A local elementary school is doing something they say, has never been done before. It's a new approach to homework, that has kids learning more and liking it.
Heather Wehrle's insight:
I think that programs such as this one have developed a true purpose for homework and have accomplished their goal. If homework is supposed to advance student learning, this individualized homework plan is an effective way to meet the needs of each child. The proof is in the numbers: the students are making huge strides and committing what they learn to long-term memory. I think that a large contributor to the students' academic success is the implementation of a plan that gets parents involved in their student's learning. I know that in my own classroom, there are certain students whose parents are uneducated and unable to help them with their homework. These students fall behind other students in the class who are receiving assistance at home every night. While the homework that is shown in this video may not be the most effective at helping students apply their knowledge outside of the classroom, it is a great first step to making homework accessible to everyone. The individualized plans make it so that each student develops competence and success in doing their work. This will most likely have an effect on their self-efficacy which will make a huge difference in their future success in school.
The points that this article brings up, as well as the comments from other readers, are truly fascinating. Do we really need homework for our students to be successful at learning the material? This article is not written from an abstract theory that has never been implemented in the real world; it is written by a teacher who has had experience assigning homework as well as not assigning homework. This case study raises many questions about the usefulness of homework all together. It was also very interesting to see the argument that followed in the comments made by many readers. Some people are captivated by her idea and want to capitalize on it; others have tried this same strategy in their own classrooms and found success; yet others are still not convinced that eliminating homework is correct or plausible.
At first, I agreed with the skeptics. We have always had homework in our classrooms; if it was useless, why did it persist for so long? However, I began to realize that many things that have existed in classrooms for centuries have been found recently to be not very effective. Rote memorization, teacher-centered lectures, and the absence of inter-disciplinary teaching have all been replaced by more appropriate teaching models. Is homework next? I hope that in my future classroom, I will be able to limit the amount of homework I send home with my students. If it does not serve a specific and important purpose, why make my students do it? I want anything that my students do outside of school to serve an important purpose and advance their learning in meaningful ways. While I am uncertain if I will be able to eliminate homework all together, I would surely like to try.
The major take-away from this article is the importance of motivation: in order to do homework and do it well, students must first be motivated to do it. I think that while motivation during classroom activities and lessons is stressed, homework is not considered in the same light. Teachers give extra-practice worksheets for homework that do nothing to motivate students about the actual content of the work. As a student myself, I was motivated to do my homework because I wanted to please my teacher and get good grades. It was rare that my motivation was based on the content or the learning itself, meaning that I quickly forgot what I was learning.
In my future classroom, I want homework to be a time when students are able to make lasting connections and do meaningful and engaging work. I want their motivation to be the source of a passion for learning as it was for the students discussed in the article. Although it takes time and effort to develop, having students be motivated to do their homework will enhance their learning greatly and help them extend their knowledge beyond the classroom.
Resources for connecting Math class to the real world.
Heather Wehrle's insight:
This website provides an array of resources that help students connect math to everyday situations. They give many different activities that can be done both online and/or offline using a variety of resources. This website is a great tool for teachers who are looking for alternatives to traditional homework assignments. These activities will involve students in real-world contexts, making their learning both engaging and meaningful. Applying math to real life is one of the most effective ways to prepare students for their future, both in and out of school. While this is not something that is very prevalent in my placement classroom now, I have been bringing it into the classroom through open-ended problem solving activities. With the implementation of the common core curriculum, I believe that students in all grades will begin to see more practical, real-world situations being used in the classroom as ways to apply their understandings in all subject areas.
It is important that we, as teachers, are careful not to overwhelm students with homework. Common Core or not, we cannot justify consuming the lives of our students with homework. Parents are saying they are spending more time than ever "around the kitchen table". This is not the way our students should be learning. They spend most of the school day seated at desks doing work; when they arrive home, they should be able to have more freedom. Homework should be engaging, interesting, and applicable to their lives at home.
However, I think that the Common Core is moving education in a good direction, stressing problem-solving and critical thinking. If homework follows suit, this homework will be much more meaningful and useful than homework in the past. As the man in the article said, it will be helpful to the students in the long run. This homework should be helping students learn how to solve novel, real-world problems. I believe that while this homework is more effective than homework has been in the past, it should be getting them off the kitchen table and into the world. I hope that when I enter my own classroom, I am able to use homework that will engage my students in interesting tasks that defy traditional homework and homework settings.
These are some creative and fun ways to engage students in class through their homework. While I am not sure that pop quizzes are an appropriate alternative to homework, many of these ideas give students the opportunity to become more engaged in their own learning AND the learning of others in the class. There are ways to integrate technology into many of the alternative assignments that could prepare students for their place in a 21st century world, such as group work through technology mediums. It also helps students learn how to express their knowledge and understandings in different ways. Some students may find that acting, drawing, or giving a speech are more appropriate ways for them to express how much they understand about a topic.
In the classroom I am working in, the students receive packets at the beginning of the week that contain their homework for the entire week, due on Friday. Most of the homework is monotonous worksheets that have them repeating things that they have learned in class; however, some of the items have them apply their learning in fun ways. For example, they will do a color-by-number that incorporates addition which, for a first-grader, is much more interesting than staring at a sheet full of addition problems. In my future classroom, I hope to go beyond worksheets and use homework as a time for students to be applying their learning to real-life contexts and using a variety of skills for sharing their learning with myself as well as their classmates.
Parents from around the country sound off on whether their kids are getting too much or not enough homework, or if the homework just amounts to busy work.
Heather Wehrle's insight:
How much time should we be spending arguing about the amount of homework our students should be taking home? Is it the amount that really matters? I am not convinced that sending worksheets home for students to complete is having any effect on their grades or academic success. What our students need is meaningful and purposeful homework. If they are going to be doing things at home, it should be extending upon what they have done during the school day. As stated in the article, if the skill has already been mastered, why bother doing more rote rehearsal at home? It is unnecessary and redundant.
One thing that remains unclear is how to use homework to help students who are struggling with a particular skill or subject. If they cannot do it in class, how will they be able to do it at home? I believe that what struggling students need is a way to apply the skill to something outside of school. For example, if the students are learning addition, have them do an engaging assignment at home where they use things from around their house to add. Instead of staring at a piece of paper, they will be creating their own manipulatives to scaffold their learning. I have tried this out with my own first-grade class and seen positive results. These real life examples of how to apply their knowledge outside of school anchor their understanding. When they are able to see the usefulness of what they are learning, they are more motivated to do so.
I agree with a lot of the points made in the article. In my own experience, I often flew through my homework for the sake of getting it done and had no need to do it in the first place. It was simply busy work that prevented my from enjoying time with my friends and family at night. I also understand the challenges that come with teaching in high-poverty areas. Many of the parents of my current students are immigrants from Central America that never received an education themselves. They cannot help their children with their homework either because they cannot read it or do not understand how to do it themselves.
This raises the argument once again: should we have homework at all? What is the real purpose of homework? I think that instead of sending home worksheets every night just for the sake of having homework, we should rethink what homework should be helping students to do. While I am unsure that writing off homework all together is practical in every classroom, I definitely think that there is too much meaningless homework being given. Instead, home should be a place where students apply what they have learned and extend their thinking. Optional practice assignments, as mentioned in the article, are a good way to ensure that all of your students are given the opportunity to try practice problems if they would like to but does not force it upon students who do not need the busy work.
Founded in 1943, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner.
This website offers a great breakdown of ways to assess how effective and meaningful a certain homework is. I think that the most important thing to consider is what the purpose of the homework is and if it accomplishes what it is meant to. If we are not sure why we are giving homework, then why are we giving it? Everything that we give to our students should have a purpose. I believe that one of the most important uses for homework, especially in math, is to bridge the gap between school and home. The students in my class began the year with a disposition that math is only used in school; those who said that they did math at home cited "homework" as how they saw math at home. It is important that we raise a generation of students that understand the usefulness of math. If they believe it has no place in their lives outside of school, they will be less likely to be motivated to learn it.
In my own future classroom, I hope to be able to give meaningful homework that also allows the students to take ownership over their work. The article mentions having students do independent research; in math, I think that having students conduct investigations and returning to school to share their ideas with classmates is an effective way to engage the students and show them how useful math can be outside of school. Homework is an opportunity for students to make choices and express their understanding in unique ways.
Toronto Star EDUCATION: Students do better with broader math Press-Enterprise (blog) “All of my research studies have shown that when mathematics is opened up and broader math is taught — math that includes problem solving, reasoning, representing...
Heather Wehrle's insight:
This article talks about the kind of math that I believe is the most important to include in homework: problem-solving, reasoning, multiple representations, and asking questions. This makes the work more engaging and develops students' mathematical sense to much higher levels. The article makes a good point in mentioning that we now have computers and calculators to do the math for us; but we still need to know what math to do to get our answer.
In my placement classroom, I have seen my mentor teacher work hard to help the students understand the process, not just the product. Together, we have encouraged the students to explore the questions why and how when they are solving math problems. I think that in any classroom, asking students how they arrived at their answer and why that answer is corrected produces some of the most meaningful teaching and learning.
The quantity of students’ homework is a lot less important than its quality. Enriching children’s classroom learning requires making homework not shorter or longer, but smarter.
Heather Wehrle's insight:
This article challenges us to think about how useful our homework really is. The strategies that it presents are interesting and backed by research findings. We often are so preoccupied with the amount of homework that students are bringing home that we forget about the content. Even if the homework seems time-consuming, it can still be very worthwhile. In terms of math homework, I especially appreciate the interleaving strategy. I know that as a student, one of the most challenging aspects of solving a problem was to figure out how to begin. Often, math homework is organized by the type of problem so once you have figured out which formula and/or reasoning to use, you can do the others with very little thinking. However, this structure is not relevant to tests. I think that the importance of using homework as a time for students to problem-solve and think critically about how to solve a problem and why to solve it that way is understated. In order to be successful in the real-world, students need to be able to assess a problem and come up with a genuine plan for solving it. This prepares them in the short-term for being tested on the material and also in the long-term when they are solving real life problems that are not "cut and dry" and organized into specific categories.
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