Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

On Homework

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

We love this post


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

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 study?
  • 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 necessary?
  • 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:


Reading.  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 in.

The 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.

The 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 classroom.

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.

Everyone 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.

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


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.

October 04, 2013