In my opinion, there are two reasons homework may be a chore:
- Teachers assign 'rote' exercises that have little thought, creativity, or meaning to students; or
- Homework is too difficult for a student's independent working level - or it is too easy and again becomes a meaningless chore.
In Arthur's case (see the video clip), there is so much homework - it is overwhelming. No fun, no creativity - just seemingly endless work.
There's another wonderful tale of homework in Frindle by Andrew Clemens - a story about Nick Allen - the master teacher distractor...and if you haven't read it with your child it is a MUST! This story begins with Nick Allen as he prepares for fifth grade. He must buy a dictionary before school begins and on the first day of school is prepared to distract his teacher (who is notorious for her homework assignments). As she is about to give homework Nick attempts to distract her by asking her 'What makes a word a word?' She responds with, "you do!" The story is all about how she not only does not let Nick distract her from giving homework, she gives him additional homework figuring out exactly what makes a word a word. This assignment is so meaningful, Nick is determined to coin a new work, "FRINDLE." Read it. It's brilliant!
In the first instance (for Arthur), homework is a chore. In the second (for Nick) it's a challenge. Which scenario would YOU prefer?
The problem in assigning homework is that every student is different, and making assignments for each student is unrealistic. As a result, teachers and parents have to help their children find meaning in homework assignments. There are some other alternatives though. Here are some suggestions:
- Homework assignments can offer different types of questions and options for students of various skills and preferences to wrestle with on their own time.
- Provide opportunities to mentally manipulate content material creatively, making it more meaningful and personal.
- Instead of worksheets, have students construct vocabulary word games to play during recess and classroom breaks, or write a journal entry, screenplay, reflecting topics in social studies and science.
- Have students create comic books expanding poetry or texts covered in classroom readings including selected vocabulary, and/or specific 'talking points' .
- Include an option for more abstract opinion questions that some students love pursuing and others find too philosophical and unstructured.
- Talk to kids about their homework (but don't do it for them)
- Help your child find relevance to the homework assignments (especially if they don't immediately see it).
- Talk about the Arthur clip above. Why is it so bad, what could make homework more palatable.
- Jon Scieszka has some wonderful books on Math Curse and Science Verse which may help your child find relevance in math and science.
- Design a special place/table/desk/corner for homework. Help them structure their time so that after homework is completed they can have fun. This is really important. [See http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/theme-thursday-sense-of-space-and.html for more details.]
- Not only should kids have a desk/table to work at, they should have their materials readily available as well. This means pens, pencils, paper, dictionaries, etc., should be easily accessible as they're working.
- IF an assignment is overwhelming, help kids break down assignments into manageable sequences.
- Talk about project/paper options. Brainstorm together and help guide your child. Again, for projects you may need to help them structure their time.
- Some kids find a slight music distraction helpful for concentration - other's don't. Talk about this with your (older) kids.
- When in doubt, go check out Calvin & Hobbes:
Or, if you prefer music.... check out doing homework with Otis Rush: