Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Outgrowing homework assignments
Why are homework assignments so difficult? And involved? And complicated? I have thought long and hard, but I never remember teachers giving such difficult assignments when I was a kid. Today homework is really tough! Items to look up, pictures to find, art projects to create ... it's a never-ending stream. It's really difficult, time-consuming work, and I think teachers are not being realistic when they ask it of us. That's right, us--as in parents. Some of these projects are so involved, there's no way a third or fourth grader could do these on his own.
For example, last year my sons had to do animal notebooks. They had to find pictures and label and categorize them, write reports, and arrange everything in an attractive notebook. Being a frustrated scrapbooker (I like the idea, but I never had time to sit down and do it), I put all my scrapbooking efforts into helping the boys with these notebooks. They used foam letters for the introductory pages in each section. Their pictures had scalloped edges from using my scrapbooking scissors. Instead of writing out labels, I helped the boys design them on the computer. They used glitter glue, stickers and dye cut figures to decorate the pages. When we were finished, their books were twice as thick as anyone else in the class. Not because they had more information; they had more decoration. The teacher awarded them each three extra points for their creativity. All that for six points. And I tried so hard!
This year my son had to make a poster with a 3-D picture of a flower or plant, using craft items. My son chose to do the pitcher plant. He says he chose that one because he'd never seen one. I had to look it up as well. The top part is wide open and looks like it would attack you ala Venus Fly Trap. Then it has a little bag hanging from it. The bag is streaked with colors. How were we supposed to do this in 3-D? Why couldn't he pick a daisy? A few cotton balls and a yellow circle of felt and we'd be done. As I looked for items he could use in his poster, I came across some tie-dyed balloons. I was ecstatic. A balloon could be used for the bag part of the plant, and since it was tie-dyed, it would even mimic the streaked color.
When we got home I helped him use some moss to cover the bottom of the posterboard. Then I opened up the bag of balloons. They were small. Really small. There was no way one of those would represent a bag. Then I found about seven in the bag that were still attached to each other. They'd apparently never been cut completely apart. I was pretty sure we were finished until Joel pointed out that if we curved that attached line of balloons in a circle, it looked like the mouth of the plant. I blew a little air into an additional balloon, and we used that one for the bag. After all my agonizing and planning, my son stepped in and made a workable suggestion in about 2 seconds. So why does he need me? I finished my homework years ago. In fact, I think I'll go see about assigning additional homework for the students in my English classes. I'm sure their parents could use the extra work.
Posted by Jill at 5:57 PM