Words matter. This, we know. Words paint a picture in our mind, giving us positive or negative feelings. The words "hot chocolate"? Instantly makes me feel cozy, warm, and happy. The word "dentist"? Dread and pain come to mind.
When I was younger, cars that were not new were "used." Somewhere along the line, that became "pre-owned." How much lovelier does "pre-owned" sound than "used"? Would you want a "pre-owned" car or a "used" one?
I've been thinking about "homework" quite a bit and the connotation it has. Who wants to do it? No one. It conjures drudgery and something to just get through to be able to enjoy the rest of the day. As a parent of a kindergarten student who has to do homework, it is our worst time of day. Tears flow. Frustrations bubble.
I know the research says homework is not effective in elementary school but I also know many parents have not read that research and expect homework. When I think about the arguments FOR homework, I know some will argue it teaches responsibility, helps connect families to what is being taught, and allows the student to practice.
Here are my counter arguments:
-I don't think homework teaches responsibility. I have some students who have had to take on far more responsibility than I ever had at their age- cooking meals for the family and taking care of younger siblings. Assigning homework does not make someone more responsible. My students who struggle with organization still forget to pack their materials, do the work, and bring it back. Merely assigning the work and checking it does not foster responsibility. I also think it offers an advantage to the students who have parents who can sit with them and make sure they are doing the homework/bringing it back. Some students do not have this support at home for various reasons. Is it far to blame them because they do not have a parent that is able to help them?
-I do think sending homework home shows parents some of what is happening in the classroom. But are there better ways? A class website, newsletter, videos of instruction...aren't these ways we can show parents what we are learning? Also, utilizing family dialogue journals where students and parents can write to each other about what the student is learning would be a way to connect parents to the curriculum.
-As far as allowing students to practice the material, here's my issue. (I'm specifically talking about math homework.) The students who don't understand the math will either get the homework wrong, have someone at home do it for them, or they won't do it. How does any of this help them? The students who understand the work- do they need to do it again at home? Could students practice math facts or engage in some kind of motivating problem solving that wouldn't feel tedious or difficult?
I think about the time it takes to check that homework is done, to send notices home for students not doing it, to follow-up that notices are sent back the next day. The time to give out homework and write it down....this all becomes a big chunk of the school day. And to what end? Does it make students more excited to learn, more creative, more engaged? If not, why are we doing it?
I'm really trying to get my thoughts together on homework to come up with a plan for next year. I know there are many others who've been thinking about this idea and writing about it. I'm really curious what this community thinks about homework and it's role in education.
No matter what I decide to do, I know I'm changing the name to "Home Opportunity" which sounds so much more like pre-owned than used!