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Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Response To All the Homework Haters

(Photo: Dreamstime)

There seem to be a lot of homework haters out there lately. And, in certain respects, I am among them. As a mom of 3 grade school kids, I know I look like the mom in the picture above more days than not. Is it a hassle to come home, make dinner, give baths, do after school activities, wash clothes, AND do homework? Sure it is. Do the kids WANT to do homework? Of course not. So then the question becomes: Is homework worth it? 

Despite all the negative press given to homework lately, my own short answer to this question is yes. 

The foremost researcher on homework (by many accounts) is Dr. Harris Cooper. His most recent work is a meta-analysis of homework research, "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003". Several recent blog posts and articles have taken his work to mean that homework is, at least at the elementary school level, pointless. One example is the article "Homework is Wrecking Our Kids." I, however, do not agree. 

Some parents, teachers, and perhaps even school districts seem to be reacting to this plethora of recent articles by getting rid of homework or by contemplating doing so. But, let's first take a look at the findings of Dr. Cooper. To quote the article: "The authors found that all studies, regardless of type, had design flaws. However, both within and across design types, there was generally consistent evidence for a positive influence of homework on achievement. Studies that reported simple homework-achievement correlations revealed evidence that a stronger correlation existed (a) in Grades 7-12 than in K-6 and (b) when students rather than parents reported time on homework"(Cooper, 2006). Yet, as his ideas for future research suggest, it is important to note that not enough research has been conducted on homework in the early elementary grades. Cooper also admits that not all of the positive effects of homework are measured by current research. It would be difficult to measure "better critical thinking" and "greater self-discipline." These are both included in his long list of the possible benefits of homework. Furthermore, the research seems to suggest that the length of time spent on homework is another salient variable that must be addressed.

I would argue that, although homework is certainly not my favorite spend-time-with-your-kids activity, it is certainly important. I have noticed many benefits for students (both from the perspective of a teacher AND that of a mom). While the list below is a short one, my hope is to provide homework haters (myself included) with another perspective. Let's remind ourselves of some of the positive outcomes of homework and ways in which take-home assignments might be altered, becoming an effective educational tool. 


Benefits of Homework

1.  Basic skill acquisition. While most of the benefits in the research were found to occur in high school, I would really like to see more research challenging this. What about learning addition facts? The multiplication tables? There is no doubt in my mind that learning the basics (in any subject or field) makes it easier to handle more complicated material later on. I'll admit that, true to the research, the effects might not be seen right away in terms of grades or test scores. But what happens to the student who does not learn, for example, basic math facts?

2. "Practice makes perfect." My band director (shout out to Mr. E) always said this right after he gave us a piece to take home and do for HOMEWORK. My children practice the violin almost every day. Why? Because if you do not practice, you will never be good at something. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice (i.e. homework) to become proficient at something (Gladwell, 2008). There are just not enough hours in the day to do that at school. This is the part where students put the basic skills into practice, using them to advance their knowledge in a subject (e.g., as they solve increasingly difficult math problems).

3.  Self-discipline and time management. These are both very important skills that students must learn. Both are vital to obtaining and maintaining A JOB in adulthood. Right now, in our early elementary household, we are in the "nagging" phase. Did you do your homework? Do you have homework? Did you read that book? Did you turn in that paper? Sometimes, it seems like this is all I do. But, one day in the not-so-distant future, my hope is that they will each be able to do this on their own. If students do not learn these skills, then how can they keep a job?


Tips for Meaningful, Effective Homework

1. Keep it short and sweet. My first suggestion to teachers is to keep it short and to the point. Nobody (especially parents such as myself) likes busy work. The National PTA suggests 10 minutes per grade level (see NEA on homework). That's just enough to remind students of what they did during the day, provide a little practice, and not give parents even more gray hair! 

2.  Keep the student in mind. Sorry teachers, but I absolutely believe that homework should be differentiated as much as possible. Keep in mind 3 things: 1) What skill does Johnny need to work on?  2) Can someone in his family help him?  3) Can this work easily be completed at home? 

As an aside, I think this aspect of assigning homework also addresses the socio-economic issue that concerns many homework haters. I think it's inconceivable to think of removing homework because some students don't have an enriched home life. I believe that's doing the student further injustice (a topic for another day). If Johnny doesn't have the resources at home, then you send them home with him. For example, how difficult is it to include crayons? Often, for these students, I would send home something he/she could "brag" about, such as a book he could already read (while still working on fluency) or a fun practice game to play (including some math facts he already knew or with manipulatives).

3. From a parent's perspective, can these "projects" be a little easier, please? I never realized what I was doing to parents until I became a parent and had to be the one actually DOING the projects. I'll never forget helping my daughter with her (supposedly simple) Hundredth Day poster. Poster board? We don't have one just lying around. What is the absolute easiest way we can get this done and have it still look okay? Stickers! Oh, yeah. I'll need to buy those, too. 

In conclusion, while I see the point that many homework haters are making, I don't think it means that we need to "throw the baby out with the bath water" where homework is concerned. Homework does have its advantages. We do, however, need to be mindful of providing meaningful homework in an age-appropriate amount. Most importantly, we need to have a REASON for assigning homework.  For me, the main reasons are the 3 listed above: practice with the goal of proficiency, time management and self-discipline, as well as basic skill acquisition. I don't think we need to become "homework haters" just yet. At least not until we've done more research. 

Happy homeworking!

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

K-2 Curriculum Bundle



Don't miss this resource-packed curriculum bundle that's available on Educents for a limited time! It includes over $100 worth of products for only $19.99! The resources cover reading, writing, math, science, and social studies for K-2. 

Two of my products are included in this bundle. The first one is "Sight Word Sentences Add and Read for Spring." This set of printables helps students practice sight words, addition, AND fluency. One thing I love about this resource is that students of different reading levels can play it at the same time! Note that, in the picture below, a kindergartener and a second grader can play together! 


The second product is "Addition Fun with Friends." This is a set of multipurpose task cards to help students practice addition facts. They can be used as a card game, task cards, or for a game of Scoot! 

This curriculum bundle contains 20 different resources that are just right for K-2. 
CLICK HERE to take a look! 

Happy teaching! 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Valentine Write the Room FREEBIE!



Hi, everyone! I have a NEW freebie for you! My write the room freebies have been quite popular, so I thought you could use a set for Valentine's Day, too! Plus, I just love it when students are up and moving around WITH A PURPOSE! 

This set makes a super easy writing center. Just print a copy, laminate, and add a dry erase marker! Or . . . print the small blackline copy and cut it in two. These make wonderful little sheets for students to write on and take home. 

As I was making this set, my husband said, "But honey, there aren't many words that begin with V." True. So, if you don't have a word in your room that starts with V, you can just have students fill in the lines with any word. This would be a great way to differentiate the activity by having your high flyers search for words that begin with each letter. 

To grab your FREE set, please click on the picture below. The link will take you to Google Docs where you can download a copy for your classroom. Since this is a FREE resource, feel free to share it with others!


Happy teaching! 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

FREE Bump Addition Games for All Year! K-3


I love it when students are engaged, learning, AND having fun! Bump games are a great way for students to practice math facts. They work well in math centers, for early finishers, as small group practice, or as a take home activity. Here are a few that I have gathered in one spot for your convenience. Download a few and have bump games available for your students throughout the year! 

** If your freebie is featured here, you can download a "Featured Freebie" blog button for your blog. You can find it HERE! **


Back to School
Welcome Back Bump from Sunny Days
     This set includes addition, multiplication, AND blank versions! 


Back to School Bump from Differentiation Station Creations
     This set includes a printable page with the game. 


Fall
     What a great addition to a fall unit on apples! 



Halloween Bump from Games 4 Learning
     Two game boards are included in this set: addition and subtraction. 


Boo Bump from Teacher Tam
     This set includes games for addition, subtraction, and multiplication.


Grandma Thanksgiving Roll and Cover from Mary Lirette
     I use one of the games from this set as a bump game, too. It's fun to put a copy of the "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie" book (Alison Jackson) in a bag with this game and send it home. Students love it! 
Fall Addition Bump from Covered in Glitter and Glue
    Here's another fun, fall-themed version of bump! 



Winter
100th Day Bump from Susan Montague
     Here's another fun activity to add to your 100th Day celebration! 


Groundhog Bump from Kathy Law
     A cute resource for Groundhog Day is always a plus! 


Valentine Bump from Easy Peasy Primary Resources
     Your students are sure to "love" this version! 
You Stole My Heart Game from Hilary Lewis
     There are addition and multiplication games in this set. 


Polar Pals Bump Games from Sandy's Learning Reef
     This set has games for addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Isn't this one cute?! 


Winter Sports Bump from Sweet Integrations
     This set includes a blank board, too!


Gingerbread Bump by Teacher Tam

     Here's another one of my bump games. It has boards for adding 2 numbers and 3 numbers. There are also boards in Spanish! 


Snowman Bump from Kathy Law
     This game covers addition doubles facts.


     How cute are these little guys?!

Christmas Bump from Primary Packrat
     This set would be great to use at home over the break! 
Holly Jolly Bump from Carla Hoff
     This set has several bump games. It includes both full color and blackline versions.




Spring

Bump in the Garden from Miss Galvin Learns
    Let's hop to some addition practice with this eye-catching game!


St. Patrick's Day Game Set (including bump) from Sweet Integrations
  This set includes a game of bump, a board game, and a roll and cover game.



Easter Bump from Sheree Peterson
     This set includes 4 different version of bump. 

Springtime Bump from Tracy Smith
     Bump games like this one work well as math centers, for early finishers, as a home activity, or for small group practice. 



Butterfly Bump from Linda's Learning Loot
     This would make a fun addition to a science unit on butterflies! 



Fiesta Fun Bump for Cinco de Mayo from Alicia Coletti
     I love finding colorful resources like this one! What a fun way to celebrate!



Summer
Summer Bump Game from Teaching Trove
     Things that remind me of the beach are my favorite! This game is sure to be a favorite with your student(s), too! 


Lemonade Bump from Kim Mueller EdD
     My own kids LOVE lemonade, so I just had to include this version! 



Summer Math and Literacy Freebie--and a Bump Game--from Teacher Tam
     This set includes an ice cream themed bump game! 



Great for any time of the year!

Bubblegum Bump from Mrs. Nelson is Missing
     Here's some colorful addition practice for your students! 


Super Bump from Paiges of Learning
   Your students will think this version of bump is just "super!"


Bow Wow Bump from That's So Second Grade
     For the first game, students will add 2 numbers and subtract the sum from 20. The second game is multiplication bump. 

Ninja Bump from Sunny Days
     I had to include this in honor of my youngest son--the ninja! 


Space Bump from Kindergarten Couture
    This game is perfect to include in a unit about space! 


Birthday Bump from Kathy Law
     Here's another bump game for doubles facts.



I hope you found a few practice games that your students will love!
Happy teaching!

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Sight Word Practice FREEBIE!


Here's a very useful SIGHT WORD FREEBIE from Jessica at Deep in the Heart of Teaching. This 11-page set has students write, spell, and trace the following words: go, my, the, see, can, we, to, is, up, am, & at. 

My preschooler is just beginning to work on sight words, so he completed some of the pages yesterday. Each page provided just enough practice to reinforce the sight word. 


TEACHING TIP

Jessica says to use "letters that are the shape of the letter instead of letter tiles for beginning learners/readers. This ensures that the tactile learner can feel the shape of the letter as well as see it." I know working with the letters (a set WITHOUT magnets from Dollar Tree) was my son's favorite part! 

Just click on the picture below to download a set for your student(s)! 


Happy teaching!

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sight Word Game FREEBIE!




Here's a FREE sight word game from Stacy at Teacher's Take Out! It covers Fry's first 100 words.

My son is learning to read CVC words, so I thought we'd start working on some beginning sight words. As you can see, I tried to pick several that he can "sound out" (at, in, it) and a few more easy ones (I, a, to, the). The pile in the picture has several words, but we focused on about 8-10 today. 

My preschooler really enjoyed playing this game! We often use SquinkiesTM  as game pieces--which he loves! Plus, I colored the spaces to make the path easier for him to see. We'll be using the game a lot this summer! 

Teaching Tip
Stacy says that this game is "great for centers, small group, or for 2-player games." You can even use the cards to play different games. You could make 2 copies of the words for a matching game. I plan to put 5-8 on the table and ask my son to find certain words. Since recognition is easier than recall, I think this version of the game will help him to notice differences in the words AND increase his confidence in reading. Personally, I LOVE to send games like this home in ZiplocTM bags for some fun reading practice with family members.

Just click on the picture below to grab a copy for your student(s)! 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/HFW-Game-Fry-List-1-100-651109
 Happy teaching!

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