It’s a necessary writing strategy: know your audience and purpose. Well, in my latest educontemplation about homework, I’ve been thinking more and more about audience and purpose when it comes to homework.
Purpose is what drives a writer. Are you entertaining, informing, persuading or expressing an idea? (Your basic 4th grade lesson on author’s purpose.) Well, I guess my purpose in giving homework is to continue students’ learning at home, but it doesn’t always feel successful. I have a feeling students would think the purpose of HW is to bore and annoy them. Well, I asked my students what they thought about homework yesterday. It was the topic of a lesson in main idea and through their development of main idea and details, I was able to get a sense of what they thought of homework.
While some students will tell me that they like homework, stating they think it’s “fun”, many are honest and say that homework isn’t always fun. Now, please realize that I don’t think homework should necessarily be fun – it should be work. But the work should be engaging, challenging and even enjoyable if not fun.
Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher) is one of MANY teachers blogging about homework and in a September post, he stated reasons why not to assign homework. These lines resonated with me, “We can make a safe assumption that a majority of kids do not find homework pleasurable. With that in mind, we will turn kids off to learning if we attempt to connect homework to learning. In my experience, homework does not instill a love of learning, it does quite the opposite.”
I believe that is what traditional homework can do, especially to the students we need to reach the most, and that brings me to audience.
When you write, you need to know your audience, and part of that is knowing where they are coming from.
I’m sure that no matter where you teach, you have the whole range of students: the ones with little support at home or those who go home to lives that are emotionally draining as well as the the ones with educated, supportive parents. I know that many parents who are well-intended find homework to be a power struggle with their child. Let’s face it, when students get home, they would rather (or in actuality NEED) to do things that excite and motivate them. Could that be the key to what type of homework we assign?
But if you think about the real purpose for homework (or at least mine): to extend learning in an engaging, challenging and enjoyable way, ALL students can lose a love of learning if the work they consitently have is based in drill and practice or busy work. Homework should be such a natrual extention of learning from school that students should, dare I say feel motivated to do the work.
As a teacher, I must know my students’ needs, and capabilities in order to develop the right homework. So, what do my students need? I know they need to find the self-motivation to practice some basic skills (like reading and math facts), they need to have fun being a kid, time with their families, and to work on things that interest them such as drawing, practicing piano, building legos, etc.
So where does this lead me? Do I have my answer yet to what is the perfect homework? Well, no, not yet, but I’m working on it. Please remember that this is just the beginning of my own journey in revising homework. I don’t have the answers, but I hope to get somewhere with this homework struggle this school year. I’m happy to say that a conversation has begun recently school-wide about how we can revise homework for our students. As for me, I believe keeping audience in purpose in the forefront of our minds is the key to success.
I welcome your comments!