Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Homework Solution?

Homework poses a dilemma for most educators.

One colleague describes it as "the three bears" dilemma: too much, too little, just right.

This year I opened the door to the homework discussion with parents through the use of a letter.

The letter fostered discussion, but the homework dilemma continued. At the end of the school year I will survey parents to gather more data about future homework decisions.

In general, most parents wanted homework. They wanted to provide students with the chance to develop independent, at-home study routines. They also wanted students to develop their skills and proficiencies in all academic areas.

I provided a fluid list of homework topics that students were able to work on at home and in school. I also provide a bonus list of learning options both on our class website and through links, images, videos and discussions on our classroom social network, NING.  Also most classroom projects are open-ended providing a limitless list of options for extension.

As I think ahead to next year, I want to advocate for more online self-paced homework.  We utilize a number of online resources to develop students skills and proficiencies.  The online resources are often independent, self-paced programs such as Lexia, targeted assignments (That Quiz), or venues that are easily manipulated for speed, repetition and focus (YouTube Videos, Content websites).

The advantages to online homework include the following:
  • Homework results are typically graded or lead to the next steps digitally saving the teacher time with regard to correcting and collecting papers.  Instead the teacher can easily access the scores or levels and make coaching decisions with that information, then utilize the time saved to plan rich, collaborative learning events.
  • Homework is less frustrating since students are moving at their own pace and level.
  • Homework requires less parental input since it's tailored to students' interest, level and need.
  • Homework doesn't rely on memory of a single lecture or assignment. Instead the digital format allows repetition and manipulation of the information to suit students' needs and interests.
  • Written homework benefits from digital tools such as spell/grammar checks, thesauri and easy access to editing and commenting features for teachers who coach writing skill.
  • Parents can access scores, reports and feedback at home, work or even in the car.
The lost homework or confusing homework factors should disappear with this format. 

So as I begin to think about homework routines for next year, I imagine that I'll employ the following actions:
  • Greater use of online, self-paced, responsive, independent programs. (I will continue to advocate that my school system supports this effort by opening up these programs to at-home use as well as in-school use.)
  • Reading books, articles and text of choice at home independently or with family members.
  • Practice packets for specific skills (online and off).
  • Family, student voice and discussion related to "just right" personalized homework goals and assignments.
  • Enrichment/bonus opportunities.  
I am open to your thoughts and ideas regarding this area of school life.  I will report on the results of my parent survey once the school year comes to a close.