Homework Practices that promote Communication

Throw the word "homework" into a conversation and watch the reaction! It can polarize a group, with people on opposite sides of the fence, with just as many in between! Teachers themselves cannot agree on homework, and often a school board creates a policy which may or may not be followed.
Something to share for Homework

So, what is the purpose of homework? Ideally, homework should be a time to finish, review, practice, or enjoy the learning that has gone on in the classroom. It should not be a "keep them busy" task. If you have read my other posts on homework, I like the idea of a time set aside to do thinking work. It is a time to develop the discipline of thinking through reading, talking, sharing, problem solving, or practicing a skill.

As a teacher, I find it very difficult to assign homework, because every child needed different things. What is the point of sending home a math sheet, or a spelling list if that child has already mastered the skill? Better that the child continues reading a book he or she loves, or works on an open-ended math problem.

Some teachers in our primary division send home a duotang one day a week with a variety of work: usually something they are working on, a skill, a math problem, a math drill sheet, science concept review, or a social studies activity. This work is expected back on the same day each week, so the family has the choice of setting up a specific homework time or times throughout the week, or on the weekend. A contract is made with the family to have the work back on the assigned day, so that the duotang can be refilled. This work does not count for marks, but is a good way for the parent to interact with the child on work that he or she typically does at school.

Another class writes a summary letter together on Fridays about their learning. Children write their own letters from the notes on the screen, so the letters can be individual. What is important is that every child asks their parent a question in the P.S. What did you do at recess? Did you ever have a bullying problem to solve and needed someone's help? The answers come back and children have the option of sharing, or not. It is a lovely record of the child's year, and they learn so much about their parents! You can really see their growth as writers, as well. For parents who are unable to write back, they answer orally in their own language, and the child shares this important oral retelling. We need to be sensitive to those parents who may have low literacy skills, and make the oral response just as valuable as the written.

Also, many classes make a daily note in their agenda--Ask me about my strategy for adding. Ask me how ladybugs spend the winter. Ask me who Melvin Bubble is! The object of this homework is to help the parents know what their children are engaged in and provide that home-school connection in a very personal way.

What do you assign for homework? What feedback do you receive about homework?

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