About Me

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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

10 weeks of NO HOMEWORK - 10 observations

I have arrived at the end of a 10 week trial of NOT setting my 4th grade kids homework.
For 10 weeks I've been setting my kids home learning
There is far more to this trial than a cute or subtle word change.  
The trial has been about handing several elements of learning over to the kids:

                         Time management.
 and much more.... trust me.

Our trial ends in a few days.  Before I put a formal proposal to my boss, I'd like to share some insights with you about what I've discovered.  To recap in 5 lines or less, Home Learning has involved:

Kids having choice of 10 activities that they can choose from each night to consider.
Kids documenting how they spend their time each night in their diaries, fully.
Kids being in complete control of what, when, how, why they make their decisions.
Kids being in control of time management - good, bad and ugly - as a learning experience.
Kids discussing each morning the myriad of events and activities that they chose the night before.

So to my observations from 10 weeks of not stressing the kids or myself about homework:

1.  Significantly reduced stress from kids each morning.  Not feeling like they had to have a specific task completed and ready to 'hand in or else'.  Adversarial relationship non-existent.  Shared power.

2.  Significantly reduced stress from me each afternoon.  Not feeling like I had to set/mark another task at 3:00pm each day 'just because'.  The removal of the excuse conversation each morning.  Beautiful.

3.  Better work ethic from boys in particular each morning.  Not feeling stressed to begin the day made a significant difference to several students - mostly, but not all, lads.

4.  Beautifully maintained diaries which documented so many rich experiences that I'd not otherwise have heard about.  I learned about family events, achievements, scouts, ponies, hairstyles and shopping trips.

5.  Creative and thoughtful pieces of work produced by kids who would not have had time to produce such work under a traditional homework structure.

6.  Kids coming to class with insights from their learning that informed the lessons for that day.

7.  Kids formally petrified of maths saying, "I love maths now!" due to time spent learning at their pace and on disciplines that they wanted (and needed) to master.

8.  Kids starting to realise that the time they spend with family and friends is just as important to me as time they spend in front of a book... that I care about what they're doing and it is valid.

9.  Parents being happy about the trial.  Accepting that I've considered this deeply and been prepared to back me when it's working and challenge me when we faced potential problems.

10.  Support from a boss, who dealt with happy parents of happy kids.  Kids who spent more time in the afternoon sunshine, played more, imagined more, were better rested and had better endurance each day.

Do yourself a favour!

I shall write a full post about this trial in the upcoming Spring Holidays.  For now, consider one tip:
BUY Alfie Kohn's book, "The Homework Myth".  Just do yourself a favour and buy it today.
By page 68, you'll be coming back to 'steal' my templates, parent letters, posters, diary ideas and anything else I post on here to share.    It will all be here for you if you want it.  Homework will be dead to you.

Soon, the boss will be handed my manifesto.
Then again, I might just send him to my blog to read about it.

More soon.
Xie Xie Ni.

Rich (CapitanoAmazing) Black

PS.  Alfie Kohn, I thank you.  Oliver Sacks, I thank you.  Edward De Bono, I thank you.
All of you trailblazers have set the wheels in motion for my next trial - Home Learning Part Two.

Captain's Log - Supplemental:

A visitor has asked for a list of possible / suggested options for Home Learning.
The image below is a poster I designed for my classroom wall and for each student's fridge at home.
Parents have found the half-half online-offline options very pleasing.
Some kids are now negotiating cool ideas I'd never have thought of.
The parents have enough direction to cope.
Happy kids.  Happy diaries full of amazing activities and detail.  
Happy times.
Later I will outline the whole program.  Hope this helps.


Bryan Gregg said...

Sounds great...what sorts of things could they choose from as activities?

Richard Black said...

I've just added a poster I made for that very purpose, Bryan. Thanks for the question. Hope the above helps.

wholeboxndice said...

Hi Richard. Great work. Was your previous context that the students had nightly home'work'? Ours is weekly, so the day to day issues you referenced don't exist, but am looking forward to my Term4 trial.

Richard Black said...

Thanks, Steve. Yes... our homework policy (in the until-now unused) student diary, states that the year 4 child will be set 20 minutes of homework + 20 minutes of reading per night. The stress that places on teachers to set it, slower kids to achieve it, faster kids to ask for more or disengage, teachers to mark it, parents to deal with it.
None of this actually teaches our students ANYthing of value.
I sincerely hope your term 4 trial is as successful as my trial was. I am a convert. My kids diaries will be posted again tomorrow or the next day. They speak volumes. Good luck, good sir.

kMACE said...
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Kevin said...

I have read most of Alfie's books and am a believer - though the research takes it out of the "faith" realm. I am encouraged to hear success stories such as your and hope others follow your lead.

Bryan Gregg said...

Thanks Richard, very useful. Great ideas - all the best!

Tim Slack said...

Thanks for posting the results of your 'experiments'. This is something I have been very interested in for quite a while. I think it makes a huge difference at school and at home. Well done!

Allan Katz said...

Thanks to Alfie Kohn's twitter I got to read your post. While it is important to learn about the homework myth it is more important to hear about the alternatives from teachers in the field

Lindy Buckley said...

Sounds wonderful. A great trial! Thanks for the updates of how it has gone.

Anonymous said...

would love to hear how this is going