Outdated? Or is there a way to make it work for everyone?
Homework... most people have an opinion on it! Some children love it, some don't. A recent poll of 10,000+ on journal.ie shows the debate is fairly split in favour of homework in primary school. But if you are a parent I am sure you will agree that it can be difficult to find time to fit homework into busy family life. In primary school, if you must set homework it should be short and sweet. Some follow the rule of 10 minutes per year (10 minutes for infants and first, 20 minutes for second class and so on). We need to explore ways in which homework can add value to family time by making it fun in addition to reinforcing what a child is learning in school. Is there a way homework can enhance family time rather then invading it?
Teacher Time well spent?...
I have always held strongly to the value that if a child spends time doing written homework, it is absolutely crucial that a teacher corrects that work and gives feedback to the child. You cannot expect a child to put time and effort into something that is not going to be valued by their teacher. But on the other hand, is it time well spent by a teacher who has to set and correct pages of written homework every day or week? Would a teacher's extra time be better spent planning more creative lessons? How valuable is written homework in primary school setting anyway? I have not found any research to suggest that it holds any academic benefit at all.
The importance of language...
However, there is lots of research to support the importance of language at home for a child's development. We need to consider the importance of language as the foundations of all learning, particularly in the infant years but also right the way through a child's education. It is no coincidence that the New Language curriculum was introduced first. The team involved in making the new curriculum fully understand the importance of language as the core of a child's learning. So perhaps this is a good starting point when we consider how to link school learning with home learning through the medium of homework. As infant teachers, more than anything we need children to be read to as much as possible. Children need constant exposure to new vocabulary with plenty of time given to talk and discussion beyond the classroom. This has never been more important than now, when so many children seem to have their heads stuck in front of a screen at every opportunity! Vocabulary is paramount, if a child does not have a good bank of vocabulary, they cannot communicate, comprehend or write.
Homework that promotes and enhances family time...
As a busy working mom, I found it difficult to get through my daughter's daily writing practice, daily readers, phonics and anything else I found in her bag for homework. After a busy working day, I wanted to spend my time going for a walk, reading books or making dinner and chatting to my child about her day... not to mention getting my girls to bed by 7. So I felt homework was invading on my precious family time. As an infant class teacher, I was instructed to set a homework sheet that had a daily writing activity, a daily reader and phonics as was the tradition of my school. I really struggled to correct homework daily as I was required to do. So last year I decided to create the Less Stress Language Homework Sheet as an alternative to daily written activity sheets. They have been received with great enthusiasm by parents and teachers alike.
So here's how my homework sheet works...
Each week’s double sided homework sheet includes
The other activities are to be completed at parents’ convenience over the week.
Trust that parent's have the best interest of their children at heart...
Being a mainly language sheet it does involve a certain amount of trust, but I had a few ways to encourage children to complete the sheet. Through little drawing activities in the questions I could quickly tell who was reading the sheets. I would do plenty of homework competitions where rewards would be given for their good effort, the children always know I greatly value their best effort. And I would get the children to perform the weekly poem with their own actions on for our class blog.
Because the homework sheet is related to the current theme and mainly literacy based, I timetable one of my literacy lessons on a Friday for correction and discussion of the homework sheet. I give it a 15/20 minute slot and recite the poem, discuss the questions raised and chat to the children about how the children incorporated any of the tasks into their week at home. What really shines through is how they learn to see homework as an enjoyable family activity. A good accomplishment every week. Trust me, the children in my class love homework... and long may it stay that way!
If you would like your own years supply of Less Stress Language Homework Sheets you can purchase them on my online store at a special introduction rate just click here!
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