This school year ushers in our second year of implementation of our new approach to homework. For those of you who are new to SDJA this fall, allow me to provide a little background.
In conversations with parents, we were hearing many stories about the difficulties and stress caused by homework. Homework was causing conflict in the home and eroding time for other developmentally important activities such as reading, outdoor play, family dinner, extracurricular activities, and sleep. Educational research shows that, while homework helps in middle and high school, there is no evidence that homework increases academic achievement for elementary-aged students. In fact, some studies show a negative effect if students lose interest in learning or when it hurts the parent-child relationship.
In response, we changed our approach to homework last fall. We decided that we were going to be much more thoughtful about what is required of students in the evenings and on weekends. We know that the #1 thing that children can do to boost their long-term academic success is to read, read, read. So we made reading a nightly requirement. To that, we added nightly Hebrew reading and vocabulary practice. Additional assignments are also sometimes given, but we do not operate on “auto-pilot” with homework; rather, we are much more intentional and personalized in our approach.
Sometimes, children receive assignments that are specific to them. Examples include multiplication facts, typing, spelling games, sight word practice, or to practice tying a shoe. Sometimes there are special, long-term projects for the whole class such as the vinegar and egg project, Shorashim, the 100 Day Project, the Me Book and others. In the older grades, students will be studying for a variety of tests. If parents or students want more schoolwork to do at home, teachers post several resources on Canvas, including web-based activities and downloadable worksheets that reinforce, review and enrich what is being taught at school.
As you can see, unlike most schools, homework at GMLS is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Indeed, overall, the evening workload for students has gone down, but it has not disappeared. We feel that, through our home learning approach, we have created a more balanced, manageable, developmentally-appropriate and research-based solution to the age-old dilemma of homework.
With that said, through the course of the first year, we identified some areas where we could improve our implementation of our approach and we gathered feedback from parents. Armed with this data, we made some important and impactful adjustments. I’d like to share those improvements here and I hope that you have noticed a positive difference:
We have clarified that home learning does not mean “no homework.”
The Canvas calendar, in addition to weekly classroom emails, contains information about all home learning assignments.
Teachers will be clear about which home learning assignments are required and which are optional
All students and parents can go to Canvas to view events and assignments.
Students in grades 3-5 also maintain hard-copy assignment notebooks and teachers instruct students in time management, organization and long-term planning strategies.
Accountability: To ensure that all students are faithfully fulfilling their nightly reading requirement, teachers have implemented accountability measures (reading logs, book talks, etc).
Class Work: Since fewer worksheets are coming home to parents, teachers are sending home more of the children’s class work. We hope this will help parents to see what students are learning and how their child is doing.
Finally, remember to make time for independent or shared reading at home. It can be a true game change in your child’s educational career!