About Me

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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.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

From 'NO homework' to Holiday Home Learning!

 Well.... my Home Learning experiment has sure spiked some interest.  
If you are a new visitor to my humble little blog, feel free to ask questions.  I thrive on them.
Today I'd like to share something I think is pretty special with you.
This is what the once-empty, student diaries from my class look like after 8 weeks of Home Learning.

                                                            I have reproduced enlargements of 13 of these below.                                                                      If you want a look at the whole image A3 size,  go to this link where I've twileshared it.
My class have trialled Home Learning for a term.  They have been offered choices for what they'd like to do with their time each night.  I have asked that they keep a record of how they spend their time each night in the 'homework diary'.  'Registers', 'Planners', 'Diaries'... we all know them and we all use them...... badly.

My hero, Alfie Kohn, (@alfiekohn) suggests in his book, The Homework Myth, that kids need to learn to manage their time, tasks, creativity and 'study habits' by being handed control of these.  My trial asked the kids to take control, BUT... I made a song and dance about how each kid used their diary each week.  I insisted upon a few key elements for a diary entry:

1.  Be specific and describe what you did with your time clearly.  If you read, what did you read?  If you went on our Writers' blog, what did you do with your time there?  If you played, where and with whom did you play?  What did you do at scouts?

2.  State how much time you spent on a task.  Simple.  Tell me how long you spent at scouts or bouncing on the trampoline.  This way I can tell what is important to you.  It actually helps me be a better teacher.  It also helps me to help you work towards a healthy balance in your own time management journey.

3.  Tell me everything!  I actually want to know!  The bottom of my Home Learning Choices Poster states:
"Everybody has busy home lives.    

If you walk the dog, help cooking, do gardening, go shopping, have a special dinner with Nanna, help a sibling, train for a sport, practice an instrument or something else with your time, write it in your diary. Everything counts.   You just need to establish a balanced learning schedule.
On nights where you have no commitments, try to give more time to learning.
Remember that you need to document ‘some academic learning’ each night."

4.  Be honest.  If you haven't had time to do 'some academic learning' (an idea which I'll blog separately about later) then just say so.  Tell me what you did do. Half of the time, what you did will be actually quite beneficial for your academic achievement into the future anyway.  If you pushed your sister on the swing, that actually has some great academic benefits.  Don't make stuff up.  I will be photographing these and discussing your progress with your parents.  This is not a free ride.  Just be honest.

5.  Be prepared to talk about what you have done each morning in a class discussion.  Be prepared to say whether it is unique or not; whether it helped you towards your semester goals; whether you had fun; if you learned something totally new; if you gained skills you didn't know you had... be ready to talk.

6.  Don't stop learning just because it is a weekend, or even a holiday.  Make a note of what happened on the weekend.  Make a note of what happened whenever you discover something new or feel like you gained a skill or some knowledge.  If you do this, you will be UNSTOPPABLE later in life.

Half of my class took their diaries from the piles at the front of my classroom before they left the room for their 2 week October holidays!!!  Now not every kid will maintain the level of detail that you see above you, but I've never seen ONE kid take their diary for the holidays - to write in it.

Take your time and check out the image at the top of this post, or the images from it, enlarged again, below.  I could rabbit on all day about choices and ideas.  The kids have naturally done this for me.  This is NOT a 'best of' selection.  These all come from the last month and I have tried to use many different kids. 

Are there kids who try to get that elusive 'free ride'?  Yes.  Yes there are.  
What do I do with those kids?   Talk to them about what they spent their night doing and either help them to see that they really did do some cool things that will help them, or show them where they could easily fit simple routines in to time spaces to develop some thinking skills.  Gibbo, for example, didn't realise that talking with his 6yr old sister as he pushed her on the swing was a worthwhile activity until now...


Yes, Gibbo. This is an important activity.  Did you talk with her? Play with her? Did you socialise?

Hanging with Uncle Peter... important?  You betcha!

This young lady insists on telling me what's happening in her Pony Pals book each morning.  Classic!

Read the last bit of info.  Would you EVER get that from your diaries?  Is homework killing this?

Again... read Friday.  I saved a dog and carried Ruffles (her dog).  This story was one of bravery and deep care.

X-Man is a young boy who has gone from 'losing' his diary and homework regularly.. to this.

When's the last time YOU played 44Home (a chasing/tips game) with your friends?  THEN research gold and diamonds?

These kids played with Narrative - for fun.  That's just silly.....

Metacognition!   Self reflection!  Positive thinking!  OMG

Yes.... nearly all my girls love the Pony Pals series.  But PYP folk should look closely...

My     Most     Reluctant     Writer   -   Warms my heart.

And just when you thought, "A pedicure! So what?!"..... check out when this happened. A weekend.

Your comments are important to me - as they advise me, make me question, challenge me, encourage me and make this journey one that I want to share more.  
Please ask, challenge, praise, question, think out loud and continue the conversation.  

In particular, your questions really will steer what I explain next.  
There is much to show.
What do you want to know?

Until then, Xie Xie Ni. (Thanks in Mandarin)

Rich (@CapitanoAmazing)


Anonymous said...

I don't have a question - I am just in serious admiration! I wish my teenage son had had this - he definitely belongs to the 'only prescribed homework needs my (minimal) attention' lot.

Do you think you would have made this homework journey without becoming a PYP teacher?

I think the PYP Learner Profile supports this style of learning so well that it makes it, no doubt, much easier to talk about.

Richard Black said...

Hi Jenny. I think I'd eventually have got to this place as a teacher, but not at my old school, which regards Homework as a traditional 'must'... for the typically genuine (and somewhat misguided) reasons.
What has helped me the most in this process is that my school is new-ish. We are only 6 yrs old and our boss, the Head of Junior School, is a very progressive thinker. If we do the research and we are willing to try things, taking proper care and precaution, we are encouraged to fly.
The PYP Learner Profile is what gives me the language to really push each morning discussion. The kids totally 'get' the connection that we are talking about life skills and the real world.
The trial continues even deeper next term. I will be addressing issues such as personal fitness, social skills, computer addiction, community service and financial literacy. All these ideas running around in my head - where better to take them out than on my poor, unsuspecting kidlets? ;)
Thanks for taking time to comment and ask.

wholeboxndice said...

As we have talked about before, I am in admiration for your desire to bring the real world into your classroom through your home learning. I think the conversations you can have, and for which PYP certainly provides the useful lenses, would be enriching for you and the class. I commend you and continue to be impressed by the Radford way.

Richard Black said...

Thanks Steve. I really appreciate your positive feedback. And yes... the PYP offers an amazing lens into this experience. My latest post (this evening) is all about one PYP Learner Profile Attribute - Balance. I hope you get a kick out of it. Cheeeeers.