Sunday, May 24, 2009

Homework - What Do They Really Think?

I posted about how much I hate homework a couple of weeks ago and stirred up lots of conversation at my school, so I decided to actually write a survey to go home with K-1 parents to see what they thought about homework. Do they appreciate the structure and training that homework provides or would they rather wait a few years and have the kids spend time playing in these early years? I wanted the survey to be open ended so parents would feel free to share some of their thoughts and creative ideas for improvement.

Chets Creek Parent Survey
About Homework in Grade _____

We have been having some discussions about homework and are interested in how parents feel about homework at Chets Creek. Please fill in this form and return it to your teacher or to Julie at the front desk. Thank you for your time as we refine our homework practice.

About how much time did your child spend on homework each week? ___________

Did your child do a little homework each night, complete it in a couple of nights or complete it all on a single night? ______________________________________________________________

What was your child’s favorite homework activity? Why? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What was your child’s least favorite homework activity? Why? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are your favorite homework activities? Why? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are your least favorite activities? Why? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you could change one thing about the homework at Chets Creek, what would it be? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Other comments about homework may be written on the back.

I have posted the results and my analysis of the Kindergarten survey on the Kindergarten wiki and the results and my analysis of the first grade survey on the first grade wiki.

Using the data, this was my analysis of the parents' response to the first grade level homework.

What did I learn from the 2009 Kindergarten Homework Survey?
To me, first grade is about beginning to teach children independence in homework. In kindergarten it was about sharing with the parent what and how their child is doing in class but as we get to first grade, we are moving to having the child do more of the work independently.
What I do see in this survey is that we have some teacher mavericks in first grade who have added and changed the grade level homework significantly! Grade level homework is a non-negotiable, although adding additional homework is generally accepted. For instance, several parents talked about the teacher moving from letting the children complete the homework however they wanted during the week to assigning specific homework every night. That takes away much of the choice that children and families need and that has been so successful for us in the past. I would caution teachers from doing this.

Another parent talks about being required to read two extra books every night in addition to the homework. I am sure that this is an at-risk child who needs the extra reading, but the parent should be offered the choice of having the extra books sent home “in addition to” or “instead of” some of the grade level homework. Nothing is gained if the parent is fighting the help!

It concerns me that any child or parent would think their nightly book-in-a-bag is “baby-ish” or boring or that a child wouldn’t have a choice in what he reads each night so... that brings two questions to mind – Is the teacher changing out the books often enough so that the reading continues to be challenging and engaging? What are the rituals and routines in the classroom that a child doesn’t have a choice in the book he brings home to read at night?
Parents are mostly satisfied with the first grade homework and wouldn’t change a thing! Hoorah! Some work a little each night and others complete thehomework all in a single night using whichever method works best for their family. Parents seem to appreciate that flexibility. However, these are some things to think about:
  • The homework is written to take about 30 minutes a night or 2 hours a week. Maybe a note on the homework after the first month should state that if it is taking longer than 3 hours in a single week to complete, the parents need to contact the teacher! Any family that is working 5-7 hours a week on homework certainly needs some intervention!
  • Math homework is popular! Woo hoo! Most of the parents who identified math as a least favorite activity for them or their child said Math just wasn’t their favorite subject or their child struggled in math.

  • There seem to be some parents who want more homework and some who want less homework and even the parent that wants us to differentiate for each and every child! However, in all of those comments I wonder if we cannot build in more choices so that parents that want more work or more challenging or creative homework can choose those activities, and parents who believe that homework really interferes with their quality family time can choose simpler, quicker options that work for them. As long as the learning is similar, the time shouldn’t matter.

  • A few surveys mention children liking technology or wanting more computer options, so maybe technology can be one of the choices that we try to add. It also meets the criteria of fun and motivating!. We realize, of course, that all of our families do not have technology in their home, but many parents have expertise and would love sharing with their child. For instance, sending in the game points for a computer Math game that is highlighted might substitute for the math homework for the week if both require subtraction skills or writing the directions for how to play a computer phonics game might be a choice instead of a similar writing assignment.

  • In the area of choice I also wonder if those parents and children who hate activities with glue because they are so messy, could simply be given the option in the directions of writing the words instead of gluing. Both assume the same learning.

  • I like the idea of Extended Day completing homework for working parents, which I actually thought was being done in first grade. Maybe completing homework in Extended Day could be one “choice” (children reading book-in-a-bag to a partner) and maybe a math activity/sheet. The regular homework could be sent home for those families that want to do extra but the Extended Day option could also be used and could complete the homework requirement for the week.

  • How about Monday to Monday homework? That gives parents, that want the option, the ability to do it over the weekend, which a number of parents requested. It could still be written with “4 days of homework with the weekends off” in mind, but just give that extra option for families that want to take advantage.

  • I wonder if we have made the best use of Science in homework. Maybe Science experiments or hands-on Science activities could be added as a choice.

  • After the mid-term when comprehension passages are added, maybe the child could choose to read the comprehension passage OR the book-in-a-bag, but would not HAVE to do both. Maybe it is too much to do both and maybe the comprehension passages really are boring for those children that “get it” the first time. Maybe we could put a criteria such as, “If the child reads the passage within ___ minutes or with less than ___ mistakes”, then they can choose another option. Or I really like the idea of giving the child the option of having the parent read to them occasionally instead of doing book-in-the-bag. I love the idea that a parent would read a chapter book, for instance – think of the model for the child to listen to fluent reading and the vocabulary possibilities – or the parent sharing a favorite book from their own childhood. I think these would be easy options to add.

All in all, I learned a lot from this survey. It tells me that we are going in the right direction and that parents generally think first grade homework meets their needs and expectations. They also offered some interesting ideas for us to discuss and consider!

1 comment:

KK Cherney said...

Thanks, dayle for this blog. We (extended day) were told early on by the 1st grade team they really wanted the students to work on their homework with the parent. I do understand their feelings about this issue however the students that are dropped off at 7:00 a.m. and picked up at 6:00 p.m. barely have time to eat, wash up, relax, and participate in outside activities. That is the reality that I have come to understand in the extended day world. So the question remains...should the first graders have homework?