Friday, September 6, 2013

Homework Reflection - Do I really need a homework reading log?

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School starts on Monday for me and like most teachers I have been spending time reflecting on my teaching and thinking about what changes I will make in my classroom this year.  One area I continue to revisit is my homework policy.  I am not a huge fan of homework.  My goal has always been to give work that my second graders can complete independently for the most part.  I also think time after school should be spent playing and enjoying family time.  Generally, my students are expected to read each evening, practice math facts or complete a math review worksheet, and do some word study work.  But I still worry I am giving too much.  After all, I don't think there is any research that supports the use of homework.  Is there?

But here's the BIG thing I am ruminating about - READING HOMEWORK AND READING LOGS.

Here's what I have been doing for the last 4-5 years:

Monday - Friday students select a book from their "just-right" reading basket to bring home and read.  They write the title on a reading log and mark if they finished the book.  In the beginning of the year these take-home books are often rereads from the school day.  As second graders progress in their reading ability they begin reading longer books, and my goal is for them to continue reading the same book they were reading at school for homework.  Each morning I do a quick check-in with each student.  I collect the logs monthly.

Here's the problems I encounter.  First, students often don't fill out the log until they check in with me.  Some fill out the log, but aren't reading.  So, I have been asking myself - do I really need to keep using this homework reading log?  After all, my students already keep a log of all the books they read throughout the year, which is very valuable.  Why do I need another piece of paper?

So, I need to think, what are my goals for reading homework?  Why do I use a reading log? Should I replace the log with some type of reading response log?

My goals for reading homework:  I want my students reading every day outside of school for at least 30 minutes.  I want them reading independently.  That means they can read and understand the book all by themselves.  (And I hate calling it homework!  It gives reading a negative feeling.  But that's another conversation.)

Why do I use a reading log for homework?  It gives me an easy view of what they have been reading recently.  It gives me a starting point for checking in with them.  Hmm... and now that I type this I understand why I have been unsettled about using this homework reading log.  So, I think I will be getting rid of the homework reading log.  It doesn't help students and it certainly isn't giving me any more information about my students that I can't get when I confer with them regularly.

As for adding a response log to my homework - I don't think I will be doing that either.  My students do enough reading response during the school day.

So, now I can focus on the important part of "Reading at Home", which is motivating my early readers and helping them to become lifelong readers inside and outside of school.

And maybe I will get rid of more homework too....

Want more thinking on the homework issue?  Try these sites.

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn

Pernille Ripp has numerous post on this topic and writes about it in a straight forward, thoughtful way.

What is your opinion on the homework topic?

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