Meaningful Homework

IMG_5277On a quest to find more meaningful work for students to do at home, my 5th-grade team has been toying with projects. We have refined our ‘Homework Matrix’ through the year. Basically, students are responsible for producing 4 projects per trimester. Some have been to look for the International Space Station (ISS). Others have been to create a sculpture that can be placed outside. However, I think my favorite has been the ‘Create a shadow box about someone who is important to you.”

The students have been creative, caring, and proud of their work. The shadow boxes range from an actual shadow box to a large wooden box, to an old drawer, to a picture frame that was painted. They have talked about their sisters, moms, aunts, dads, and cousins. I love seeing what they have to say, as presentations are a given in my class, and what they include. Even more fun, is hearing how families are working together to create these projects.

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It’s Okay To Fail

This has been a BIG lesson for one of my students this year. She was not a fan of failure and learning from her experiences. In the beginning of the year, she would completely shut down, pout, and refuse to make eye contact if she didn’t get something right. We have worked hard on this: the student, the family, her classmates, and me.

So our Trimester 3 homework gave the option for students to create an artistic expression of something they felt was important that they learned this year. This student chose to draw about failure! I am amazed at how far she has come this year. She is truly an amazing person!

IMG_5267 (1) Special thanks to the student and parents for granting permission.

Winter Break Activities

This week I started my Winter Break. A glorious 3 weeks off from school. That also means that the students will most likely have 3 weeks off from practicing any of their skills, including reading. The no reading thing makes me sad. In an effort to combat the ‘Winter Break Slide’ (very similar to the Summer Slide) our principal requested that we give homework. As I am not a fan of homework, I designed a Winter Break Activities sheet.

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Since the students only need to choose 3 activities, it gives them some ownership and flexibility. I also tried to make them a bit more interesting as well as non-tech friendly. However, I think my favorite part is the Kindness Calendar. The calendar is ‘homework’ that everyone can agree on.

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One student noted that many items were ‘chores’. I told her it was my present to the parents!

‘Homework’ Reimagined Update 1

A little over a month ago I shared out my (and my Partner Teacher’s) latest idea of ‘Homework’. Get a copy

Each Friday during Genius Hour I meet with students to review their ‘Homework’. This week I had 4 students that were able to present. Some took a different approach to the homework than I had intended. The results? Amazing!

One student created jewelry from ribbons, beads, and old hair decorations and fastened them with a barrette. This student is thinking of creating more and selling them. Another made a ‘sculpture’ that had a live plant! My students are amazing!

Homework Parents Like

Tonight we had our Back to School Night. School starts tomorrow and as per tradition, we hold our Back to School Night the night before school starts. It’s smart. It’s a long day for us teachers, but I really like it.

During the Welcome presentation, I talked about homework. As usual, parents politely listened to my spiel. I’m sure that what I said about homework was NOT something they had expected. It’s 5th grade. They’ve heard it all before – expectations, do homework, come to school on time, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, this year my partner teacher and I agreed that we needed to do something different with homework. So, we created this (make a copy of your own):

I began by asking how many of them had signed a homework log/reading log either knowing that their child did NOT do the homework, or weren’t even sure if their child did the homework. At first, most were hesitant to admit it. Fortunately, my translator’s daughter is in my class this year. She eagerly raised her hands. That got the ball rolling. I then went on to say that I don’t always check the homework, and the kids don’t always take their time and will rush by putting anything. I then explained our proposed homework. I read some examples and pointed out that there would be no fighting and no tears for this year’s homework. This led to several parents openly smiling at the idea, commenting on what a great idea it was, and how happy they were with it.

My principal is more nervous with this idea. He fears that we are not preparing students for high school. But, um, they are 10. They are in 5th grade. And high schools need to change their focus too. High schools have clubs where students indulge in their passions. Hm, maybe more elementary schools should have passion focused clubs.

I am optimistic that this will be a success. I explained to parents that we would like each child to read 20 pages daily. I am hopeful that with this user-friendly homework, parents and students will honor the 20 pages. At the very least, parents have this year to relax and have peaceful evenings knowing that there will be no fighting over homework.

 

Homework: We STILL Hate It

homework [url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf][img]https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8610/16470630808_ff856fd3bc_z.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf]”I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Author Unknown[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/]Brian Metcalfe[/url], on Flickr

 

I’ve been thinking more about Homework and why I hate it so much. Then, I began to look at it from different standpoints: teacher, student, parent.

Why Teachers Hate Homework

No, I do NOT speak for all teachers. In fact, I know several teachers who advocate homework. This is a collection of reasons I have heard several teachers make:

  • The parents end up doing it for the kids.
  • We have to take time out of our learning day to correct it.
  • The same kids consistently DON’T complete the homework. It becomes a (losing) battle.
  • If we don’t correct it together, I have to take time out to do this menial task.
  • [at middle school] One kid does the homework and their friends copy it before school starts.
  • [at middle school] The kids stopped hiding the fact that they copy it.
  • The kids who need the practice either don’t do it or do it wrong.
  • The kids who don’t need the practice do it – what a waste of time for them.

Why Students Hate Homework

Yes, there are some students who like homework.

  • It’s boring
  • Who wants to do a worksheet?
  • It’s too hard and there is no one at home to help them.
  • They are in charge of younger siblings.
  • They may have several responsibilities to do once they get home.
  • They’d rather be playing (wouldn’t we all?)
  • It’s not meaningful.

Some other points I thought of:

  • Not all students have a home to complete their work.
  • Not all homes have a quiet space to complete work.
  • This is an intrusion on family time. As a teacher, I get upset when a parent tries to intrude in my area (classroom).
  • If I were to work all day, like the students do, and then were asked to go home and do more work on my time, I’d be a bit put-out.

Why Parents Hate Homework

Yes, there are some parents who request more (and I have my own thoughts on that).

  • It becomes a nightly battle.
  • There is yelling, screaming, and crying. Who wants that in their home?
  • It can take ‘forever’
  • Everyone is tired when they get home.
  • You have to find the ‘right’ time to do homework.
  • There is always something to do – ballet, baseball, etc.
  • It’s frustrating
  • The higher kids get more homework

Thank you to Amy (Jenkins) Shwartzhoff for her insight from the parent perspective.