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Hitting the Homework Doldrums


English: Homework

English: Homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have posted before on the subject of homework but it is always good to have a different perspective.  Below is a post from FlyLady on the topic. In Ontario, homework may be marked, it is not supposed to be part of a child’s mark.  In teacher lingo, any assessment of homework is formative assessment, not summative assessment.  The purpose is to reinforce what is taught at school, usually in the way of practice.  However, that is not the case everywhere:

From FlyLady.net 
Homework Problems and Solutions

Homework is one of the biggest issues that parents and teachers work on together – and it’s one of the things that kids hate most about school.  One of our

educational myths is that all children need to do homework every night.  Research tells us that for elementary school children, homework has little or no effect on academic achievement.  A head start on establishing good study habits is probably the most positive outcome from elementary homework – that, and an opportunity for parents to keep track of their child’s progress in the curriculum.  Homework in middle school has a moderate effect on achievement, but it’s really during high school that homework becomes an important factor for academic progress.

Parents are often concerned about the amount of time their children spend on homework – either too much or too little.  Many school systems have a “rule of thumb” about the appropriate amount of homework: ten minutes per grade level is the most common.  So your first grader should have 10 minutes of homework, your fifth grader should have 50 minutes of homework, and so forth.  By the time students are in high school, a general expectation is 1 to 2 hours of homework

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: TJCoffey)

every evening.

Another policy issue is the effect of homework on the final grade.  Many students get poor grades because they don’t do homework and get zeroes in the grade book.  In my school system, the homework policy recommends that homework be no more than 15% of the grade in elementary and middle school, and no more than 20% in high school.

We all know that homework can make evenings a living hell. When children have piles of homework every night in elementary and middle school, it’s often because they aren’t finishing their work at school.  In other words, they’re doing a day’s worth of work, plus homework, every evening.  I’d cry too!  Your child may be really struggling with the school work, or he may need to develop organized study habits.  In any case, if homework seems excessive or if your child gets upset every night, it’s time to take four steps:

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: Hades2k)

-Find out if your school or school system has an official homework policy, and read it.

-Schedule a parent/teacher conference.

-Establish a homework routine

-Work out an incentive system for homework completion.

The first step is to find out if there is an official homework policy.  In my school system, it’s under School Board Policies on the system website.  If you can’t find it, ask the teacher.  If there isn’t one, you have an excellent project to suggest to the principal, the superintendent, or a school board member.  The homework policy gives you an idea of how much time your child should be spending on homework and how it affects grades.

The second step is to schedule a parent/teacher conference.  Teachers want children to complete assignments and learn the material, but they also want children and families to have time at home to relax.  Your goal at the conference is to find out two things:

-How much time the teacher expects homework to take every night.

-What’s going on in class that’s causing the problem if your child’s homework load is greater than it should be.

Then it’s your turn to tell the teacher how much time your child’s homework is actually taking, and share any observations you have about your child’s work or work habits.  If your child is forgetting to bring home assignments and books, ask about setting up a check-out system at the end of each day.  If your child is fooling around all day and not completing work, suggest a home/school behavior plan.  If your child is struggling with the work, ask about academic interventions and progress-monitoring.  Write down the plan, and schedule a follow-up conference.  Be clear about what the teacher will do and what you will do.  Involve student support staff (school psychologist, guidance counselor, school nurse) as necessary.

Teachers can also offer accommodations to help your child complete homework.  This is very common for children with special needs.  Here are some ideas to discuss:

-Agree to the amount of time the child will work at home. The teacher will then accept the work that was completed and give a grade based on what the child actually finished.

-Reduce the homework load.  For example, having a reduced spelling list or only doing the odd math problems.

-Do the assignments a little differently.  For example, write one word answers instead of complete sentences for social studies questions.  Dictate longer answers to a parent, or use a computer for writing.  Allow a parent to read the assignment to the child, or take turns reading.

The third and fourth steps are to establish a homework routine and an incentive system.  Some children can get homework done pretty much independently, and it isn’t an issue.  Others, though, drag their families through three and four hours of crying and screaming every night.  Life is too short for that!  The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has an excellent homework survival guide for parents on their website.  Go towww.nasponline.org, select the Families tab, find the Back to School section, and select Homework: A Guide for Parents.  Peg Dawson, a school psychologist from New Hampshire, has a lot of suggestions about setting up routines and reward systems.  I’ll briefly summarize her points:

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: MarkGuitarPhoto)

-Set up a routine for where and when homework will be done.  Choose a place, and set up a homework center with supplies and a calendar for due dates. Remember that some children do best in a quiet spot away from the family, but others need to be near Mom or Dad for help and supervision.  Do homework at the same time every day.  Some children do best if they get it finished up as soon as they get home from school, but others need to play or

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

relax first.

-Help your children set a homework schedule every day.  Sit down with them for a minute or two and review their assignments, make sure they have all the necessary materials, set time limits for each assignment, decide in what order to do the assignments, and schedule in a break or two.

-Set up a system of rewards for homework completion.  Some children do fine if they just have something good to look forward to when homework is finished, like a favorite TV show.  Others need something a little fancier, like earning points towards a bigger reward.

Computers are often used to complete homework ...

Computers are often used to complete homework assignments. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

-Write a homework contract that states expectations and rewards.

Different children need different homework routines.  Children need to be part of the discussion and planning for their own homework routine, because you are teaching them to be responsible for their own learning.  The big decisions are: Where will homework be done, when will homework be done, what are the rewards for completing homework appropriately, and what are theconsequences for failing to complete homework appropriately?

It’s your job as a parent to provide the setting and structure your children need to

English: Don't waste your time and do your hom...

English: Don’t waste your time and do your homework! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

complete homework.  It’s also important to provide the supplies and organizational tools your children need.  Supplies include paper, pencils, markers, ruler, calculator, and glue stick.  A timer helps many kids keep on track.  The most important organizational tool is a calendar.  At the beginning of the year, write down school holidays and the dates report cards come out.  As the year progresses, keep track of field trips, picture day, conferences, science fair, SAT dates, and due dates for assignments – especially long-term ones.

Homework, guerrilla style

Homework, guerrilla style (Photo credit: jbloodgood)

Some children are motivated and rewarded by grades.  Others need external rewards and consequences.  Adults like to talk about what “should” motivate kids, but the truth is that grades aren’t important to everyone.  Start where your child is when it comes to rewards and consequences!  Some children are motivated to do homework by the promise of TV or computer time after it’s finished.  Others need the opportunity to earn points towards a bigger reward.  Some children need immediate rewards.  Others like to work toward a bigger weekly reward.  Here’s a sample homework contract for a sixth grader named Dana:

Homework Contract

Dana agrees to: Bring her assignment sheet home every night.

A homework diary of a Japanese elementary scho...

A homework diary of a Japanese elementary school student. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bring home the books she needs for the assignments.

Fill out a homework schedule as soon as she gets home.

Follow the homework schedule.

Work at the kitchen table while Mom gets dinner.

Ask for help when she needs it.

Place completed homework in her backpack.

Mom agrees to: Help Dana fill out the homework schedule every day.

Keep the homework center stocked with supplies.

Help Dana when she asks for help.

Let Dana be responsible for her own homework.

Motivators:       If Dana completes homework appropriately all week, she can

-skip all chores on Friday

-sleep in Saturday morning

-earn points towards a guitar

-one point for each completed assignment

-one point = 25 cents

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: shareski)

Consequence:  No TV or cell phone on any night Dana doesn’t finish homework in a reasonable amount of time and with a good attitude.

If you have a child who is struggling with homework, pick just one of these four steps to get started.  Look up the homework policy online, or touch base with the teacher.  Set up a homework center, or get a calendar and write down assignments.  Just get started, and add steps as you can.  In the end, you’ll have a

Homework Review

Homework Review (Photo credit: Rice and D)

solution to the homework problem.

Our very own education specialist Alice Wellborn is now a regular contributor at FlyLady.net and we are thrilled to share her wise words with all of you. Alice is a school psychologist and the author of the amazingly helpful book No More Parents Left Behind. Get the book at: No More Parents Left Behind

You can follow Alice on Facebook here
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Calling Teachers from All Nations


INTERNATIONAL TEACHER READERS

TO INTERNATIONAL TEACHER WRITERS

Student and teachers trying out KEEP IT! versi...

Student and teachers trying out KEEP IT! version one - Kakamega at KEEP Saturday school. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fellow teachers, we can learn so much from each other. Every country has its own traditions and attitudes concerning education. In some countries there is not enough money and in others there seems to be more than is necessary.

Wittenberg International Student Party

(Photo credit: Matt Cline)

Teachers, please write in and tell us about the educational system in your country. How does it work for average students? Are there provisions for students with learning difficulties? How do you deal with your very bright students? What is a school day like for a teacher?

What is it like to be a teacher in your country? Are teachers respected? Are they as well paid as others with the

Studying for the chance to become a teacher

Studying for the chance to become a teacher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

same education? Do you feel that you have been trained well enough to do your job? Are you able to get more training each year after you have become a teacher?

Parents, what do you need to do to keep your child learning? Do you have to pay for school? Is there a point where you can’t afford to have your children in school? What is the most important thing your school or your classroom or the students need? What hinders learning most where you teach?

Word Press keeps a statistics page for each blog. Just recently they have added a

School-kids-going-to school

School-kids-going-to school (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

list of countries from where we are being read. I have been vaguely aware of having readers from our neighbours to the south and from the United Kingdom but I had no idea that there are readers from half way around the world and the Southern Hemisphere.

Please write.

You may send something you would like to see published as a post and it will be published (with some

Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkan...

Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkand. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915. Français : Enfants juifs avec leur professeur à Samarkand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

editing if necessary) under your name. All comments that fall within the guidelines will be published unless that your comment not be published. If there are a number of unpublished comments from different countries, I will write a post combining the information, without attributing anything.

OTHER STATISTICS

mahatma gandhi university

mahatma gandhi university (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Word Press also shows a list of posts viewed and by how many viewers; a list of referrers and how many were used; a list of search engine terms and a list of clicks i.e. which links I have provided that my readers have clicked on – and which ones. These statistics are given by the day, week, quarter, year and from the beginning of the blog. They are an immense help in assessing what is of interest to readers. If I am trying to decide which avenue to pursue, the stats help.

Child with teacher in Mauritius

Child with teacher in Mauritius (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below are the ten most read posts over the history of the blog and the top ten views by country. You can see why it would be so worthwhile to hear from other teachers in other countries.

Current Top Ten Posts:

R on the Report Card Does Not Mean F (Failure)

French Immersion: Is It Accessible to All Students?

Gifted and “Education for All”

Should Elementary Teachers Work Longer Hours for Less Pay than Secondary Teachers?

Math - Teacher Education

Math - Teacher Education (Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman)

Acronyms and Abbreviations for Educational Terms

Neglecting the Education of Children with Learning Disabilities

Is French Immersion a Money Maker for School Boards?

For Teachers: Some Charts Based on “Education for All”

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part One of Three

Inclusive Education in Practice

Sackville EFI Protest

Sackville EFI Protest (Photo credit: Harold Jarche)

See: New Brunswick’s Three Options for FSL Delivery

Top Ten Views by Countries

Canada United States India Philippines Brazil New Zealand Jamaica Australia Malaysia United Kingdom

Elementary School in Chittoor,AP,India. This s...

Elementary School in Chittoor,AP,India. This school is adopted by Aashritha under the 'Paathshaala' project. The school currently educates 70 students. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Related articles

Concerning Comments From Readers


My policy is to post all comments from readers provided that they are not abusive, illegal or fattening.  I do have one other constraint:  I am not comfortable in posting comments which refer to specific teachers, children, parents or schools by name or in a way that makes it easy for the general public to identify any of them.

You may have noticed that my criticism about education has largely been about ineffective systems which either cheat our children of reasonable educational attainment or load their teachers with demands that make them less effective in teaching our children.   I do try to temper my annoyance with leaders in education who buy into these systems because they are more interested in their careers than the education of children.

After twenty years in the system I still believe that almost all teachers have the interests of their students at heart and do their best to act in those interests.  I might disagree with their means but I rarely quarrel with their sincerity.  Some teachers are so tired either because they are overwhelmed by their teaching situation or an extra-curricular problem or illness, that they must reduce their efforts in the classroom if they are to survive.  Few teachers last long in the classroom if they suffer from any serious health problem.

It is tempting sometimes to pillory a teacher who has got up your nose in some way, especially if your child is involved.  Before you throw the first stone, however, ask yourself what stories might be put about if 30 pairs of young eyes watched you at work for six hours a day, every day.  Then imagine the mouths taking home stories about what they had seen and heard you do during the six hours.   Ask yourself if you have ever seen a child slant a story to get out of trouble, to show herself in a good light, to illustrate her personal biases or just for the excitement of making it bigger than it is when she shares it with her friends.

Then pillory the teacher if you can.

Schools can be very small communities so naming a school can make it very easy to identify the people involved.  Since critical comments often involve events which happen quickly in response to an incident, I am reluctant to embarrass people who are doing the best they can with what they know at the time.  When it involves policy, the policy is often dictated by the board or agreed upon by the school council.  It is never as simple as it sounds.

All this to say, I will not publish comments that name schools, children, their teachers or parents.  School boards and their policies are fair game; they have consultants and lawyers and all sorts of people to help them get things right; when they don’t, it is usually not for lack of knowing what the best choice is: it is usually because the people who are ultimately accountable, the elected trustees, do not have the backbone to make that choice.  Weak spines are contagious and will eventually infect all the administration in a board.

Once More Into the Blog, Dear Readers


The Remains of the Dock

Events have rendered me unwilling to think about education and despairing of teachers in Ontario ever being treated as more than technicians in the near future.  I have not written about education for many months now, but the little girl next door is leaving her Montessori school to start grade one at our local school.   My niece is half way through high school and two young cousins are returning to the francophone primary school.  We talk about school:  what their parents like; what works for the children; the inequities; the little miracles wrought by their teachers; the rules, ridiculous and important; the children’s biases and prejudices.  For the most part both the parents and children recognise that compromises have to be made in what is essentially still an industrial model of education but sometimes I hear frustration in their voices.

I am surrounded by teachers, too.  Primary, Montessori, kindergarten to grade 8 French, high school language, supply, university psychology, adult ESL teacher trainers, graduate supervisors.  They all have their delights and concerns as they return to the classroom.  Sometimes one or two will honour me by turning over a problem with me or asking my advice and I get some insight into their particular corners of the teaching profession.

All of us see things which don’t make sense, which hinder teachers in their teaching, students in their learning and parents in their support of both.  So inevitably I want to write again to point out the illogical, the wasteful and the effective events taking place in our schools.  I want to talk about what does work, especially the simple easy techniques.

I have been looking over the many thoughtful comments I have received from readers.  Please keep them coming; even when I disagree with you, they provoke me to think and consider other possibilities.  Writing in a vacuum is a dangerous thing as the writer may begin to believe everything she writes.

Watch this space for more about equity for the learning disabled, sense in teaching second languages and reflections on morality.  I hope to eventually have some comments to make on university teaching, too.  One might say that teaching is a new discovery in all university faculties, except, perhaps the education faculties.  And I am not too sure about them!

Rebuilding the Dock

Next Steps: This Blog and Another


Teachers Outside the Box: First Anniversary

It has been a year since I started this blog.  I had no idea where I was going with it, only that I cared passionately about education and burned to write about it.  A number of people suggested a blog and a very dear family member took the time to set this up for me.  Writing for this blog has become an important part of my life.  Thank you to those who suggested it and many thanks to the dear soul who set it up for me and patiently answered my questions.

Returning to work

Next month I will be returning to work, very slowly, very carefully.  After over two years of illness it is going to seem rather strange and there will be considerable differences in the style of school, age group and demographic where I will eventually teach.

An Additional but Private Blog, by Subscription Only

I will be blogging about this new adventure but because of the nature of the adventure, it will be a private blog.  Colleagues, friends and family are welcome to contact me to subscribe to this blog.  From time to time there may be posts that can be made public.  The school is open concept, one of the few left.  It will be a new experience to teach in one and I hope to explore the literature on the origins of open concept schools.  Those kinds of posts will be suitable for this blog.

Who is Eligible & How to Subscribe

If you want to subscribe to the new blog, please let me know.  Most of you who are elegible know my e mail address but you can also just comment on this post and I will let you know how to subscribe without posting your comment to either blog.

I will continue to post to this blog because education and my observations and opinions about it won’t go away.  The posts may not be so frequent, but I do welcome contributors.