by Dr. Marvin Marshall
Home assignments are an extension of instruction. It is related to teaching and learning, not to discipline in the sense of classroom disruptions or social irresponsibility.
Home assignments provide opportunities to practice and improve skills or gain further knowledge or understanding. Home assignments also teach lessons that cannot be measured, such as self-discipline, perseverance, and time management. Home assignments teach how to begin a task, complete it, and be responsible for the outcome.
Especially at the elementary grades, home assignments need to be tempered with considerations for other demands on young people's time. Home assignments have modest influence on achievement in the early grades. When the amount an number of assignments becomes overwhelming, negative attitudes about school and learning result. Assignments should be short, interesting and easy to complete by students. Leave the more demanding work for the classroom.
More than 100 studies have shown that it is not until middle school that home assignments begins to pay off.
In order to make home assignments more attractive, offer the choice of two assignments. Be sure students understand the purpose of the assignment. Periodically, have a short discussion of the benefits. Ask for input from students. Explain what you believe students will learn or accomplish from an assignment, and then ask for suggestions.
Assignment should be focused. For example, rather than asking students to write about an open-ended theme from a novel that the class is reading, ask them to pick one character and explain why that character behaved in a particular way.
Assigning a chapter to read before it is discussed is almost useless. The practice works only if the teacher does some pre-teaching by providing a cognitive map-an organizing scheme or scaffold. A scaffold is a frame built before constructing something. Building a scaffold for students makes it easier for them to make sense of what is being read. Give them clues about the chapter. Then, when they are motivated enough to read, they will enjoy the satisfaction of discovery.
Another approach is to teach students to preview or "multipass" by passing through the chapter looking for organizers before reading it. This scanning includes headlines, subheadings, bold print and italics, chapter summary, pictures and graphs, objectives, chapter questions, and vocabulary words that are listed.
REDUCING THE CORRECTION OF HOME ASSIGNMENTS
Since we learn best by teaching, have students become teachers. For example, before the teacher checks any essay, at least two other people should check it. When final papers are submitted, the will be of higher quality and more enjoyable to read. Also, when papers are submitted, refrain from correcting them. Instead, make a comment such as, "You have a spelling error in this paragraph." "Check for noun-verb agreement in this sentence." Using abbreviations will save even more time. This "grappling" encourages self-correction and self-evaluation. Save time with arithmetic by selecting only five problems to correct, rather than checking all answers. The problems may be the last five or any five problems. When students submit their papers, correct only these pre-selected problems. Looking at only these will give enough indication of whether or not more time needs to be invested in the lesson or with selected students.
Past Gazette Articles by Dr. Marshall:
- Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence (June 2009)
- Discipline Is a Liberating Word (May 2009)
- Eliciting vs. Punishments (Apr. 2009)
- Habit vs. Awareness for the 3 Practices and for the Hierarchy of Social Development (Mar. 2009)
- How to Be Consistent (Feb. 2009)
- Teaching is an Art, Not a Science (Jan. 2009)
- Tapping Into Internal Motivation (Dec. 2008)
- People Do Better When They Feel Good (Nov. 2008)
- The Brain and Sleep (Oct. 2008)
- Using a Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Hierarchy of Social Development (Sept. 2008)
- 5 Classroom Tips (Aug. 2008)
- Discipline Without Stress, Inc. (July 2008)
- Visualization (June 2008)
- Promoting Responsibility - Or How Not To (May 2008)
- Immaculate Perception (April 2008)
- A System Is Superior To Talent (Mar. 2008)
- To promote responsibility, Elicit Rather Than Impose (Feb. 2008)
- Understanding Boys (Jan. 2008)
- Descartes' Error: I think; therefore, I am (July 2003)
- Metacognition -- Thinking about Thinking Is Essential for Learning (June 2003)
- Listening Lessons -- How to Help Kids Learn and Comprehend (May 2003)
- Approaches of Outstanding Teachers (Apr 2003)
- Using a Discipline Approach to Promote Learning (Mar 2003)
- Curriculum, Instruction, Classroom Management, and Discipline (Feb 2003)
- Learning and Relationships, The two are inseparable (Jan 2003)
- Accountability in Schools (Dec 2002)
- Suggestions For Motivation (Nov 2002)
- Given Names - When NOT to Use Them and when TO Use Them (Oct 2002)
- The Power Of Hierarchies (Sept 2002)
- Use the Language You Want Learned (Aug 2002)
- Observations From Last Year (July 2002)
- How The Horse Whisperer Trains a Wild Mustang in 30 Minutes (June 2002)
- Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation (May 2002)
- Reducing Stress By Promoting Responsibility--Rather than by Attempting to Manipulate Behavior (Apr 2002)
- Rules Vs. Expectations (Mar 2002)
- How to Achieve 100 Per Cent Student Participation (Feb 2002)
- Positivity, Choice, and Reflection Exercise for Students (Jan 2002)
- Learning Climate (Dec 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 3) (Nov 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 2) (Sep 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 1) (May 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 2) (Apr 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 1) (Mar 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (pt 2) (Feb 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (Jan 2001)
- Home Assignments (Dec 2000)
- Collaboration is the Key (Nov 2000)
- Classroom Meetings (Aug 2000)
Dr. Marshall's website: http://www.MarvinMarshall.com
Email Dr. Marshall: firstname.lastname@example.org