Friday, July 9, 2010

Homework

I often get asked about my homework policy. Particularly as it relates to notebooking. Unless your school has a homework policy I find that most teachers assign homework based on their own personal feelings about homework. As a parent, and a teacher, I've seen those feelings run the gamut of "I only assign homework because I think I'm suppose to" to "homework instills a strong educational work ethic and it is impossible for a child to be successful unless we give them opportunities to develop that work ethic."

I fall in the category of not loving homework (as a parent....having to hound my child to complete it and seeing how a simple assignment can be dragged out to hours of arguing and grounding until its done and as a teacher....having to spend the time to review, grade and record it).

Luckily I work in an elementary school where our administration understands that our students get out around 3:30 p.m. and then have sports practice, babysitting, scouts, church, dinner, bath, free time, bed, etc. So they have mandated only math and reading homework (we use Everyday Math in our schools which has a homework sheet for every lesson and reading, which is expected 30 minutes each night with a lot of teachers requiring reading logs signed by parents.)


In my first year of teaching (Middle School) I assigned homework because I thought it was expected of me (and it gave me some grades to put in the computer). I never had time to review it and soon it became just a completion grade. I stopped giving it to my two classes I never received it from because they were all failing as a result of not turning homework in. If I wanted them to do a particular worksheet I would carve out time at the end of the class for them to do it (which was a strategy that worked well when I taught math the next year with a difficulty group of students to ensure that they did the work expected).

Since I never let the notebooks go home any homework sheet they did was either a stand alone sheet or something I could glue into the book after the fact.

Generally what I do is explain our homework policy on our back-to-school night. I've never seen anybody get upset because of a lack of science homework. I do strongly encourage children to watch the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and the Weather Channel and make connections and share what they have learned with the class. This is usually met with smiles from the children (A teacher telling us to watch tv? Great!) and parents are eager to share how much they like to watch those shows together. We do have a yearly mandated science fair project and our rotation is that it is due right after the Thanksgiving Break (effectively ruining the long weekend for those procrastinators...of which 90% of my class is made up of). Occasionally if we are entering a poster contest I'll send that home for homework if I can't find the time in class to do it.

Again, homework will vary per teacher and per school but I always suggest to do what you are comfortable with. I have finally found my "happy place" with homework and have not heard any complaints from parents, students, or administrators (sometimes there is a grumble or two from other teachers...but I've learned to ignore it and do what works for me...much like they will do what works for them).

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