Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Should Children Have Homework?: The Homework Buffet

My students are writing persuasive essays about this topic, and you might or might not imagine that their opinions include both yes and no. Today they'll work at writing details and facts to support their opinions.

What do you think?  Should children at your grade level have homework?  This is a popular topic today on education threads.

Overall, after lots of thought, I do think children in fourth grade should have homework, but I think that homework should be thoughtful, tailored, and responsive to student needs and interests. It is the homework buffet.

At our grade level the buffet is a 15 minute reading-15 minute math-15 minute writing menu with lots of choices in each category, and some mandatory work.

For math, the mandatory work includes a nightly That Quiz test that reviews our current concept focus, and a choice of Xtra Math to solidify fact skills or Khan Academy grow-at-your own rate program if you're facts are strong. For bonus, there are many games, playlists, and choices available.

Reading choices include reading a book of choice or working on Lexia, a phonics/reading comprehension online program.

The writing menu includes a weekly mandatory contribution to a class writing thread plus choices of writing in your offline journal or online journal, practicing your keyboarding skills, writing an article to publish on the class blog or online reading/writing games.

I think a nightly routine of study and practice builds discipline, and gives students a chance to try out their independent learning routines and actions before busy Middle School and High School days.  I also like the idea of tailoring the choices to each child's needs and interests, and with that in mind, I am always available to work with families to craft an optimal routine for their child.

The advantage of online homework and writing means that my feedback with regard to comments, and in-class follow-up teaching is timely and targeted--there's not that long wait time that lots of paperwork creates. Similarly the online math practice provides students with direct feedback for their responses thus giving them a chance to figure out what they're doing wrong or to strategize ways to quickly complete that which they know well.

Yes, I do believe students in fourth grade should have homework, but that homework should be personalized with a child's learning needs and interests in mind.  Homework should not be a nightly battle, a source of tears and angry outbursts, a time that diminishes a child's self concept or a barrier to activities that develop a child's important skills, interests, talents, and passions.

What does your homework pattern look like?  How can you tailor this pattern so that it is efficient and responsive to students' needs and apt teaching.  Is my homework buffet perfect?  No, but taking the time to discuss the routine with families at fall conferences was one step in the right direction. I welcome your thoughts and ideas related to this topic.

Related Posts
Homework and Feedback
Homework: A Letter to Parents and Family Members

March 2016 Update: Recently I've read more research related to homework. At the early years, there is no real research that supports homework beyond nightly reading and perhaps some math practice. There is research, however, that demonstrates homework's negative impact on issues of equity, engagement, and empowerment. Where does that leave me? I think I will make homework broader and more optional next year. I'll list homework and try to inspire students to extend learning outside of school, but it won't be a focal point of classroom time. I'll think more on this in days to come and continue to work with families in this regard.