Sunday, August 14, 2011

Homework Plan?

A valued colleague once described homework as a Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears situation--too much, too little, or just right.  It's hard to strike the right balance when it comes to homework because teachers work with diverse groups of students, families and schedules.

What's the best homework policy?  I guess that depends on the students you serve and the goals you want to reach.  As I read teachers' blogs about homework, I am considering my own classroom policies and actions.  I want homework to be useful, positive and growth producing.  I also want to allow some room for growth and lots of opportunity for feedback and sharing.  It's the give-and-take of Twitter and blogs that help me to learn a lot as an educator, and I want to provide the same type of give-and-take opportunity for my students.

My homework policy to begin with will include the following:
  1. Nightly Independent Reading:  Independent reading of books/texts of choice will be a number one priority for homework.  I will ask students to write me a letter about their reading once a week on their student-created Google writing site.  I will organize student letter due dates so that I read a few each night.  (This is an idea currently successfully used by other teachers in my school).
  2. Keyboarding Practice:  Students need to be fluent keyboarders.  I want to encourage students to practice this skill at home several nights a week.  This is the kind of task that Pink describes in Drive as "algorithmic" and one that can benefit from "if-then" or "carrot-stick" rewards as well as students' understanding of the rationale for the task and the fact that the task is boring.  Pink also encourages us to provide students the opportunity to complete tasks like these in their own way.  Hence, I'll work with students to create rewards, systems and choice for this at-home skill acquisition.  I'll probably create some opportunity outside of the school day for students to practice this skill at school instead if they don't have tech access or prefer a more social setting for the skill acquisition.  
  3. Daily Writing:  I'm going to begin a writing craft blog to start. I'll post the craft and an example and ask students to comment with another example and thoughts/questions.  This will give me a quick place to check in on students' writing exercises as well as the social opportunity for students to share and learn from each others' work.  As the year progresses we'll use Google docs and students' writing websites to share lengthier writing pieces.
  4. Math:  I will foster math writing, discussion and problem solving regularly on our class social network (NING) blogs.  I will also set up mutually agreed upon fact practice system similar to the keyboarding system noted above.  The fact practice system will utilize That Quiz, other online sites including video and Khan Academy, paper/pencil, games and other choices.  
  5. Email: I will encourage students to email me and classmates (via NING) with clarifying questions, comments and suggestions with respect to homework on a regular basis.  I did this last year and it was very successful helping all of us to find successful paths for at-home learning and practice.
That's where the homework menu will begin. As you can see, I'm just beginning to create a homework policy for my class this year.  It's important that I have a chance to know my class and families prior to setting initial policies. It's also imperative that policies stay flexible and evolve so that homework efforts continue to meet students' needs in happy, profitable ways.  

As always, your thoughts, reflection, ideas and challenges are welcome as I navigate this complex piece of classroom life.