Thursday, September 17, 2009

Homework and Potholes for Failure Part I

Part one: Homework and potholes for failure

The road a student must travel for successful homework achievement is filled with many potholes for failure. One major pothole can be avoided by making the homework experience less negative? Unfortunately, with homework, we often equate it with ’drill and kill’ or ‘no pain no gain’ for successful learning? Instead parents might try and reinforce author Joseph Pearce’s theory (Magical Child) that we must first go through the heart to stimulate the midbrain, the area of thinking and emotion for greater intelligence and learning. In other words, we can make the homework experience more positive by building in a few key strategies that takes their own individual child’s strengths to heart. Hence, “I learned it by heart.”

For example, one major pothole affecting homework success is the actual homework assignments. Teachers usually face two to three developmental levels in every classroom, which means that children’s ability to learn will be different, and certain children may need more help with homework than other students. I am not speaking about intelligence, but the age of the child’s developmental level can affect homework achievement. Recall the first grader whose homework assignment is to read one 20-minute story with a parent. They read one story and still have 15 minutes left before bedtime. The mother suggests they read another story but the child refuses, “because teacher said to read only one story.” The mother could interpret the child’s response as lazy, obstinate and even lacking ability but in reality, it is only the child’s developmental level or cognitive stage or way of thinking that is causing her refusal to read. The child is still at the preoperational stage, which means she can only entertain one idea or person at a time, which in this case is her teacher. In time the child will mature and move to a higher stage called “concrete operational” thinking and be able to entertain two ideas at a time and respond to both teacher and parent.

Next week I will post Part II which explores different learning styles.


  1. My daughter went to Montessori schools for most of her elementary school years and I really liked the fact that there was no homework. Teachers believed that the children did enough work at school and that after school time was for friends, family, and rest.
    What's the point these days of homework,anyway? I understand the need to learn by practice but some of the homework just seems unnecessary.
    Looking forward to Part II!

  2. Skill plus repetition = mastery.As I said most of

    school is geared to the lingustic and math intelligences.The key for parents is to recognize the child's particular intelligence or learning style and merge that with the homework assignment.
    Ex: before reading any passage you should have the child look at the title and first figure out what the reading is about and then have them add or recreate in their own words.