My teaching partner and I spent some time at the end of this past year reflecting on the role of homework in our fourth grade classes, and how we could improve it. We wanted to make homework more meaningful and to have it connect to class. If a child doesn’t do their homework, we reasoned that the consequences should be more logical than loosing recess time on Fridays.
For example, if they don’t do their reading, then they can’t participate in the literature circle group that day until they catch up, etc. We reasoned if the consequences were more intrinsically tied to success and participation in class rather than individual practice at home, than maybe we’d have more children doing homework because it’s important instead of just because they have to.
I have my doubts about the value of homework in the elementary grades; however, after a class debate about the issue in the fourth quarter, the students themselves came up with reasons why they think homework is necessary. It is also the case that parents expect it, so, we’re on a mission to make homework assignments better.
One of my goals next year in fifth grade is to use more iPad apps in the classroom to do work connected with our objectives. Using them, I feel, will open up possibilities not available with traditional paper and pencil projects and will be motivational for the students.
App Play – Important in the Success of Work with iPad Apps
So…the idea struck me just before falling asleep last night. Why don’t I assign the “app play” that we don’t always have time for in the classroom as homework? In order for students to successfully use apps in a meaningful way, they need to have time to play with them. Not only does the play allow them to figure out the features and how to use them, it makes them more efficient in using them, helps them discover problems or potential pitfalls and takes away some of the “WOW” factor that can distract when the work needs to start.
I designed one, week-long assignment based on an app we used in a limited way last year: Animoto. They’ve been exposed to it before, but not all students had the opportunity to engage in the app play I was talking about before.
In the assignment, they are required to make a video that tells us what they know about reading and being a good reader. I think this is a great assignment for the beginning of the year to access prior knowledge and getting them reflecting on themselves as readers as we launch reader’s workshop and literature circles. I’ve broken it down into four parts for Monday – Thursday, and on Friday they will present them to the class. My idea is that if they are responsible for presenting their work to the class on Friday, then the consequence of not doing it is not being prepared and not being able to participate.
I included an alternate assignment with ideas for paper and pencil projects that would meet the objectives if internet or iPads weren’t available during the week.
This kind of homework, I’m hoping, will accomplish several things:
1. Give children extended time for app play they don’t get in class.
2. Gives them a framework, but also the opportunity to design their own project, to create.
3. Gives them a chance to reflect on themselves as readers.
A link to the document I created is here.