Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Trouble with Homework

When I designed the three weekly homework assignments, Book-in-a-Bag, Problem of the Week, and Slice of Life writing, I thought I had successfully created three assignments that would benefit all students. Homework should be meaningful, not just random or pointless busy work. I really feel that these three things will help all of my students...if they are completed.

You see, I seem to be having a really hard time getting the kids to turn them in. Yesterday I collected a total of 5 Slice of Life stories. Five! Out of sixteen! And this isn't the first time. I've been struggling to get S.O.L. stories turned in since I created the assignment a year ago. Same with Book-in-a-Bag. The POW usually has slightly better results, but not by much. And alerting you with Homework Alerts hasn't helped the situation either. I kind of gave that up when I was spending too much time filling out 12 of them each week, only to have half of those come back to me signed.

So, what's a teacher to do? Keep pressing on, assigning work I know many students won't even attempt? Or throw my hands up, give up, and try again next year with a new set of students? I really don't know.

I have some core beliefs as a teacher when it comes to homework. I've already discussed my belief that homework should be relevant and meaningful. I also believe that a fifth grader should be counted on to do their homework, for the most part, on their own. They should be independent enough to remember that it's due, and conscientious enough to care that it gets done well and on time. Finally, when it comes to consequences for homework not getting done, I believe the teacher shouldn't be punished with more work because his students haven't been doing their work (e.g. lunch detention, taking away recess, spending an hour writing homework alerts, etc.).

Like I said, I'm at a loss. At some point in their academic careers, turning in homework is going to be a lot more important than it is here in fifth grade. It WILL be the difference between pass and fail. It WILL be the thing that determines how well they do on tests and exams. But how to teach them that? How to hold them accountable? As parents, even though it might seem to all of us that you shouldn't have to, you just might have to become more involved. Getting on their case more than you already do (and I KNOW you already do) just might be required. It's the best thing I can think of that might help right the ship as they head into middle school.

I welcome your comments on this issue here on the blog, via email, or by phone. I value your input. Perhaps some sort of reinvention of homework for the last half of the school year needs to take place. Perhaps I need to shake things up. I'm not exactly sure. Things will probably be changing in some way as we enter the second half of the year. No matter what, thanks for your support. I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

so GLAD you asked! :) I honestly don't think they get enough homework. I think the ciricullum bears a lot of weight on the parents - which is fine - but I am so dissapointed in my son's spelling I dont know what to do! never the less...I agree with all that you've said. I most importantly feel the homework should be meaningful first and foremost. I don't know that it would be helpful necessarily, but I do like the idea of home work packets. I know it's hard getting it back now, but maybe if they get one packet at the beginning of the week covering all subjects within it? Personally I'd like that better. That way social studies, reading, spelling..all could be included. maybe a page for each subject? Otherwise maybe we can just bribe our kids and offer rewards for those who turn their work in on time? lol jus kiddin Mr. Curran. You're doing a great job - it's the curriculum that gravely concerns me...I also most certainly don't think you should have to give up your time for punishment. We most definately need to think of a different way. maybe as parents we can get some type of support/email thing going? I'd certainly be willing. Maybe we can organize an afterschool homework support group and/or blog - take turns? I'd be willing to help whereever I can. I'm limited now right now as to time frames, but weekends are great for me...let me know. I can't continue to 'allow' Noah to be this lackadaisical about spelling (reading better)
Tks for all you do Mr. C!
Ms. Davenport

Kelly Sparks said...

Great topic Mr. Curran! I've been concerned about all of the children and their attitudes towards school in general. As a parent (and occasionalsubstitute in the district)I believe that parents are just not aware. Our lives are hard, busy and fast paced and unfortunately, the children are suffering as a result. Too many families are happy to send their children to a seemingly clean, safe building and assume that all is well. The answer to your question is parent involvment. It is our responsibility to instill a good work ethic in our children. We have to teach them the value of hard work, not for fear of punishment, but for their own sense of accomplishment. Many of us go to work and have expectations to live up to daily. Our children should approach their schoolwork in the same manner. I think the district as a whole really needs to reach out to the families and ask them to take more responsibility for their childrens' academic success and hold them accountable. "Iron sharpens iron." In order to become better, you should surround yourself with others that strive to be better as well. I could go on and on... Bottom line...parents should reinforce the values that are necessary to have successful children in school and at home.

Additionally, children that are capable should be given more challening homework like the Problem of the Week. That assignment gets full family participation in our home. We all enjoy it.

Thanks for all that you do and keep up the good work!

Mrs. Sparks