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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Homework...Why?...How much is too much?

This article from the Washington Post, last Tuesday, has had me stewing for about a week, so I'm just going to discuss it out loud.
How much homework is too much, should we be giving out any at all? What is the purpose? Does it help?

When I taught 3rd grade I gave homework out almost nightly, mostly as extensions of what we were doing but sometimes because we ran out of time and I wanted to get the content across. I rationalized it at the time as preparing the students and getting them organized, but I hate that I did it now. I have never used homework as punishment, but I've seen it happen. Unfortunately I've fallen short in making sure that the learning at home is fun and productive, sometimes it was, but I missed the mark on authentic learning quite a bit when I first started teaching. Oh If I knew then what I know now. :) Looking back I would be more selective and rarely give out any homework, heck I hated grading it, I'm sure they hated doing it, so now I'm doubly cursed, students and teacher both hating the activity, what was I thinking?

My team's rule of thumb for my 6th graders (whom we share) is 60 minutes on Math/Science or Social Studies/Max. and 30 minutes-open ended on Reading Writing and Technology. What I'm finding is that the reading/writing/tech is extending the walls of our classroom and they LOVE it, sometimes spending an hour or two on it. Whether it's blogging, having virtual conferences via palbee, dim dim, twiddla, or buiding digital stories, animations, and our wikis; the students are engaged, productive, and loving it. The best part is there's a lot less grading because these projects/assignments are self directed, and authentic collaborative pieces that are graded anecdotally and in big chunks. I am not winning friends if I don't give out homework and there's a lot of pressure to comply.

There's no evidence (that I know of) that homework improves test scores or makes students more organized in the professional world, but ask any students about homework and they're going to say they hate it. I NEVER want a student to say they HATE anything to do with school, believe it or not that includes homework.

This quote was what opened my eyes, "I'd rather not do it, but I know I have to," said Sabrina, 8. Isn't there a way to allow "Sabrina" to enjoy her homework?

That is my challenge, in the classroom I self check for authentic lessons and assignments do I need to do that at home, too?

If every night leads to a fight with mom, dad, or your sibling for bothering you; it's just not worth it for me. Optional open ended essential questions may be the solution I'm looking for; limited only by available resources and a timeline.
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