Self Directed Learning, Not Homework!

After reading Alice Keeler’s post No Homework, and seeing the conversations on Twitter about it, I thought I should get my ideas down.

As my years of teaching have gone by my view of homework has changed as well. When most of us grew up, we had our photocopied pages, or questions from the textbook that were assigned each night. Without fail (ok maybe not all the time) we completed that homework each night. That would then mean the start of each class was reserved to take up the homework, or hand in the work to get it marked and handed back at some point in the future. So this is how I started the structure of my homework when I started teaching, because that is what was done in the past, and everyone else was doing.

Now 10 years later (teaching grades 3,5 and currently 4), and a 4 year old daughter entering school in September my homework program has changed!

Work that students do at home, not homework in the traditional sense, are things that the students are interested in. It is an extension of the classroom, but not a required one; Let’s call it self directed learning/purposeful practice.

Every child/family’s situation is different, some family’s have numerous extra curricular activities, some students are at home looking after a sibling till mom and dad get home, etc. etc..

Also, I believe that a huge part of growing up is through exploration. Students need to be outside exploring the world, playing with friends, reading (for pleasure), playing video games (yes I said it), playing with family, finding a way to fight off boredom, building, creating, drawing etc. etc. With a consistent dose of homework, these things only happen on the weekend.

So how does this self directed extension of the classroom look for my grade 4 students?  This is what my students did at home last school year.  I gave them some suggestions of things they could do, and they came up with a variety of options as well.

Some parents still got their children to work through worksheets for practice, and that is ultimately their choice, but I’m not going to assign page ___ Questions # 1-5 each night (I can’t cause I don’t use a textbook, but thats for another post).

Now this is my view on homework, and not the only one.

Below are 2 more views on the topic in addition to Alice’s blog linked at the top of this post.

Mark Barnes has a list of blog posts on why we should not be giving homework.

John Walkup has a great post outlining his reasons why we should be assigning homework. http://cognitiverigor.blogspot.ca/2014/06/homework-policies-impact-of-depth-of.html

Recently I saw a blog (thanks Hazel Mason for sharing) by MindShift which talked about students needing more PDF (Playtime, Downtime, and Family time).  I think this fits in nicely with this homework discussion. http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/07/27/what-kids-need-for-optimal-health-and-school-engagement/

Tim Bedley has a great list of 250 things kids could be doing instead of homework. Great list of alternatives. https://docs.google.com/document/d/18tMr-QG9OdQ_H5TxHyo86WGbaD7bIf6WluAF4at8Q3g/edit?usp=docslist_api

Ultimately, this post was just about my opinion on homework in my grade 4 class. It is one that is being discussed a lot lately, which is great! Hopefully this gives you something to think about with your class. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Photo credit to Tim Pierce, https://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/135660233/?

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8 thoughts on “Self Directed Learning, Not Homework!

  1. Great ideas! I know this is the way I want homework to be in my classroom, too. I have 3 kids myself and it was frustrating to spend the evening “doing” homework with them, then having to lesson plan or grade for my own classroom. Did you send home a letter announcing this with the suggestions? How did you tell the parents about the homework suggestions? Thanks for sharing, Jason!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Last year was the 1st year I made the official no formal homework switch, and it worked great. Early in the year I sent home a letter, and then discussed it face to face with parents. You will have some deep conversations with parents which is great. I think S’s and P’s liked it, from the feedback I heard. Fingers crossed my daughter who starts school in Sept gets a teacher with a flexible homework policy

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  2. Hi Jason, It’s Amy commenting again. Do you mind if I use some of your suggestions for my parent homework letter? I *skimmed* The Homework Myth for some research, typed up a letter to my new families, and wanted to include a list of suggested optional at home activities for learners. Love the 100 word challenge website! Thanks again for your informative post. Looking forward to your next one.

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