Sun Valley Primary School says no to conventional homework AND yes to a personalized homework policy.
|Sun Valley Primary School SMT members and educators with Michael Hager, Subject Adviser
When you speak to Sun Valley Primary School teachers about their shift away from conventional homework, they are unstoppable.
Here is a transcript of our conversation.
Why has the school decided to stop giving homework assignments as we know it?
We felt that giving general homework was not helping to improve learners' performance. We wanted the homework that they received to be more focused and personalized. Not the 'one size fits all' activity that stressed both the parents and the children.
Children also have a full programme besides their classroom teaching. They are involved in sports and extra-mural activities. When they finally get home, they are tired of the long day. Most parents work and there are also parents who aren't able to help their children with the homework so stress levels rise. Parents need to spend quality time with their children. They need to bond with the children and have a family life.
What replaced the homework, if any?
We have replaced traditional homework with a more focused approach. Children are given homework exercises that are personalized. We call these personal performance tasks. When necessary, a child will be given homework that targets aspects of learning that he or she needs to consolidate.
Our children are also expected to read and prepare for their assessment tasks. Daily independent reading at home is compulsory. We have found that children are doing far more reading for fun and there have been noticeable improvements in their performance. Their vocabulary has improved, their knowledge has grown and they are just far more confident. We can also see the improvement in their writing.
How are parents responding to the new homework policy?
At the beginning the parents were skeptical but this didn't last long. Parents soon realized that they themselves were relieved of the burden of supervising their children doing homework for hours and they could now spend more time with their children. Now there is time to have normal conversations and they can encourage their kids to read more. Our parents are raving about this transformation on our Facebook page.
How were the teachers prepared for this radical shift that affected how they manage their classroom teaching time as well?
Naturally, there were teachers who were apprehensive, but they embraced the new homework policy. Any changes or strategies are mediated with the staff so that everybody understands the changes that are taking place.
We had workshops prior to introducing the new homework policy and had staff workshops during the change to share experiences. We also meet as grades on a regular basis. Here teachers can share their experiences and enjoy the support of peers and the Grade Head. The revised homework policy is one of the strategies to implement the curriculum effectively; it is part of our systems approach to classroom teaching. Every minute counts in the classroom.
Teachers understand that we have to maximize our teaching time so that we teach all the knowledge and skills to the children as required. Research is done during class time so that children are not compelled to spend hours researching information after hours. Should they need to engage in some research after school, it is limited and focused.
How is the staff responding to the media hype around your "No Homework" strategy?
We are thrilled with the interest the media and people have expressed. We didn't realise that the change to our homework policy would become a public talking point. What people need to realise is that our new homework strategy is part of a whole school curriculum delivery drive.
Gavin Keller, the school head of Sun Valley Primary School had this to say about the focus on the school's homework policy:
If schools don't understand that there are 200 school days for teaching and learning; and if teachers don't understand and ensure that all the knowledge, skills and competencies must be taught during classroom time, then any new strategy is fruitless. This mindset is part of what underpins our new homework policy.
It is about accountability and ensuring that the classroom is the main space where the curriculum must be taught. This is what we are all about.
Schools will definitely like to hear more about your school and your approach to teaching.
We are only too happy to share our experiences.
Well, there you have it. Why not contact Sun Valley Primary School's principal, Gavin Keller, to give your staff a talk? Or, why not ask if you and your staff can visit their school for a firsthand experience?
Go for it...