Do Homework at School & Schoolwork at Home

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I was thinking out loud on Twitter and said to  @russgoerend that I’m playing with the idea of having kids do homework at school and schoolwork at home.

At Island Pacific School, we consider three kinds of school work: the basic grammar of a subject, applications of that grammar, and extensions of those applications. For example, some of the grammar of math are the trig rules for solving triangles; an application of those might be measuring the height the school flagpole and an extension of that might be using that to calculate the  and the extension might be using that application to measure the height of old growth firs for a Google maps geo-tagging inventory of local flora on Bowen Island, our school’s home.

Typically, we’ve sent kids home to work on “grammar” exercises with “Read the next two chapters for next week” or “Answer math practice questions 1 – 10 for Thursday” and we’ve saved the fun project-based learning to do in class. The problem is that the kids can go home and do all or some of the work wrong–they can misread the chapters, solve the triangles incorrectly. And they’ll get no feedback from teachers for perhaps days. Yet we know that the sooner students get feedback, the better the learning. We also know, it’s harder to undo learned mistakes than to teach it right the first time.

So, I’ve been running some informal experiments. I read much more to the class–as much as half a novel, maybe–so I can be sure all my students have a good understanding of the texts. I work through drills and practice questions in class so I know they understand the grammar of the subjects I teach. Sometimes I’ll do some applications in class. But I send the kids home to do extension activities and then ask them to come back and report to the class on their work.

Various social media–we use wikis, blogs, IM and email–allow me to keep contact with the kids when they’re doing this extension work outside of school hours. It’s not uncommon for me to get a IM call in the evening from a student with a couple questions about his or her project.

The experiments have been informal, as I said, but I’m getting some indications that the idea works. I have enough anyway to press on further. The students see homework as something rather interesting; the students’ blogs, for example, have grown from a couple dozen words a post to several hundred, and I think I see a growing confidence and willingness to take intellectual risks in the students. The result: better quality applications and extensions.

More to come.

One Comment

  1. Reply
    Lorna Costantini April 14, 2010

    I’ve read with interest about this approach to homework, teaching and student learning. I can’t say enough about how attractive this approach especially when considering parents and their ongoing frustration with not being able to help with homework or worse still doing the homework for the student. Homework at school makes so much sense. Thanks for featuring this in your blog.

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