Thinking about CHANGEd: What if homework were just that? #12 and reflecting…
As a youngster, I assigned myself homework. I loved writing down words from the dictionary, playing with their definitions, and learning their spelling. I have vivid memories of “reading” the dictionary with a pen in hand and putting a bookmark at a certain page when I was ready for bed. At some point that stopped.
Bo’s “what if” about “time to work on our home” is an interesting one. At the early elementary level, I have witnessed students actually asking for homework. I think it is born out of a desire for more learning opportunities.
I stopped my nighttime reading of the dictionary. And at some point in elementary school, students stop asking for homework. And then, homework is hardly associated with learning but with stress and sometimes even tears.**
What if we capitalized on early elementary students assigning themselves homework and continued with that momentum throughout their elementary, middle, and high school years?Instead of “time to work on our home,” I propose that we call homework something different: “learn at home” work. This work would not be teacher assigned but instead, it would be student assigned.
For the second day this week, I think of Steve Goldberg’s vision for the learning that will happen at Triangle Learning Community Middle School. Here’s what he has to say about this “learn at home” work:
After working on projects for about two hours, students will blog to summarize what they learned and the progress they made on their project during the afternoon. They will also include in this blog post a description of what they will work on in the evening to prepare for school the next day. This part of the blog entry facilitates communication with parents/guardians about what work is to be completed to prepare for the next day. Not all students have the same needs, so not all students will have exactly the same homework (though some elements may be in common, especially if we are working on a common math or science project, or if we are reading a common piece of literature).
Each student will typically spend at least one hour per night reading quality literature (though not always the same books). One night, Student A may be working on a tricky math concept that she struggled with during the hour of morning math, while Student B might learn Greek and Latin roots of vocabulary words. Student C might focus on re-writing an article he wrote as part of a project, while Student D might choose to look in more depth at the science involved in the long-term effects of the BP oil spill – an issue she learned about from a Time Magazine article her classmate recommended during the morning session.
Students leave for the day only after one of the teachers has read their blog posts and has made sure the student has clearly articulated both what they are doing for HW and what they hope to achieve through their HW. Learners who are not sure why they are doing HW often spin their wheels and work inefficiently. TLC aims to be thoughtful about the work that the members of the community does, wherever that work may be done.
The emphasis is mine.
Why couldn’t we make this vision for homework ours?
**Interestingly, I had to stop writing this post when a student walked into my office in tears, utterly upset about forgetting a homework assignment. Worried that she was going to get in trouble (at home and school) for this mistake, she was stressed and in tears. How can we build resilience and make homework something that does not elicit such emotions? This experience is not limited to the school where I work, I know. How can we experiment with a different approach? Is there a teacher willing to think about “work on our home” or “learn at home” work and share their experiences?