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On Homework

is one of those words we teachers at Opal School continue to create shared
meaning around.

We love
this post


explains how any work done at home, inspired by work done at school or not, is

Alfie Kohn
wrote a book called The Homework Myth:  Why our kids get too much
of a bad thing
 (DeCapo Press 2006)


and wrote
this article that outlines why his research shows that the benefits of homework
are small and the negative consequences of homework on children and family life
are large.


So much
traditional homework is busy work that keeps our children sedentary and takes
time away from their involvement in family life, and the free time of their
childhood where they can play and explore on their own. We do know that that
time is a limited commodity with lifelong benefits. 

As parents
and educators who want to be sure our students are “well prepared,” we have to
start asking questions:

  • Does traditional homework really prepare children for future
  • Since we know many Opal graduates will encounter traditional
    homework in middle school, shouldn’t we get them ready for it now?
  • Are homework consequence and reward systems effective or
  • What work can children do at home that will help them learn time
    management skills and provide academic benefits?
  • How can we recognize the work children do at home as valuable
    homework, like housework, shopping for the family, afterschool activities,
    sports, cultural activities, etc?

There are
some things we do know:


Specifically, reading for pleasure, is always closely correlated with academic
success among other benefits.

What do we
mean by “reading for pleasure”? Although we use the phrase frequently and
liberally in everyday or even our working life, it is surprisingly hard to
define. Reading for pleasure refers to reading that we to do of our own free
will anticipating the satisfaction that we will get from the act of reading. It
also refers to reading that having begun at someone else’s request we continue
because we are interested in it. It typically involves materials that reflect
our own choice, at a time and place that suits us. According to Nell (1988),
reading for pleasure is a form of play that allows us to experience other
worlds and roles in our imagination. Holden  (2004) also conceived of
reading as a “creative activity” that is far removed from the passive pursuit
it is frequently perceived to be. Others have described reading for pleasure as
a hermeneutic, interpretative activity, which is shaped by the reader’s
expectations and experiences as well as by the social contexts in which it
takes place (e.g. Graff, 1992).

© National
Literacy Trust – Reading for pleasure (page 6) 

 Source: http://www.scholastic.com/content/collateral_resources/pdf/i/Reading_for_pleasure.pdf


And with
that, we introduce “homework” in Opal 4.

On Friday,
your student will bring home a “Thinking Log” in their home folder.  The
idea of the Thinking Log is that it is a place where they can record the books
and other reading material they are reading for pleasure at home and share some
of the thinking they are doing about their reading.  We have practiced
using the Thinking Log in school this week and the students know how to fill it

expectation for reading homework is that everyone will read for pleasure
outside of school daily.  That’s it.  There is no expectation around
reading material or how much time is spent reading.  Pleasure!  The
Thinking Log should be filled in daily (only once over the Friday, Saturday,
Sunday weekend) and turned in on Friday. 
I also want them to get in the habit of carrying their home folder back
and forth every day, and I will peek at the Thinking Logs during the week to reinforce
the daily habit.

students will have done some brainstorming in school around what that “homework”
might look like for them, and I would love it if the adults at home work with
their children to find a routine (time, place, access to reading material and
thinking log and pen or pencil) that works for them.  Some ideas that have
worked for students in the past:

I read in
the car on the way to school.  I fill in my Thinking Log when I get to the

I read in
my bed before I fall asleep.  I keep my home folder, with my Thinking Log
and a pen in it, next to my bed.  As soon as I notice a thought pop into
my head I write it down.  Then I just read until I feel sleepy or my mom
tells me to turn out the light.

I read at
the dining room table right when I get home from school.

in my family sits in the living room and reads after dinner.  I read my
book and my mom reads out loud to my little sister.

I have a
book at home and a book at school and I am reading both of them.

I carry my
book back and forth from home to school.

I read the newspaper or a magazine at home or even picture books and graphic


Thank you so much for supporting our work at home.  Do
you have any concerns, ideas, or questions about homework?  Let’s use the
comment section here to start a conversation.