Thursday, September 25, 2014

Making Homework Meaningful

My sons are working on their homework, sitting at the kitchen table with me as I write this blog. Although it's not always the case, this has been a pleasant and productive week for our family homework-wise. I've learned much by observing our classroom teachers, and try to replicate a calm, relaxing time and place free of distractions to do our work.

I recently read “The Homework Squabbles” by Bruce Feiler in The New York Times (September 14, 2014). Feiler interviewed Eva Pomerantz, a specialist on parent involvement from the University of Illinois and Erika Patall, an expert on motivation and achievement from the University of Texas. Following are some tips mentioned in the article:
  • It's good for the parent to be nearby to provide some guidance if needed, but it's important for the child to do the work him/herself.
  • Preferences of lighting, location and sitting/laying down will vary from person to person. Homework should be completed in a setting that is physically comfortable for the child and free of distractions. There is ample research that indicates people tend to be very bad multi-taskers. Trying to do more than one thing at a time prolongs the time homework takes and diminishes the quality of work.
  • Regularly checking your childs' homework may motivate them to put in more effort and catch their own mistakes. 
  • It's okay to give feedback and help your child see where they can try harder. Just be careful not to be overly critical and make your child feel stupid.
  • The key to keeping children motivated is to give them as much control over their homework as possible. 
Our staff has read and received professional development by education expert and author Rick Wormeli. In his video, How Much Should Homework Count?, Wormeli explains that homework should be practice of things students already understand, "a safe place to wrestle with things". Practice is important in improving performance, and shouldn't be counted as a final performance or assessment of mastery.

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