Monday, December 7, 2009

The Homework Issue

Homework is a topic that has come up a lot in class discussions and also in some blog posts that I have read so I thought that I should discuss it as well.

If anyone reading this has not heard of the homework issue in question, you can visit the link Calgary Family Negotiates Homework Ban. Basically, a family voiced their concerns about the homework load their children were receiving and signed a contract with the school to eliminate homework altogether. The students will be marked instead only on work done in the classroom. They will, however, still be required to study for tests on their own time.

This is a really interesting topic to discuss. In my experiences the deal is - if you do your work in class, you will not have any homework. I agree with this method to an extent. However, it seems that students are often sent home work that they did not (or could not) complete in class. This concerns me because this could very likely mean that the student is not understanding something. Sending more work for the child to complete at home will not help them understand the concepts. Time needs to be set aside to work with the student. If the child is not completing work in class because of distractions, remove the distractions.

In my experience in PSI and PSII, both of my Teacher Associates did not believe in sending home assignments. I feel that this made sense when working with Grade 2s. It was very apparent that those students not completing their work were struggling with the content. Therefore, as teachers, it is our job to work with the student until they understand. However, when I was teaching a Grade 9 class in a school that did not really allow homework, some problems arose. I was required to give my students way too much class time (in my opinion) to complete projects I had them working on. Often they were off task and wasted their time. I tried to have a "one student to another" conversation with some of them asking them why they were doing this. I told them that I would LOVE it if my profs in university gave me time to finish all of my assignments during class and that they should take advantage of the time they had in class. I could not understand why they did not want to participate in activities they enjoyed at home instead of doing work. Most told me they preferred to do things at home. Why... I never understood. It made me lose a lot of teaching time.

On the other hand, I do believe that homework has its place. When working on certain projects, it is sometimes easier to complete at home due to space or materials. In addition, it sort of prepares them for the future because, as mentioned, university work is typically completed at home.

Instead of sending home "busy work", teachers should encourage parents to spend time with their children and be interested in their learning. Reading together or discussing events. This could be completed with literacy backpacks, family history interviews, etc. Teachers should be careful about what sort of work they are sending home and must make sure it is not just "busy work" or work that the child was unable to complete because they did not understand. We should be enhancing their learning through homework, not using it as a punishment.

1 comment:

  1. One of the better comments on homework issue...but I still have reservations about sending stuff home to parents -- because you are assigning homework to parents. Having materials available for parents who could make use of it, fine. But expecting parents to drop what they're doing to spend an hour or two with EACH child on homework (even valid homework) may not be reasonable for many families. Single parent families, parents that have to work two jobs to make ends meet, parents who have elder care or sick children or etc etc etc may not have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants. Why do teachers presume that they need to "encourage parents to spend time with their children and be interested in their learning." This is highly insulting to parents. (The very few parents I've ever met who weren't interested in their kids learning had far more serious psychological challenges than homework.) Teachers should manage their class time better, and leave home time to the home.


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