California Educator

December 2015

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Page 17 of 63

H O M E W O R K I S A W A Y to extend learning beyond the classroom. Much of my English homework is reading, and I also assign practice writing at home (low stakes) so kids can take risks, experiment and have fun. I suggest that parents read the assigned novel at home with their kids; I even offer copies of the books that parents can borrow. Then they can talk with their kids about what's happening in the novel, and indirectly help them stay on track with the reading assignments rather than nag them. I also suggest that parents provide feedback on their kids' writing — not editing it, but just honest responses — such as "This part is a little confusing," or "Can you add some detail here? I want to know more." By being involved, parents can demonstrate to their kids that school is important, that they want their kids to achieve, that they recognize learning is difficult, and that sometimes they can help. Kids need to know that parents are there supporting them to do their very best. If a student needs help, parents should definitely encourage them to seek help from their teacher first. But there are many things that parents can do to assist with homework. Of course, sometimes students don't want their parents to help. When my son was in grade school, I was helping him with some English homework, and he didn't believe me when I told him that a particular sentence was a run-on. I explained to him why it was indeed a run-on, but he wasn't buying it. So I asked him to ask his teacher to look at the sentence and let her settle the dispute. She told him, "If your mom says it's a run-on, it's a run-on." Aer that, whenever a grammar question came up in his class, he was sent home with a request to get my input. And now he listens to my advice. Students should take responsibility for doing their own homework. But that doesn't mean that parents can't support kids if they need help. Therese Sorey, Irvine Teachers Asso- ciation president, teaches English at University High School. F O R E V E R Y T E A C H E R , home- work plays a different role. The role homework plays in my classroom is to provide an informal assessment of what students learned from my teaching that day, and what students can do independently. If parents help them do their homework, it is difficult for me to assess their skill level or know whether my teaching was effective. Also, with all the changes from the Common Core, I don't expect parents to solve problems the way my students are now being taught. When parents get involved with homework, there is often frustration. Kids will tell me, "My mom tried helping me with my homework, but she had a hard time." Students are saying they can't do it — and Mom can't do it either. They may have left my classroom feeling positive about their ability to complete the assignment, and then a parent became involved and now the student is confused. When that happens, it overshadows all the hard work done in the classroom. It's also very important to remember that home- work should always reflect teaching. If teachers send home assignments, it should always be something that was already taught in the classroom. Students also need to take responsibility for their homework, because being responsible is a life skill. When they get to college they need to know how to study and problem-solve on their own, and their parents won't be there to help them. There are things that parents can do to help students with homework without becoming too involved. They can talk about perseverance. They can encourage students to think about alternative ways to approach a problem. They can serve as a sounding board for ideas. And if a question is too difficult to understand, they can help their child break down the question and try to make sense of it. We work on all of this in the classroom. When it comes to helping students with home- work, parents should step back. It's important, especially with the Common Core, for students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills on their own, which will help them not only in school, but in life. Christina Sotelo Benson, National City Elementary Teachers Association, teaches fih grade at Central Elemen- tary School. In some households, the question isn't just for kids. That's because parents are oen part of the homework equation these days. Some educators think parents should pitch in, while others think parents should skip their kids' homework assignments. Should parents be expected to help students with homework? P O I N T / C O U N T E R P O I N T YES NO "Did you do your homework today?" 16

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