Friday June 10, 2016
My views on homework have changed and evolved over my 20+ years of teaching. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that traditional homework has done nothing to improve my students’ academic performance or their ability to think and learn. In fact, I believe it’s had somewhat of the opposite effect. When homework piled up, stress increased and students came back to school tired, overwhelmed and burnt out. I also found that students who had little support from parents or guardians with their homework (whether it be assisting them or encouraging them to get it done) tended to come back with it incomplete. This created a large gap in learning for my students who weren’t able to complete their homework.
Today, homework has evolved to home ‘share’. My students are now tasked a couple times a week to share a piece of writing with a parent, solve or explain their solution to a single “real math” problem or create one of their own. Parents are encouraged to write comments on their child’s work and initial it after their child has shared it with them. The result? Home ‘work’ is getting done much more consistently by all students within my classroom. Parents say they feel more involved in their child’s learning and the stress level within households has diminished. I’ve also found that creating a section in my blog for parents (Parent’s Page) with links to their child’s learning has done much to improve communication and engagement.
Today, after viewing ‘Homework in America vs Homework in Finland’ I created the above Home ‘work’ assignment and a form where my students can track their progress and reflect on their home ‘work’ after each week. I’m wondering what the implications may be.
Thanks @markbarnes19 for articulating so wonderfully your take on the idea in your podcast “Your Homework Assignment Is to Meditate, Volunteer, or Create” for your #Hack Learning Series! Thanks, also to all of you on Twitter who weighed in on the idea!
The PDF version of the above two visuals can be downloaded! Click on: Home”work”.
Update: Wednesday June 15
Although I was going to wait until September to give this new Home’work’ a try, after receiving so much interest and positive feedback on Twitter, I was excited to give it a whirl with my class during the last two weeks of school. At the end of the day on Monday June 13, I told my incredible group of students that they would be receiving 90 minutes of homework everyday, including weekends, until the end of the school year. There was a moment of complete silence and utter disbelief until they began reading the following note I had prepared for their parents:
The reaction after reading the note was one of relief and excitement. A flourish of questions followed and my students left for the day, looking forward to start their homework! On Tuesday, my students came back, excited to share how easy the homework was to complete, the things they had created, books they had started to read or continue to read and the types of exercise they had done. We had a discussion about “volunteering” and what that my look like (offering to help a neighbour, parent or sibling were all deemed to be good examples of volunteering). Interestingly, no one offered what they had talked to their parents about. A student inquired how he might meditate at home (we use the ‘Calm Classroom Initiative’ at school) and his peers offered him a number of suggestions. We also discussed the important of balance and challenging ourselves to try things that we haven’t done before. I also shared my Home’work’ chart with my class and told them what my goals for the week were and some of the challenges I anticipated having.
I also elicited initial reaction and input from the parents of my students (‘Initial Parent Feedback Re Home’work’). Their feedback and insights were invaluable in helping me be reflective as I continue to rethink and refine Home’work’.
Update: Monday July 4
Well, after trying my Home’work’ idea during the last two weeks of school, I am very pleased with the results. After the first week, 70% of my students returned to school with their completed homework sheets. The ‘reflection’ piece was somewhat lacking, but after giving some feedback and student exemplars , my kids proved to be very thoughtful and reflective with this part of their assignment. By Wednesday all but 2 of my 25 students had handed in their Home’work’ assignment. My students decided where they would keep their tracking sheets (at home or at school) and seemed committed to completing their Home’work’. At the start of each morning, we had a class discussion about what they did for Home’work’ the evening before, successes and next steps. My students were excited to share, and in doing so, motivated one another to continue with their quest for a more balanced lifestyle.There was no stress for all parties (kids/parents/teachers) involved and there was a general feeling of accomplishment and a sense of working together towards a common goal.
With all the excitement during the last week of school, there was less focus and discussion on our Home’work’, during week two of our trial. With that said, most my students had now taken ownership of their Home’work’ and continued to complete and track it on their own! Although time was limited, my students still came in each day wanting to share what they had accomplished the evening before! At the conclusion on week two, 75% of my students brought back their Home’work’ tracking sheets without prompting or reminders! They wanted to hand it in to me.
At the end of the two weeks, I elicited parent feedback and collected and reviewed student tracking sheets. My takeaways from my Home’work’ trial? I’ll definitely continue with this with my new grade 5/6 class in September. I’m still digesting and reflecting on all the data, with more reflection, I’m sure there will be modifications and changes. Importantly, I’ll also continue with my HomeShare initiative as I have had nothing my success with this type of after school activity. One thing is for certain, in my classroom, “traditional homework” has become a thing of the past.
I’ll continue to update with my thoughts and next steps. As always, your input is welcome!
Update: October 4, 2016
This update is in response to all the wonderful and thought provoking comments to this blog post. It also acts as a means to share my next steps and where I’m currently “at”with Home”work”.
All great and valid points and I appreciate all perspectives. My perspective comes from 20 years of teaching experience, in the same grade at the same school. I am also speaking from a parent’s perspective. My teaching practice has evolved and so must my parenting! If something is not working within our own classrooms or with our own children we must have the courage, passion and determination to change… to do better for our kids. If I’m being honest,” traditional homework” never really “worked” in my classroom(as explained in my post), not 20 years ago and certainly not today.
It was time to innovate for the better. Over the last five years I saw much success with HomeSHARE and tried my new type of Home”work” at the end of last year. This year I continue to leverage technology to connect in powerful ways with the most important stakeholders in our students’ education; their parents. The idea here is to make learning not feel like “work” but the sharing of our time, ideas, questions and answers. Our time is valuable and precious. If we can facilitate more communication about learning between home and school and our students and their parents, there is no doubt we’ll do better for our students than we may have done in the past.
For more information on the topic, visit my Parent’s Page to see how I’m engaging parents in their children’s learning and what HomeSHARE looks like. Also visit my blog post “The Power of Connections” Your input is always appreciated.
Update October 10, 2016
After connecting with my Parents (as explained above) and very successfully establishing “HomeSHARE”in the first month of school, I assigned my first Home”work” assignment on Thursday:
I encouraged my students to fill in a short survey with their parents upon completion of their Home”work”. Of the 21 students present 14 of the kids and their parents filled out the survey on Thursday evening. All but three approved me sharing their input on my blog. Below are the results of the survey. Thank you to all the parents and my students who provided feedback as I continue to rethink, restructure and reinvent “homework”!