Prior to reading Chapter 7 of Dean et al (2012), I hadn’t fully formed my beliefs about homework. While I knew it was important to not force students to teach themselves something and only assign homework about things students have learned, I hadn’t done much research into how much to give my first graders. Dean et al (2012) and make three recommendations pertaining to the assigning of homework across the grade levels. First, a policy should be created across a school or a district in order to clarify the purpose and goals of homework for teachers and parents. Second, homework should support what is being learned in class and have a clear, communicated purpose. Finally, feedback should be provided on homework. I used to consider homework to be extra practice for what was learned in class – a chance to better hone the skills discovered in class. I never thought much about the use of homework as a way to give students additional feedback. Instead of just grading correct and incorrect, taking the time to analyze student homework can not only show what “stuck” from their learning, but also help identify student misunderstandings that should be corrected before the error is practiced into habit. While this may seem like a daunting task, Pitler and Stone suggest many alternatives to hours of grading, such as students getting feedback from peers, having students keep track of their accuracy or speed, or keeping a homework portfolio to be reviewed and commented on weekly (2012, p. 215).
As I take control of my own classroom, I have looked into the homework policy for my new school. The school requires a minimum of 10 minutes and allows a maximum of 30 minutes of homework. I would like to assign homework, but to keep closer toward the minimum, in order to ensure my students do get practice with what we’d learned in class without creating so much paperwork for me at a later time, as my students will likely have difficulty keeping track of their own work in portfolios or giving feedback to peers. Sticking to a short amount of homework per night, in addition to their reading, will allow students to enjoy their time at home while still serving as a gradual introduction to class work at home.
In regards to self-assessment on my practice, I would consider myself to be at an overall “2 – Basic” according to the Teacher Rubric from Pitler and Stone (2012). While I haven’t had much opportunity to solidify my homework philosophy just yet, I do understand the importance of the three recommendations of Dean et al (2012). As I establish relationships with parents in the upcoming year, I believe a main focus should be to ensure we are on the same page regarding what homework will look like and why it is assigned.
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
H4 – Honor family and community involvement in the learning process. Having parents involved in a student’s education can open opportunities for learning outside of the classroom and can be a critical component to a student’s success. The U.S. Department of Education says that “research overwhelmingly demonstrates the positive effect that parent involvement has on their children’s academic achievement” (2003). When families know what is going on at school, they can incorporate appropriate vocabulary and questions into everyday life; no longer creating a void between “school time” and “not school time.” In order to help close this gap, Mrs. L, my mentor teacher, has a class blog that students, parents, guardians, and other interested parties can access. An update to the conventional letters home, the blog can be updated frequently, can include pictures and documents, and is more likely to be seen since it can’t get lost in transport (as school letters so often do). Mrs. L’s blog keeps parents informed about what their student is learning as well as upcoming events that may concern the community such as a book fair or PTA event. Figure 1 is a screenshot from the class blog. It is expected that students remind their parents to check the blog during the first few weeks in order to build the habit of checking the blog daily and rewards are given to students who come to class with the secret codes posted on the page; the code in Figure 1, for example, is “because,” a word we are trying to encourage the students to use more.
I have always heard of the importance of school-parent relationships, but never knew my skill with social media could benefit my students’ learning via parental involvement. In a time when most parents of young students are more connected than ever, having an online source that keeps them connected to what their children do for eight hours per day is not only beneficial, but also convenient. As technology progresses, too, I hope to remain electronically literate in order to continue to be able to communicate with parents on a convenient and understandable level. The feedback from Mrs. L’s blog is very positive, one parent said via e-mail, “I love that you have a class blog.” Mrs. L also credits it for being able to get last-minute chaperones and volunteers, as well as donations of much-needed classroom items.
U.S. Department of Education. (2003). No child left behind: a parent’s guide. Retrieved September 23, 2013 from http://www.ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.pdf