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Understanding who is responsible for what in doing homework. A guide from Maggie Mamen’s book: The Pampered Child Syndrome. Continue reading

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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

When zero is not allowed, what is the difference between a student who doesn’t do assignments and a student who is on an Individual Education Program?


It is common to accommodate a student on an Individual Education Plan due to a disability either intellectual or physical, by reducing her workload if that is appropriate.  For example, an English teacher might require a student to answer one of two questions as thoroughly as every one else in the class.  For the second question he might jot down a few words to remind him of his thoughts on a possible answer, if he had time.  He will meet requirements of the assignment by thinking about both questions, but reducing the amount of writing required would accommodate his dysgraphia.

I should add that there are many other forms of accommodation.  Shortening the amount of work is only one but sometimes a useful one.

Gifted students on an IEP may have the number of questions they do for math practice reduced as they do not need as many to cement the concept.  Instead, the teacher may assign problems that take them farther into the concept.

You can see where this is leading.  What a teacher assigns and the amount she assigns is tied in to how much work she believes is needed to learn the material.  If you have read my four posts “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” you will remember that repetition AKA practice is necessary for learning skills.

If a student is not on an IEP, does a teacher have a moral right to change the program he used his expertise, experience and professional judgement to design just to accommodate a normal student who hasn’t handed in some assignments?

Consistently not doing work is a behaviour problem and those who are best equipped to deal with them should be informed: parents, guidance counsellors, principals, vice principals.  In the meantime, teachers should be allowed to get on with what they were trained to do.  And that includes assessment

Do we really want our future doctor, lawyer, builder of bridges, electrician or plumber accepted to train in their professions even though they had missed parts of their math or physics or English classes?  If they find zeroes discouraging, let them ask for help.  If they don’t want to learn enough to ask for help, please don’t lie to the public by indicating they have actually passed a course.

Announcing a new blog: for Teaching Outside the Box


http://teachingideasoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/

The new blog is intended to be an adjunct to this one. While this blog is largely a commentary on education, the new blog will offer practical information. In a few months I will be retiring from formal teaching within a school board but I can’t stop spilling over with ideas for teaching. Rather than leave them to simmer, I will be posting them there. I will also post some of my favorite ideas from the past 25 to 30 years of teaching.

There will rarely be fully fledged lessons or units, nor will they be necessarily specific to a grade. I have adapted grade twelve units to be used in a grade eight class and seen those units adapted to use in a grade five class. Sometimes they will be a full lesson or a full unit or a cross subjects lesson. Whatever they are, I do ask you to give me credit on any written document.

Why won’t they be fully fledged? To be frank, I have never taken a lesson and done it just as it was written, even if I created it and used it satisfactorily the year before. There are always too many new factors such as new information, a crossover from another subject, the class’s interest, different time limits and I am sure you can add to that list. I also got bored doing the same thing twice in exactly the same way.

If you want help adapting or designing anything I post, especially if it is meant for gifted or other IPRC’d students, I would be happy to come and work with you if your school is within an easy distance of Ottawa or Toronto. I am also on Skype and on Skype, I can consult even if you are on the other side of the earth.

Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views  2

Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views 2 (Photo credit: dugspr — Home for Good)

What can I help you with? I have taught every grade from two to eight (ages 8 to 13) and as a supply teacher, I taught everything. I have taught adults and I am a qualified teacher of English as a Second Language. I am a specialist in teaching children with special needs, especially gifted and learning disabled. I hold a masters in adaptive education. The best fun I have ever had in education, besides teaching itself, was having student teachers in my classrooms. I loved encouraging them to try new things and watching them grow in confidence.

So, if I can help, let me know.

Diane

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline (Photo credit: Bobolink)

Follow Up to Falsely Accused Teacher


Some comments of my own on the next CBC article:  A few years ago I went hunting for scholarly articles on abuse of teachers and false accusations.  I found nothing.  Virtually everything was about children.  Male teachers are certainly at risk and one article I found stated that women over forty are at risk.  It didn’t speculate about why.

My own speculations?  Women over 40 are more vulnerable. They may need the job due to divorce or vested interest in the pension plan as a single person or due to starting their career teaching late or having interrupted it for family.  Yes, men need theirs, too, but at 40 a woman teacher often has a lot further to go before she reaches her 85 factor (that’s the sum of her age plus years of service) and even then she gets less.

A teacher with uninterrupted years of service from the age of 25, can retire at the age of 55.   He won’t have the maximum pension possible, but it will be respectable.  Should he choose to go on to the age of 6o i.e. 35 years of service in this scenario, he will retire with the maximum pension possible.  That is only if he starts teaching at 25 and is uninterrupted until age 55 or 60.

How is the pension calculated?  It is 2%  of the average of the 5 best years of salary per year of service up to 70% of salary.  This hypothetical teacher who started young can retire with either 60% or 70% of salary depending on when he opts to retire.

Now let us look at the woman of 40.  Let us assume she delayed entering teaching until she was 35, ten years older than the other teacher.  She will be 60 when she reaches her 85 factor but she will only receive 25 x 2 = 50% of salary as pension.  Should she hang in there until 65, she will have reacher her 95 factor. but she will only receive 60% of salary as pension.

In many cases a woman teacher is in her second career and cannot afford to quit teaching unless she has worked out a good fall back position for retirement.  Women know how close they are to an impoverished old age.

Women over forty are less attractive.  It shouldn’t matter.  It does.  As a (male) friend of mine put it, watching a twenty something preen as her looks got her to the front of the line at a club and a drink that someone else paid for: “Enjoy it, sweetheart, because in twenty years you will be invisible”.   A female teacher over 40 better have several arrows to her bow or she had better be out running to stay in shape and to run in the cancer races with the board supervisors.  It’s a good idea ladies, to die your hair blonde, wear some snug leather skirts or jackets and occasionally show a little cleavage.  Look around at women who are now becoming vice principals or principals.  There are a few invisible women but most of them are only seen without makeup when it melts off their faces at the end of a race.

So women over 40 lose part of their value just by virtue of their age.  For some they are valued less because they are women.  Sure their education,  hard work and character are valued (by some) but for some people, they are valued less because they are teachers.  There are a number of reasons why teachers are automatically devalued.

People with the same education and years in as teachers figure that if the teachers were worth anything, they would be doing a job that pays more.  People with less education may resent authority figures.  And for some people the simple act of telling someone to do something is seen as bullying.  A woman asking their son to do something is even worse.  This is anecdotal, but my observations have been that mothers (and fathers) are most likely to come to the defence of their sons.

Most people underestimate the education, experience and skill it takes to run a classroom.  Because the 30 people in the room are children, it can’t be that difficult.  It’s really babysitting and that is … women’s work.  Many parents think they know better; I have had one lout, a director general, tell me in front of his son that the book he had chosen from the ones I had offered for study was boring,  The DG had found a book intended for a thirteen year old boring.  This man also presumed to tell me how to run my classroom.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why Do Students Want to Take Down Teachers


Teachers

Teachers (Photo credit: iwannt)

In a recent post, I quoted words used in a search that ended up at my blog.  I listed eight incidents of which I had direct knowledge. In each one a teacher had been the target of an attempt to take him or her down.

The first question is why.  As you probably surmised from the list, most these students want to get back at the teacher.  Usually the student didn’t get the mark desired, sometimes the student was disciplined for misbehaving and sometimes there was a personality clash.  Occasionally a student was mentally ill but usually there is an element of revenge when students set out to take down a teacher.

The second reason is because she can.   Without believing she can take down a teacher, a student’s thoughts of revenge remain a daydream, a bitching session with a friend or some complaining over supper.  Thoughts of revenge dwindle over time and the student may come to terms with the source of annoyance.

When revenge is not a reasonable option, a student has an opportunity to learn better ways to deal with perceived unfairness. Perhaps she may acknowledge to herself that the mark or the discipline were earned even if the student thought they were a little excessive.  Perhaps she may talk to the teacher about what is bothering her.  Perhaps she may enlist her parents’ help in talking to the teacher.

However, in England, the USA and Canada, there are many cases that demonstrate students can take down teacher or at the very least, make their lives hell.  And they can do it with relative ease.  How do they have that power?  Why are children able to cause such havoc in the lives of hard working, caring, decent adults?

Initially students are believed when they make a charge of sexual assault or a vague form of harassment.  This is a hangover from the days when the standard belief was that children don’t lie.  This standard was a reaction to a long period when adults refused to believe children who claimed that apparently respectable adults were molesting them.

That refusal was understandable.  Even Freud, who had at first believed women when they described early traumas of molestation and incest, was persuaded by colleagues that the women must be making it up.

1. There is some controversy as to whether Freud did indeed change his mind.  Chief proponent of it seems to be J. M. Masson in his 1984 book, The Assault on Truth.  Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory.

We now realise that if a child can lie about taking a chocolate bar or other things, she can lie about more serious things.  Most children have been brought up to understand how wrong it is to lie and very wrong to lie about serious things. Unfortunately, some children tell the truth, some exaggerate and some do lie.  And some lie deliberately to hurt other people.

Because of the climate of believing children on the subject of abuse, teachers and others are often perceived as guilty until proven innocent.  Whatever happens in the courts, in the disciplinary hearings run by their employers it becomes clear that the burden of proof is on the adult to prove herself not guilty.

All of this makes teachers an easy target.  At the very least they will suffer the pain of being removed from the class while the accusation is investigated.  What more they will suffer, I can only leave to your imagination.

How Active Should a Toddler Be? How Active Can a Toddler Be? Participaction Has it Right.


Boy toddler. Español: Un niño corriendo. فارسی...

When my children were small we lived on the French/Swiss border. One of the little pleasures in my life was joining the Flower Walks conducted by an English horticulturist. They were held on a Wednesday mornings, which meant I had to bring my small boys along as schools are shut in France on Wednesdays (they open Saturday morning instead). They were welcomed, their questions answered seriously and their occasional antics tolerated so long as they didn’t damage the flowers. Before my oldest could read, he could use the index of the flower book to find the page for a flower.

The boys (aged 5 and 3) had no trouble keeping up, partly because we stopped frequently to examine specimens and partly because we walked everywhere on the steep roads in the small village we lived in. When their sister came along, she joined us, first in a stroller, then walking, with the stroller along in case she got tired.

We were due to return to Canada just before she turned two. The last flower walk of the year was always an all day one and a walk up a mountain to see the alpine flowers. There was no way we could take a stroller. By then the boys were six and eight and experienced walkers so I decided to go. My daughter was a good little walker, we did stop a lot and I could carry her if she got tired.

It was one of the best flower walks. The boys managed very well. When we walked through one area with large hummocks too far apart for the six-year-old’s small legs to stretch, someone gave him a hand to jump. I carried his sister through that area.

Sometimes, one of my fellow walkers would offer to carry her. Most of the time, she walked on her own sturdy legs. The older boy bounded ahead with his precious flower book, chatting a mile a minute and asking all sorts of questions.

I suppose there was some whining, but I don’t remember doing much. The boys enjoyed themselves and my daughter, a social child, enjoyed the people as well as the adventure. When we arrived back at the rendezvous point, a parking lot near my husband’s work, all four of us felt energetic enough to drop in on his farewell party. We were invited to join them, but rather than push our luck, I let the kids make the rounds of guests they knew, help themselves to some party food and we headed home while everyone was still charmed.

How were my children able to manage a day walking up and then down a mountain over the course of a morning and an afternoon? As soon as my kids could walk, I stopped using the stroller. On a long walk or if I was going grocery shopping, I would take it with me. I let the toddler choose when she needed to ride. The thing is that babies and toddlers take pride in walking and running so the stroller isn’t needed often.

Wasn’t safety an issue? Yes. When we were on city streets where there was no boulevard between us and the cars, I slipped a harness over the toddler and held the reins.

You might object that this is like leashing a dog. One of the reasons we leash our dog is so he doesn’t run out in traffic. I rarely needed to use the harness more than a couple of times, because the kids preferred to be independent. The deal was if they kept away from the road, stopped and waited for me at corners and did what I said immediately, they wouldn’t need the harness. They learned early that safety came first and they could take control, or I would. I wish my dog had trained that quickly.

I preferred the harness to using a bracelet linked to the adult or even holding hands because the toddler had her hands free and was less likely to get her shoulder wrenched if she did fall. I preferred the toddler free and thinking about safety to the harness. I certainly wouldn’t have used it on the flower walks, as we tended to walk through lanes and fields and meadows.

One day I saw a nanny who probably didn’t weigh more than 100 pounds pushing a stroller with two pre-schoolers in it. The stroller plus the children must have weighed more than her. I wanted to ask her what was wrong with these children that neither of them could walk. I am sure the children’s parents spent money to

Looking north across East 20th St as jogger pu...

Who is getting the exercise? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

exercise in a gym while denying their children the opportunity to do what comes naturally.

Let your children go. Yes, they will walk slower than you, so plan to walk more slowly. This is a good time to listen to them talk, observe their world as they see it. It is amazing how fascinating a garbage truck and a snow plow can be. Reading the names on manhole covers can teach you a lot about your community’s history; it’s good prereading for your child, too.

So leave the stroller behind, teach your child how to walk safely beside the road and get to know her and her community. If she grows up to be a walker, as my three have, she will never need to shell out for a gym or worry about her weight.

Below are Participaction’s guidelines for activity levels for the under fours:

http://www.participaction.com/en-us/Get-Informed/Physical-Activity-Guidelines/Guidelines-for-the-Early-Years-0-4-Years.aspx