jump to navigation

create your homework February 21, 2012

Posted by Jessica in Bloom's Taxonomy, early childhood education, homework.
Tags: , , ,
trackback
Homework should not be something we give to our students because we did not have time to get to part of a lesson in class.

Homework is intended to be practice of concepts already covered in class.  An effective teacher will use completed homework to assess her teaching skills and student mastery to guide further instruction within a unit.  I like to take the issue a step further.

I initiated a once-a-month program called “Create Your Homework”.  Every month students get to choose (or they can be assigned) something we have studied in class and create a homework project based on his or her understanding of the topic.  Examples of types of projects I have seen or suggested include:

  • Cooking projects using standard measurements we have studied in class (cups, teaspoons, etc.)  This is also a great way to incorporate fractions (1/2 tablespoon, and so on).  Write the recipe and instructions for how you completed the recipe, what tools you used, etc.
  • Draw pictures or take photographs of a weekend activity you do often with your parents (going to places such as church, the park, or doing common activities such as walking the dog or going to soccer practice).  Make into a presentation and retell the story for the class.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

I have found that during these projects you have the flexibility to allow children to choose or create their own topics or, at times, you may also assign topics to each individual child to allow additional practice and to check for mastery.

In order to appreciate the benefit of Choose Your Own Homework, let us look at one of the above-topics:

Insect

Insect (Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer)

Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

A teacher could send home a worksheet asking the following questions:

  • How many legs do insects have?
  • What is special about insects’ skeletons?
  • List the 3 body regions of an insect:
  • What are antennae?
  • Do all insects have wings?

There you have it:  traditional homework which involves basic recalling of facts.  In Bloom’s Taxonomy your students will only be accessing the first level: Knowledge.  This level includes identification, recalling information, and knowledge of major ideas.  As teachers we know that this does not necessarily demonstrate a complete understanding.  We want to extend their learning and use as many levels of the taxonomy as possible to check for mastery: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

Think back to the example of “Create Your Homework” we are currently discussing:

Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

We are asking our students to apply the specific knowledge of the characteristics of insects by using said characteristics to find examples of insects in original sources.  They are demonstrating comprehension by transferring this knowledge into a new context.  We are then asking them to analyze their findings by separating the idea of the insect into its component parts and seeing patterns among our examples.  Finally, we are asking them to take what they know about insects and create a new creation that follows the same patterns they have identified; to synthesize the information.  For children who are ready, we could extend the assignment into evaluation by giving various pictures of “imaginary bugs” so that they may examine each and judge them on the basis of whether or not they fit the criteria for belonging to the insect family.

This approach checks for basic knowledge as well as a student’s ability to use that knowledge.  Our goal is never to have our children memorize useless facts, but to understand new concepts in relation to their world and be able to use the knowledge they gained to become successful.  We are teaching them to become critical thinkers.  Our homework assignments should be useful to that end.  Practice and quizzes have their time and place.  They will always be part of the homework routine.  Let us challenge ourselves as educators, though.  Let us extend our fact-checking into a functional check of our students’ thinking skills.

You may discover, as I did, that students begin to extend their own projects into different realms, making connections across the curriculum.  These are the connections for which we strive.

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: