The Trouble With Homework

No other word drives a parent more crazy than Math homework. They know it is needed, but it gives parents the opportunity to teach their children how much they hate math and how they cannot do it. I hope that with a better homework plan that will change. I don't think we will ever change parents attitude for doing math, but we will end the frustration of parent and child sitting trying to complete a math page that neither understands. There needs to be a purpose and a need for homework. If there is not, there needs to be no homework for that night. There also needs to be a way out, if needed.

I was a teacher that did not like to hand out homework. I wanted the students to a go home and read each night and spend time doing a child's work (play). I never really knew what homework oils do for the student because when I was a student I was given busy work each night. Fifty math problems a night, with the answers in the back of the book. I don't think I ever learned anything doing homework. It was just something I did before I went out to play. I have changed my thought process. Our team has come up with a plan to make it more purposeful and meaningful for the students and the parents.

So what is the purpose for homework? To review what has been learned. Students need to review what has been learned so they can cement it into their minds. The learning does not end with the lesson. There needs to be practice. The homework should be a short practice page of what was learned that day. Short.
Another purpose is for the students to show their parents what they learned. We tell them to go. Home and teach their parents what they learned and if they say they are not good at math, teach them to be good at math. Show them how to do the problems. The student becomes the teacher and learns more by teaching.
Students need a way out if they cannot do the work. There needs to be a "parent signature" clause for our homework. If the student does not understand the work and the parent does not understand how to help or what they are doing, the parent can sign the pare and write a little note saying "we tried". This will let us know the student did not understand the work and we'll go over the problems and algorithms again. It also prevents frustration for the parents and students at home. We do not want frustration with any homework. We want them to understand it and feel they can do the problems.
One last reason for homework is we want students to learn how to work. We want them to understand that they can work on something and give it their best work, even if they do not succeed at it. We want them to learn tolerance for work. They will have work that will take them time to complete and will be done in small pieces. This is important for students to learn as they grow.

The problem with homework is that when it is used as a tool to give students something to do after school or because the book said to, we teach students to hate homework. That just produces people that hate homework.

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Is there a Learner in the House?

I was reading about the student vs. the learner in schools. David Warlick has a great chart showing the difference between the two.

Since reading this I have talked to my brother-in-law about this same concept and his take on it is that some teachers still have that need for control in the classroom. If we are going to teach the students how to work cooperatively, be able to work in teams, and to learn, we are going to have to let go of the control and get to the actual learning. Lecturing the students does not help them remember much. They will glean information, but gleaning is not learning.

I have looked at what our team is doing and how much time we spend talking to the students and not having them participate or talk to the class. We are about 60-40. That is so much better than what we used to be. It more like 90-10. I still feel we need to be more like 40-60. As a teacher, I still need to get the information of how I want the students to show me what they have learned and they still need me to give them some information. The reattach thing is that when we have taunt the students to learn the information themselves, they can find most of the information themselves. After we have taught them what to do with the information after they have found it, they can lead a discussion, or learn from others by listening and discussing.

Teachers like control. I can admit it. We like to set the rules and have a quiet class with no one getting out of their seats. We don't want anyone talking with their neighbors because they might cheat. These are the old rules. These are the old attitudes. We need students to become learners. Students want to learn. We just need to show them how and then stand back and be quiet so they can do the talking. So they can do some learning. If we do this, we will become the guides and facilitators of the information we want them to learn

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Back to School for the Teacher

I have started taking English Language Learner classes. I have been fighting the system and doing the bare minimum with my endorsements, but it has come time that I do what is needed and get it done. I need to help my team and the students in fifth grade and so I need to buddy up and help. Getting my ELL endorsement will give me more strategies to help all the students. I do love to learn. So my question is this. Shouldn't all teachers learn these strategies to use with all their students? The best strategies I learned in college were the ones I learned in my Special Education classes. Shouldn't they be taught to all teachers?

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You Got Some Splaining To Do

Our Fifth Grade Team was asked to talk at a Title One meeting in Northern Utah. At first we looked at our schedules to see if that would be possible. Then we looked at what we were teaching to see what we would have to turn over to a substitute to teach. Some concepts are best to teach ourselves and, even though we have great subs, have the sub teach something else. We finally worked it out and we will be heading up on Friday. We will be talking about what we did to help our students do so well on the year end tests. There are so many things that we did and so many ideas we tried to get going last year that it would be hard to narrow them down

Our district Superintendent of Elementary Education visited with our school a couple of years ago and told us to "think out of the box". We were in the middle of the legislative time when our state lawmakers were deciding whether to take away days from the teachers to learn and prepare for the school year. He wanted us to do what we could to help our students with less money and less days to prepare our lessons in. So our school went to it and came up with a few things to change, morph, or get rid of. This was the start of what we did to help our students.

We looked at a few things to change in each subject in our grade level. We refined our lesson plans in Social Studies and put the lessons and activities on a wiki. Spelling became more of a focus and we added word sorts and Kagen Activities to help practice their words. Science was retooled and we took the lessons, added experiments and activities, and limited the lecturing where possible. Guests were invited to help teach the curriculum. Zion National Park Ranges aight about land forms and erosion while Discovery Gateway sent a presenter to show off experiments with matter. We wanted the students to have fun with what they were learning, but we made sure the learning was happening.

When we tested, we added two little things that made a big difference to the testing outcome. We tested in our own rooms to make the students feel comfortable and we made them explain their answers. We take all our year end test on computers. Testing in our rooms helped the students feel like they were taking another test in our rooms instead of taking the test in the computer lab where we visit once a week. We had parent volunteers sign up and get trained on the ethics of testing and on how to be in the testing environment and observe, but not help the students. Parents were not allowed to be the same rooms as their students.

Having the students explain their answers helped them focus to get the right answers. It made the students that hurry through the test slow down and have to think about why they answer the questions. We had them fold a paper into 32 squares and show their work in math or explain their answer in language and science. When the test finished, they turned in their scratch paper to the Escher to look over and then destroy. Students are allowed to u scratch paper on all tests, the paper just needs to be destroyed after the test.

These are not the end of what we will do the help our students succeed, but they are the start of our journey to helping these kids succeed.

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