Homework… Blah

As I sit here in my “summer” I begin to wonder about the Fall and what my daughter will encounter in 3rd grade! I taught in a regular Ed classroom for 10 years, in a variety of grade levels, and always wondered about homework. Yes, homework.

Here are a few questions that I always pondered…

1) Did the kids even care to finish their homework?

2) Were they getting anything out of their homework?

3) Did they remember anything from the school day that was reviewed in their homework?

4) Why do teachers call it a “homework packet”?  (I hated that name and refused to use it)

5) Did parents even look at their child’s homework?

6) Should I even send homework home?

The answer to most of the questions above is NO! Homework has been just another “thing” for the kids to forget at home and then for me to hound them about until Friday. I tried to be creative when I sent homework home and gave out prizes for kids that returned it early. I went the complete other direction and gave harsh punishments for late homework. But in reality the kids didn’t get anything out of their homework and I didn’t even grade it because the district I worked in had a no grading homework policy.

The real question is…. Should homework being meaningful and dare I say FUN???? And the answer is a loud and strong YES!

This whole theory of meaningful homework really hit home with me this year with my own child. She would sit down, knock out her “packet” on Monday night and then wait to turn it in on Friday. It was the typical spelling words three times, reading passage, and then some math worksheet. (You know you are guilty of the same crime.)

For the first couple of months my daughter would take care of her homework with ease. Then came November… The 8 year old comes home and says that she doesn’t want to do her homework because it is not for a grade and it is boring. We now have a problem! I of course knew the homework policy and agreed with her about the boring aspect, but we pushed through and got it done with lots of whining and persuasion.

As the months went on homework really started to become an issue. My kiddo that could sit down and knock it out in 20 minutes had to be persuaded to sit down on Thursday night to start her homework. I asked her what she wanted to do for homework and she said she wanted to research pigs and make a poster with QR codes. We sat at the computer together for 30 minutes with no whining, crying, or pouting. Dare I say she even smiled while doing homework.

It then occurred to me that homework needs to change. I’m not asking for an elaborate project every week (we all know that parents like to “help” a little too much when it comes to home projects). I wanted something meaningful for my daughter that gave her “choice”.  Maybe practice the same skills but give the student the ability to be creative or inventive. Crazy idea I know!

I tried my hardest to push this issue, but there came a point where I didn’t want to push my daughters’ teacher too far because I know overwhelming teaching can be. I sat back and reflected and knew that something would come to me in the future.

Jump ahead a few months and I am sitting in a conference listening to a speaker who tells the group that the word homework should not be used anymore. I was so excited because someone was on the anti-homework train with me. She encouraged us to assign missions instead of homework. I envisioned sending home 10 minute task that students could complete on their own or with minimal parent help. This form of homework would be fun and give you a quick snapshot into the students’ head. I also envisioned students coming to school excited to share their completed missions and everyone having their missions completed. Of course the missions would take a little time to plan, but I feel like the end products of the missions greatly outweigh the time spent planning.

I do hope that this blog post encourages teachers to think outside of the box and encourage you to make changes with your homework. Homework doesn’t have to be mundane and boring. It can be creative, include higher ordered thinking, and be fun for students if you put forth a little effort and give students choice.

As you start planning your classroom for the fall think about missions. What are some missions that you want to see your kids complete? Would you rather complete a mission during in-service or fill out a worksheet?

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