14 August 2017

Head of Junior School

Homework and Cards on the Table

Homework can usually be described in one of two ways, a joy or a battle. These descriptions would more often than not come from parents. Homework is an opportunity to consolidate learning and success from school. It should make the child feel good about their learning and their success. It should not always be easy; struggling on occasion is good for a child. It helps develop the work habits required for ongoing and future success at school and beyond. Homework supports the development of perseverance, self-management and resourcefulness. As a child gets older the responsibility for completing homework needs to become theirs.

Many children are very busy with commitments outside of school hours. Sports training and matches, music lessons and practice can take up several nights after school per week. To assign daily homework is not always practical and may cause undue stress and tension.

In Junior School we have homework expectations to assist the boys in their learning and development. Children need time to play, run and jump in an unstructured manner with family and friends. Children need time to be children.

The one area of homework that we firmly believe must be done every night is reading. Reading with and to a parent, as well as independently is essential. Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) led one of the most extensive studies of independent reading in which they investigated the relationship of reading time to reading achievement. The study found that the amount of time students spent reading independently was the best predictor of vocabulary development and reading achievement gains.

The research indicates that independent reading is probably the major source of vocabulary acquisition beyond the beginning stages of learning to read. Students who read more can learn the meanings of thousands of new words each year.

The chart below shows the high impact of independent reading time to word exposure and the percentile of reading achievement. (Developmental Studies Center)

Percentile

Independent Reading

Minutes per Day

Words Read

per Year

98

65

4,358,000

90

21.1

1,823,000

80

14.2

1,146,000

70

9.6

622,000

60

6.5

423,000

50

4.6

282,000

40

3.2

200,000

30

1.3

106,000

20

0.7

21,000

10

0.1

8,000

2

0

0

Our approach to homework focuses on the development and consolidation of basic skills. We advise achieving this through games that make learning fun. Often games can keep the learning hidden and provide opportunities for parents and children to play and learn together. Our upcoming Parents Engagement Workshops on mathematics card games (Cards on the Table, 4 March) and Numero (12 March) will provide parents with a range of fun games they can play with their child and at the same time help them learn key maths skills. On 20 March our Year 1 teachers will lead a session for Year 1 parents entitled "Reading with your child" and will provide practical strategies to assist with homework for younger boys.

Other ways that parents can assist their children's learning is to provide opportunity for younger children to develop their fine motor skills which impact on their ability to control a pencil and write. Colouring activities and cutting with scissors can develop the muscles needed for writing. In addition to this the learning of the key high frequency words will greatly assist a child to develop his independent reading ability.

Engage with your child in fun homework activities. If they see it more as something they can do with parents and siblings it will become less of a chore to do. Your son's teacher can provide more advice on homework, and attending the Parent Engagement Workshops will help you gain more ideas on how to make homework 'fun'.

John Stewart

Head of Junior School