Sunday, November 30, 2014


Homework is such an interesting beast.  Everyone has an opinion about it and it can be such a divisive topic.  We just finished parent conferences and one of the funniest moments (at least to my twisted sense of humor) occurred with a pair of back-to-back conferences.  At the first one, the parent was concerned with the "small amount of homework" that is assigned.  The next parent wanted to know if I assigned a "normal amount" of homework because it seemed like too much to her.  It took all of my restraint not to let a smile flicker across my face.  All of my restraint.

Personally, I think homework is important to help develop responsibility.  It can also give parents (the ones who review it with their kids) an idea of their children's academic strengths and weaknesses.  However, I don't think it should be a battle at home and I don't punish kids who don't do it.  I pull a few easy assignments each week to use as a grade and figure that the kiddos who don't do it earn the logical consequence of lower grades.

Years ago, our leadership team read a book called Rethinking Homework which I found to be interesting.  The topic came up because one of our teacher-parents, who has children at another school in the district, was struggling with the amount of homework assigned to her own kids.  Reading the book led to many spirited discussions--and a general agreement to follow the guidelines of 10 minutes of homework per grade level---so 3rd graders would have 30 minutes of homework and 6th graders would have 60.

I have found that consistency is helpful for our kiddos and their parents.  We assign two assignments nightly (Monday-Thursday) and spelling practice activities (I posted about this earlier.)  Many of the assignments are similar...for example, every Wednesday we assign "Fill the X" for math.  This activity helps students practice facts and number sense.  The difficulty can be increased easily and it also helps them in the future since it is a strategy for factoring polynomials.  It lets us review skills we have already taught and work with some concepts that always seem to a lot more practice than our pacing guides allow.

On Monday, we use Brad Fulton's pyramid math activity--we were lucky enough to have him do a workshop for us years ago and I highly recommend his books.  Like Fill the X, it is very easy to up the level of difficulty, it is great to review skills, and it really works their number sense skills.  We always give them the answer at the top of the pyramid so they can check their work (got to sneak those mathematical practices in whenever possible.)

Another consistent activity we do is "Word Detective"--this is our Monday night Language Arts activity.  It was inspired by Patricia Cunningham's Making Big Words--which I used to do regularly when I taught 4th grade.  The kids seem to enjoy it and it helps them think about spelling patterns, exposes them to lots of words, and leads to great discussion when we are going over the answers.  Many of them tell me that they work on this activity with their parents which makes me happy.  

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