This Ain't Your Momma's Homework

I had a parent ask about homework this week. They asked what is the purpose and then told me horror stories of when they were a child. I understand and even lived through a few of those homework horror years. When I started teaching I vowed I would not give homework unless I had to. I hated homework when I was a child. Do all the odd problems 1-75. It was terrible. Busy work. Tradition? Everyone was doing it? I am not sure the reason.

My team has put together a homework plan for the students to follow each night. We have decided that it should not be frivolous or busy work. After reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, we decided to add a little practice each night to help students build their learning. the 10,000 hour rule Gladwell talks about in his book was very interesting. Read the book, get the information, understand our thinking.

So we ask that each student works on vocabulary words 10 minutes a night for two nights, spelling word sorts for 10 minutes for three nights, math practice for 15 minutes for four, possibly five, nights, and reading to fill up the rest of the hour.

• Vocabulary includes looking up word meanings and writing an example of how to use the work in a sentence. It also includes answering a question the teacher gives the students. We review these words weekly for five weeks and on the sixth week we review all five sets of words to see what they remember about the words.

• Spelling has always intrigued me. Giving a set of words on Monday to memorize and spell on Friday only to spell them incorrectly when using one of the words in a story. Where is the learning in that? So we use Words Thier Way spelling to work on patterns in words. Building spelling patterns can help students recognize the patterns they hear to help them spell better. We have students do word sorts each night. They sort words into patterns and write them. This helps them recognize and find spelling patterns. There are different sorts we have students do for different learning. We have a test on Thursday to see how they are doing on their weekly words. Every six weeks we test the students to see if they learned their patterns and what new patterns they need help with.

• Math homework goes for fifteen minutes each night. Most nights we have students take 4-10 problems home to practice what we worked on that day. They are a review of the lesson and helps parents and teachers to know if the student is understanding the concept taught in class. We do not want parents teaching a concept at home. We ask for support from parents if the student needs it, but parents shouldn't have to teach the lessons. In the case of the student that does not understand something, instead of fighting and arguing with parents and causing grief at home we ask parents to sign the page and write that they tried. This keeps peace at home and let's us know the student needs a review of the information. There is no penalty for having a signature on the page. If a student does not complete homework assignment they will complete it at school. The ultimate goal of homework is to help us understand whether a students understands the concept they are taught. Having the student do a few problems themselves without a partner or teacher can give us that information.

• Reading for 25-30 minutes each night gives students information, helps comprehension, and speeds their reading fluency. Students can read anything they wish at home. We just want them to read. One thing we ask students to do is to read to someone each night for 5-10 minutes. Reading out loud helps with fluency. Fluency is speed, smooth, and expressive reading. Reading a pictures book to a sibling or a magazine or newspaper article to a parent helps give purpose to reading.

Homework should not be a time of arguing or fighting for parents or students. My team wants students to have a sense of motivation to want to do their homework. We want them to understand that a little extra work in fifth grade will go a long way to help them build their skills they learn to help them go far in their lives. Adults have homework each night. We just do not think of it as homework. We work on our homes and families. Bills and hobbies. Learning and understanding the world around us. We do not want students to think they are doing homework, we want them to think they are learning and helping themselves grow. This ain't the homework I remember. Thank goodness.

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