During the 2013-14 academic school year, MPS faculty carefully looked at current research about homework; based on that research and lively discussion, they’ve developed the following guidelines for homework:
We believe that there is a place for homework in an elementary school. Meaningful homework serves several purposes. It can support learning, establish routine, provide extra practice, and promote timeliness, accountability, and prideful work. Just as all children learn at different rates, the ability to have facility with homework for some children will come more quickly than for others. We believe that a gradual introduction of homework is developmentally the best practice for our school.
- In kindergarten, children will read nightly for at least 15-20 minutes. The importance of developing the habit and enjoyment of reading is paramount to all learning. Kindergarten teachers will send leveled readers home and develop and communicate a system for nightly reading accountability at the beginning of the school year. There may be occasional special projects during the kindergarten year in addition to the daily reading.
- The transition from kindergarten to 1st grade is significant in that there are many new daily routines, expectations, and transitions. To assist with this transition, the first semester of 1st grade will mirror that of kindergarten with the expectation of daily reading for 15-20 minutes. Teachers will have available leveled readers that children can bring home; they will also assist students in selecting appropriate books from our school library. Parents are encouraged to visit the school library and public library with their child to select books at the appropriate level and area of interest. Second semester will see this continue with the addition of one 15 minute homework assignment once a week. The purpose is to begin the process of taking an assignment home, completing it, and bringing it back to school. This might be math practice, a writing assignment, or a fun activity.
- First semester of 2nd grade will mirror 1st grade, with children reading 20 minutes each night and completing one assignment each week. Second semester of 2nd grade will increase homework assignments to twice a week, with each assignment about 15 minutes in length, and again with the expectation that the work is meaningful and builds the habit of follow-through.
- In third grade we move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” The expectation is daily reading for 20-30 minutes first semester and two homework assignments a week. Second semester will increase homework to three times a week, with assignments averaging about 15-20 minutes in length. We expect greater accountability and the facility to plan work load.
- In 4th grade the expectation is to read 20-30 minutes each evening and to complete up to four assignments weekly. 5th grade really is an extension of 4th grade in terms of homework, with the gradual shift to an emphasis on longer-range projects and increased time management skills.
In all grades there may be the occasional project that slightly alters these guidelines, but anything necessary to these projects will be communicated to both students and parents.
One of the primary goals of our Spanish language program is to maintain the positive attitude of our students and to continue to nurture their enthusiasm. To this end, there will be no formal Spanish homework in lower grades (K-2nd). Instead, we will provide parents with a list of useful audio-visual resources to use outside school if and when there is a need for extra practice and reinforcement. Such resources may include: songs, animation, feature films, interactive games, and reading.
In third and fourth grades, written homework will occasionally be assigned, with work pertinent to the theme(s) and skills studied.
Reading recommendations will be ongoing to suit both parents and children so that homework becomes an enjoyable task to share with their family (our Director of Language program is working with the library committee to order books to serve this purpose).
Any Spanish homework will be assigned with the understanding that both the Spanish language teacher and lead classroom teacher are in communication to monitor workload and fit within our overall homework guidelines.
We feel strongly that this balanced approach to homework sets reading as the cornerstone of our school and supports developmentally appropriate homework opportunities that will help children become confident learners. Assigned homework will be meaningful and will be corrected by teachers and either returned home or kept in a portfolio to be shared at parent/teacher conferences.
As a school we strongly feel that asking for “extra” homework is not usually in the best interest of the child. Rather than completing additional assignments, parents can support learning by making it come alive. If children are studying addition, have them count and add items at home — coins, shirts in their closets, etc. Be creative and have fun with it. If they have specific sight words, have them identify them in a book or magazine. Another idea would be to have children look at a picture and write a story or poem based on the picture. If a child finishes an assignment, encourage him to read a book of interest. If the child indicates an assignment was “easy;” acknowledge that and let her know that sometimes the work will be easy (as in review) and sometimes it will be more challenging. Then eat a cookie and move on. We encourage you to take advantage of quality evening family time, as children will come to school refreshed and ready to work hard the next day. This may just be the best homework yet.
As a faculty, we have designed these homework guidelines based on the current research and in consultation with peer schools. Our blending of progressive and traditional education provides an exciting and rigorous program for students. Developmentally appropriate homework complements the classroom work, and these guidelines provide a systematic approach that will serve our students well.