Welcome to Comprehension Connection! This is week one of a weekly linky party focused on topics in education that teachers and parents find challenging. The focus of this week's linky is on making homework less of a hassle. To link up, please write up your blog post sharing your ideas related to the topic. You may include products related to the topic, but the purpose of the linky is about sharing and exchanging of tips and tricks that may help others. As part of this linky, comments are encouraged. Please make an effort to read the other posts that are shared and comment. Dialogue about the topic helps everyone. Please comment on the two before you in the list. If you are the first to link up, please return to comment on those toward the end. Now...on with my post!
I started off with this topic for two reasons. First, as a parent, I honestly hate long periods of homework time. It cuts into our time as a family and often leads to conflict for one of my children. Without going into detail, she truly has a low frustration threshold for lengthy assignments over material that she already knows since it's taking time from things she enjoys, or she gets frustrated figuring out material she doesn't know (and we have had assignments come home over material that has not been taught yet). From the teacher standpoint, I get frustrated with following up with students who failed to do their homework. I find I am often spinning my wheels since the same children forget, lose, or just plain don't do the work. I will share a few tips that have helped both as a parents and as a teacher. I'll start with tips that have helped us at home...
- Homework Organization At my daughter's school, they have adopted a great organizational tool, and that is the 7 pocket plastic pouch. Within the pouch, she keeps a stash of notebook paper, index cards, and her pencils, and each subject has it's own pocket. This comes home with her agenda which teachers check each day. (as a teacher, I find this part difficult because I do not have the students at the end of the day, so if I don't get a chance to check during our block of time, then it is sometimes forgotten. We use Edline in our school division which offers parents the option of checking the assignments and grades online.
- Homework Routine Establishing a homework routine is important for everyone. For my child, a break and snack are needed right after school, and we try to do most of the homework before dinner. If the load is heavy, then I will normally have my daughter split the assignments and get her up in the morning since she's usually fresher and in the frame of mind to work with more persistence at that time of day. My daughter works at our kitchen table, but my oldest prefers doing work in his room. With both, the environment is quiet without a lot of movement going on. In some homes, this may be difficult to achieve, and yet, most children work better with fewer distractions. At school, I open my room up to my students before school to allow them the opportunity to work in a quiet place if needed. Most come in and read in my reading nook. I think they enjoy the peace before things get hectic.
- Quantity of Homework Most schools agree that the amount of homework should depend on the age and skills of the student. Many suggest that homework for children in kindergarten through second grade is most effective when it does not exceed 30 minutes each day. In third through sixth grade, children typically receive 30-60 minutes of homework per day. Reading at home is especially important for all students. Reading time is typically not included in the homework routine, so the actual time suggested above may be exceeded when independent reading time is added (and what a great problem that is especially if it means replacing time watching television or playing video games). From the reading I've done, 20-30 minutes of daily independent reading is crucial to reading development. My students normally have a word study assignment and an ongoing piece of writing that they work on using the writing process.
- Types of Homework Assignments There has been a lot of talk about the Flipped Classroom where students watch introductory videos that explain concepts at home, and the practice portion is done under teacher supervision the following day in class. As a teacher, I can certainly see the benefits in this philosophy if the students all have access to the media used for introduction. It would make it easier to monitor progress, collect materials from the students, and intervene when needed. As one-to-one initiatives are being implemented, that option certainly can be entertained. For now, many of my students live in households where there is no wifi or computer access, so most of the homework I send is practice or extension/application of our classroom lesson. I try to make homework assignments routine in that the activities have been done before in the classroom, include a sample question or two to show the expectation, and provide clear instructions. Rubrics are very helpful for all, including parents. For some students, comprehending the directions and following them are complicated when new routines are introduced, and it can overwhelm parents when they're trying to assist the child and have not been present to hear the instruction. (Don't we all hear, "That's not the way my teacher did it!") If you have parents looking for homework help, this handout from the Department of Education may offer some helpful tips.
- Homework Collection, Grading, and Return With my groups this year, I provide grades for reading, spelling, and writing. Since I am not a homeroom teacher, it can be complicated to stay on top of homework completion and collection. When students fail to complete their work, it's up to me to follow up to make sure it's turned in. Since I teach part time and am not at school over the recess time, I've had to figure out other options to get work in. I really like this check list from Rebecca Wishart. It is nice that she shared it and allowed it to be edited. At my daughter's school, they have a study hall program set up where each teacher is assigned a day to run study hall. If she fails to turn in work or needs help, the school can assign a study hall to get homework made up or the parent can register the student for study hall to get extra help. I love this, and I've found it very helpful for her.
Now, I'm ready to see what homework tips you all have. I'm especially interested in reading your organizational tips (We all love when we are able to redirect our attention to our lessons versus following up with kids on homework, right?) If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments or link up with me.
Next week, the topic is engaging parents. Please share special ways that you make your parents feel welcome and part of your educational programming.