Middle School

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Teacher Talk Back: The Scoop on Homework

Like it or hate it, homework is an important part of your child’s education.  Here’s why.

This article is from a mother of two who teachers junior students in a rural community in Canada.

Homework is viewed differently depending on the teacher, the grade, the amount of homework, and individual families. I’ve taught in classrooms where some families asked for more work, while others felt there was too much work. Why are there so many opinions about homework?

Homework 2 - teacher talk back: the scoop on homeworkWHO’S WORK IS IT ANYWAY?
Questions about homework begin with student responsibility. Are children being taught that their homework is their own responsibility and not that of their parents or guardian? Not always. Children say “Mom wasn’t home last night”, or “I had soccer” when they feel their homework is not their responsibility.

Students in my class recognize that although they may need assistance at home, the homework is to be done by them. Parents can support their children by giving suggestions when they’re stuck. When the responsibility is taken away from children, they may not learn to take the initiative for their own learning. Students who complete the work themselves store the material in their long-term memory and identify themselves as learners. As active learners, they develop self-confidence, independence, and problem-solving skills. Increased involvement in student education is a positive trend. However, some parents become too involved and end up completing the work for their child. The child is not learning about the material or developing the required skills. It’s also not fair to other students in the classroom whose parents aren’t able to help. Parents have different backgrounds (education, first and second languages) and some parents have more time to help or complete projects than other parents. Students who complete the work by themselves may be at a short term disadvantage.

Homework is given to prepare students for material they will be taught, to practice the material they have learned, or to extend their learning of material that they have already learned (often by projects). The type of work being sent home is frequently language or math because these critical learning skills (ie. reading comprehension and problem-solving) are important to all subjects. Projects, on the other hand, are assigned so students can learn more about high interest subjects (there is only so much class time!). Projects also teach students about researching, time management and other real-life connections. Project homework is different than incomplete work from a class period. When class time runs out or students have incomplete questions, work may be sent home to be completed.

Inevitably, situations arise where the content or amount of homework is questioned. Speak to your child and the teacher. Ask your child if there is time to complete the work in class, and if he or she understands the work. Sometimes children get distracted and have a hard time completing work at school, and then bring an excessive amount home. If it’s too much, talk to the teacher. And sometimes parents, themselves, don’t know how to do the work. Some lessons are taught differently than how many of us parents were taught. Most lessons involve an oral part, a hands-on part using manipulatives and minimal written work. So getting up to speed can require a bit of work on your part.
You can support your child’s school work with some simple, hands-on activities that don’t really feel like homework. Try:

  • Asking your child to roll a pair of dice and multiply them for math practice.
  • Playing BINGO with commonly used words (search “Bingo cards” on the Internet.)
  • Reading together, discussing the characters or interesting facts.
  • “Going shopping” with flyers (give your child $80 to spend and have him or her create a grocery bill based on the weekly flyer.)
  • Asking your child to tell you the events of the day in the order they happened.

The possibilities for learning are endless and must be connected with life at home to be really useful. Who knew homework could be so much fun?

Published in August 2010

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