Saturday, August 17, 2013

Death of the Packet

I'm in a fortunate position this school year. I chose to loop with my class from 2nd to 3rd grade. I can't say that it was an easy decision; I really liked 2nd grade. But I really want to see what my first group of digital disciples can do with another year of maturity, greater awareness of their connection to the world, and improved academic skills. Also, if you read my previous post on the entrepreneurial classroom, I'm trying to introduce a new level of ownership. It's a big change and I think this is the year to test it. I have a great group of kids and understanding, supportive parents with whom I've already developed a relationship. Conditions are right for change. 

In the past I have sent home a packet of homework to be completed throughout the week. Most of the content on the pages should have been review and practice, but in reality, there were times when it wasn't. I justified this by saying that it gave me a chance to see who could figure out something new. I also communicated to parents that when this occurred, they should circle the item or leave a note on the page and move on. This policy was not perfect, but worked fairly well; although I know there were times when homework caused problems.

I also used standardized testing as an excuse for homework. Over the years I had built my packet around concepts that were going to be on the test in April. I'd given the test often enough to know. I'm not proud of this. I felt like a hypocrite; especially since I'm fond of saying that if you teach a child to think they will do. If you teach a child to do they will not think. You can quote me on that. 

So this year, I'm changing. Over the summer, I did some research and reflection on the purpose of homework and came up with the following policy on homework. 

Your child will not be receiving a homework packet this year. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that homework enhances student learning until fourth grade. (Marzano and Pickering, 2007) Most often, homework is the source of confusion, power struggles, and anxiety (both parent and child). Your child will have tasks to do at home when they are relevant to or enhance what is happening in the classroom. You will be notified when these situations arise. If you desire homework on a regular basis, I can provide resources for you to use.

Your child will be expected to read at least 20 minutes each night, recording their thoughts while they read. They are also expected to post a commentary on the book they are reading each week to I will send home a rubric to use to evaluate the blog post for grammar, punctuation, content and structure.

I may reduce the required reading and make a blog post due every two weeks instead of one. But one thing I do know. There won't be anymore packets.

Marzano, Robert & Pickering, Debra (March, 2007). Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework [Web log post] Retrieved from

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