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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Asking my PLN before I ask my BOSS...

Hi everyone.
I have a question that I'd like to ask my boss, but I figured I'd ask you first.  Ready?

It's about homework......

How some of our kids undoubtedly feel about homework...

Is it possible for 10yr old children to select their homework from a list of tasks, daily, and thus choose what they do each afternoon for 20-30 mins? 
Can a 10yr old kid handle some autonomy over his/her own homework?

See... I don't want to be the one setting my students work.  I want to be the one offering a range of opportunities and resources.  I want to let my kids follow their passion and work on things they feel will help them to become the person they want to be.  Just tell me if you think I'm being a hippy, lefty or dreamer.

The dog ate my homework?  No... this man's JOB is to eat dogs!

Don't get me wrong here... I want these kids working every day for the prescribed time.  I actually buy the idea that it prepares them for the future of ... hard work.  I believe in doing work at home.  I just don't believe in 'homework'. I believe wholeheartedly in reading and my kidlets MUST read for 20 mins - either as part of a longer task or 20 minutes stand-alone.

SO... check out this list of activities that I'd like to propose tomorrow for possible 'learn at home' time.

1.  Complete any work from class which you know you need to complete.
2.  Log on to the Writer's Club (an international writing blog which we belong to), create, read and comment.
3.  Mathletics training in disciplines which challenge you.
4.  Dancemat Typing.
5.  Find a wonder from Wonderopolis.com and research fully.
6.  Think of your own wonder and research as much as you can.
7. Genuine language learning using loteonline.com.
8.  Write a chapter synopsis or a book review of a book you are reading.
9.  Create art.
10.  Negotiate something amazing with me that I've not thought of.

Won't accept the time-honoured excuse...

Few simple rules:

1.  Do something well.
2.  Be ready to share.
3.  Don't repeat any task in a week.

If your kid was in 4RB, would you see this as a cop-out, or as something that gave your child real preparation for the real world?  Is this something happening in schools everywhere and I am just not up with the program?  Would you give this 'the ok' if YOU were my boss?

Your two cents or twenty kopins are not only welcomed, but needed.

Xie Xie Ni.  Zai Jian.


Zoe said...

I like it.

It's a long time since I've been in a classroom, but this sounds sensible to me.

What won't happen:

You won't get kiddies working on the things they need to improve on most, because those things are hard and unfun - no-one would choose that.

What might happen:

You might find that, having the chance to explore the stuff they really like, the kiddies - or at least some of them - might start developing their passions a bit. I read somewhere once - 'nothing's fun until you're good at it'. Extra time on the stuff you think you *might* like could actually make it more fun.

Something I heard at a games conference once was that consent is actually a necessary condition for fun - or, on the flipside, if something is compulsory then it's not fun pretty much by definition. (I won't use the example the speaker gave but think along the lines of '50 shades of grey' and you'll get it.)

By getting a little bit of autonomy/consent in there you might even start to make homework... fun?

Dawn Feeney said...

It's great, it has worked for me before with year3. as per usual you will get those kids who do heaps & others that do not... try to do a range of intellectual thinking activities, so it appeals to all thinking/ learning types...

Dawn Feeney said...

It's great, it has worked for me before with year3. as per usual you will get those kids who do heaps & others that do not... try to do a range of intellectual thinking activities, so it appeals to all thinking/ learning types...

Cristina Milos said...

I am against homework and thus perhaps of little to no help in your task.
I think children spend a lot of time in school anyway (up to 7-8 hours a day) and giving them extra work at home is just hijacking their childhood.

Richard Black said...

Thanks HEAPS so far, Zoe, Dawny and one of the newest to my PLN, Cristina. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.
I too am against the idea of stealing a kiddy's childhood, Cristina. My guilt about just that is what got me thinking about 'home learning' in the first place.

I've only started thinking about the possible learning styles and thinking styles, Dawny, but I also want to keep it predictable, seriously simple and open-ended.

Zoe, congratulations for mentioning 50 shades in your comment. Classy.
I am hoping that the autonomy would help the not-so-motivated kidlets to 'stumble upon' learning for fun. As for avoidance of challenge, I think this bunch of humans are least likely to fall for that chestnut. They actually care about understanding concepts. We'll always have bare-minimum-Barneys... that's who option 10 is for. Not interested? What ARE you interested in? Let's negotiate something (so I can cleverly incorporate some form of important learning into it seeing as how you're making me think for you)and you can do something personally meaningful.

I do wonder what the boss will think of all this....

Thanks to the three of you for your two cents each. Appreciated.

Zoe said...

Yeah the speaker was a sexuality researcher, and the audience was all educational games creators.

It was... eye-opening.

Anonymous said...

Mum to child: So Zarah, what do you think of Mr Black's new approach to homework?

"We don't just have to do something, we get a choice and we get to do what we want to do. I think homework is more fun and exciting this way. I think you do need to do homework otherwise you are not learning! I don't like homework where there are heaps of sheets."

Spoken by a super keen 4th Grader!

Anonymous said...

"I think it's really good because we get a list of what to do and then we can choose what we can do. It's fun because we don't have to do sheets. Then we don't have to hand it in by a certain time. Mr Black always gives us fun things in class and so it would be fun to do at night. Also some nights we have cocurricular on and so we can choose less to do those nights." That's the verdict from us!!

Bruce Ferrington said...

What if they choose to do something you don't want? Are you going to control them? Or is this the teacher taking over the students' inquiry again?

Richard Black said...

Thanks for your ten cents, Anonymous. I think I've figured out who you are.... Here's hoping that this works. Zarah seems pretty pumped about the idea.
As for kids choosing something I don't want, I see the only possible problem being a kid who chooses their 'wheelhouse' or strength every time. Rule three would state that they could repeat their favourite activity twice in one week. I honestly don't mind if that isn't holding them back.
The morning holds the key to this. I need to devise a way for the kids to share their home learning in a high-expectation and low-stress environment where they will be asked, listened to and advised if needs be.
Easy this teaching game!

Tina Moricz said...

There is great book called Rethinking Homework by Kathy Vatterott that everyone reading your blog should read about the great homework debate. She also has a website at http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/rethinkinghomework.htm . I read it last summer and implemented changes in my classroom last year. I am a Math/Science teacher so I was used to giving the traditional paper/pencil practice for homework. Last year I changed that to doing more online assignments with student choice. I will be flipping my classroom this year, so student homework will really be exposure to content through video or online learning to support our classroom exploration of concepts. I will manage our homework with Edmodo. It was a change for my families to get used to, but it really benefited my kids in the long run.

Richard Black said...

Just read the website, Tina. Thank you SO much for taking the time to share it with me here. It is so reassuring to see that what I thought made sense actually has some academic backing in research.
I've now had a look at Edmodo too and think that might be a better social learning 'place' than what my kiddo's are currently using. I'll have to look into that further on the weekend.
Your sharing here has made a difference, Tina. I thank you!