This week I only have one article to share with you in detail (though various tweets will be rounded up on Friday). Fortunately, the one I have is a highly quotable piece on a topic to which I have plenty to contribute myself. Katie Martin wrote a substantial post about starting conversations in school communities around getting rid of (or at least improving) homework. I have a few highlights here, but highly recommend that you click through to read the whole article.
Katie Martin: (After commenting on how few of the teachers did prework assigned prior to a workshop.) "Thankfully, none of us were forced to miss our break or publicly humiliated for not doing our homework. But, it makes me think that if dedicated and passionate educators aren’t doing homework, why in the world are we expecting kids to spend their precious free time out of school doing more work?...
The live #IMMOOC chats with both Jo Boaler and Alice Keeler really resonated with me and helped me move from venting about homework and it’s lack of purpose (especially for elementary school kids) to thinking about some constructive ways to talk about it. So, here are three ways that I think can help me (and hopefully you) have productive conversations about homework and talk about why we are still assigning it...
I think there are a lot of assumptions that we hold about homework and because it has always been part of school, we think it is what we are supposed to do. Many believe that it’s the responsibility of the teacher to assign homework, and as parents, we are good parents if we set time aside to do the homework, some are so invested they even do it for the kids:). I am asking that teachers who are assigning homework really think about why you are assigning it. I want parents to think about why they push for it. "
My Response: I'm drawn to pretty much any article that questions the assignment of homework (especially for elementary school kids). What I especially liked about Katie Martin's post is that she goes beyond railing against homework and on to discussing three specific ways that parents and schools can start the conversation about reducing it. She talks about goal-setting (is the homework that is being assigned moving us toward our goals for our kids?), reorganizing classroom time (so that homework isn't needed), and making the time that kids and teachers spend meaningful.
In my daughter's elementary school, the second grade teachers dropped spelling homework last year. This year, the year that my daughter is in second grade, spelling homework is back. Rumor has it that this is because parents complained, though I don't know this for sure. The spelling homework isn't particularly burdensome. There's a set of about a dozen activities, and each week kids have to perform two of them using that week's spelling list. They get to pick which two activities to do. Most of them only take a few minutes, and there is some creativity involved in some of them. The teachers have clearly put effort into making the spelling homework as flexible and painless as possible (within the context of having weekly homework and associated spelling tests at all).
Despite the second grade teachers' best efforts, my daughter CAN'T STAND doing the spelling homework. She feels like her time is being wasted. She would rather be: reading, doing Minecraft on her tablet, working on Sudoku, doing a craft project, practicing karate, or doing pretty much anything else. She rails against the spelling homework every.single.time. It's hard for me to argue with her because I don't disagree with her (though to me it feels like a bit of a mountain/molehill situation). For what it's worth, checking this homework can't possibly be mentally stimulating for the teachers, either.
If this homework is truly back because parents requested it, I'm sure that they have their reasons. Just as I have my reasons for thinking that this isn't a particularly good idea. But if I am to take Katie Martin's advice, I'll need to start having that conversation in my own school community. Tweeting or writing blog posts is much easier, but is unlikely to have any measurable effect. But perhaps by sharing Katie's thoughts, and my own, here, I'll inspire some of you to start these difficult conversations, too. Thanks for reading!