Homework Tips and Technique
Should I give homework?
This is a difficult decision for most primary grade teachers.
What do the Experts Say?
Studies show that giving homework may increase understanding and retention in the older grades, but in primary grades they found little benefit.
“In a review of studies published from 1987 to 2003, Cooper and his colleagues found that homework was linked to better test scores in high school and, to a lesser degree, in middle school. Yet they found only faint evidence that homework provided academic benefit in elementary school (Review of Educational Research, 2006).
Then again, test scores aren’t everything. Homework proponents also cite the non-academic advantages it might confer, such as the development of personal responsibility, good study habits and time-management skills. But as to hard evidence of those benefits, “the jury is still out,” says Mollie Galloway, PhD, associate professor of educational leadership at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. “I think there’s a focus on assigning homework because [teachers] think it has these positive outcomes for study skills and habits. But we don’t know for sure that’s the case.” (American Psychological Association).
But there is agreement that the rule of thumb of 10 minutes of homework per grade is sufficient.
“Even when homework is helpful, there can be too much of a good thing. There is a limit to how much kids can benefit from home study,” Cooper says. He agrees with an oft-cited rule of thumb that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level — from about 10 minutes in first grade up to a maximum of about two hours in high school. Both the National Education Association and National Parent Teacher Association support that limit.” (American Psychological Association)
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons with homework.
This brings us to the question “What homework can I give that is meaningful, doesn’t cause a lot of extra work for the teacher and ensures that the student will complete it?”
I have found that asking for students to read daily for a specific amount of time (10-15 minutes for grade 2 and 15-20 minutes. for grade 3) is a good starting point. If they like reading, they will read for longer anyway and if they don’t, 15 minutes is short enough to keep their attention.
I then have them write the title of the book on a calendar in their agendas. If you don’t use agendas, it is simple enough to send a blank calendar home. If they are reading a chapter book, they need only write the title once at the beginning, then record the completed chapters after that. A parent’s signature of course is required. Your real proof of at-home reading is the improvement you will see in their guided reading in the classroom.
I also require that the work not completed in class must be completed at home as homework. I find this does not occur very often because the students are given plenty of time in class. If they are working appropriately, they have no homework!
Homework “for Parents”
Unfortunately, this does not always satisfy all parents. For this reason, I created a bingo based homework system that entails a bingo sheet that I send home once a month.
The activities relate to the expectations that have been taught within that month. For example, if we are learning about writing sentences, a bingo square will ask “Write a complex sentence about a dog?” This gives the student the opportunity to explain and discuss with their parents what they have been learning that month about sentences. A parent signature is required in the squares as the activities are completed. Only this bingo sheet is returned to the teacher at the end of the month.
As an incentive to complete bingo activities, I give points for the number of rows or columns that are completed. This is fully explained in my BINGO units. Please visit my Behavior Management Blog to see how I use points for behavior management.
If you keep a list of the activities you place in the homework sheets from year to year, then it is a snap to reuse or tweak the next year.
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