention that not all students learn by writing, so having them write spelling words 10 times each may work for a portion of the class, but the auditory/kinesthetic learners have gotten very little out of this assignment. 

This is where having some student choice in homework can be a great idea. For example, a student may be able to write each word 10 times, create a piece of word art for each word, or create a “Shades of Meaning” chart or “Frayer” card. 

Homework should enrich the curriculum by challenging students to build connections, think deeply,  and expand their knowledge through critical exploration. 

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:

Continuum of Meaningful Homework

Too often, teachers assign homework that is too “fluffy”. By this, we mean that the assignments don’t have a clear connection to curriculum and do little to solidify or enhance knowledge. Think back to all those dioramas you made as a child...I can tell you I spent countless hours gluing fake moss and dinosaurs into a “Montgomery Ward” shoebox, but to this day I can’t tell you a single thing I learned from doing that aside from the fact that my dad thought it was cool to use a saw to remove the back half of a dinosaur so that it looked like it was coming up out of the water... The same thing goes for designing outfits, or creating a life-sized model of a character from a novel. Without a deep connection (most likely an accompanying paper or essay that contains the actual “meat” of the assignment), this isn’t meaningful homework. A stronger option would have been to create a diary entry from the perspective of a dinosaur. What did it eat, where did it live, how did it spend its day-- was it a herding animal or a solitary one?  Does it know it’s about to be extinct, and how does it feel about that? 

As a side note, be wary of teachers who hand out “homework passes”. This minimizes the importance of the homework both consciously and unconsciously to a student. It undermines the whole process. If a teacher is giving homework, it should be because it is really important. Therefore, providing an option for a student to miss out on a really important assignment seems counterproductive on multiple levels, doesn’t it? 

Homework shouldn’t be dreaded. It shouldn’t be boring or stressful or repetitious. Students should feel confident and able to do the work independently, but I would urge parents to be involved in the process. If your student is not responding well to the homework (crying, having meltdowns, or losing sleep over it), or you feel there may be an issue with the amount or type of homework, I encourage you to talk to your child’s teacher. Open communication is the best way to achieve optimal results for your child. 

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