The Case for no Homework for Elementary School Students

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The case of not doing homework for elementary school students.

As a former primary school teacher, a teacher of children with many personalities and potentials, I am categorically against any assignment for first and second-graders, and I doubt its value for third and fourth graders. I believe that homework for fifth and sixth grade children should be given in moderation and only for very good reason, and with a school or community support system.

Parents should only participate in volunteer projects, and parent volunteers should always be available to children whose parents cannot or will not help them.

First and second grade: In these years children are learning and practicing reading and writing skills and basic math skills. A first-grader has great difficulty writing letters and words. He or she does not have great skill or confidence in these new motor skills. Assigning tasks that force a child to sit alone trying to write words or numbers is counterproductive.

The child could sit for an hour alone trying to do something that in a classroom situation, with a teacher or aide, with others doing the same, would only take a few minutes. A negative attitude towards all forms of homework will be the only result of this experience.

An organized teacher can provide enough practice, with your supportive presence right there in the classroom. Even projects that just cut out words from magazines or newspapers are inappropriate for first-graders, as the words may be too small for new readers, and mom or dad will end up doing the work. A child with a working parent, an illiterate or non-English speaking parent, a blind parent, or a caregiver will therefore be penalized.
It is still a difficult task for most second-graders to sit alone and read and write or add. These children are still mastering the skills, they are still learning the basics.

It is unnecessary and counterproductive to give them homework.

Third graders are just beginning to feel at home in a school environment (assuming a functional, caring situation at least). They have generally mastered basic reading, can at least write the printed alphabet with some confidence, and are often learning the skills of cursive writing.

case of not doing homework
Intellectually, most of them are not yet in the concrete stage of intellectual development (see Piaget) and, in the United States, they usually do only addition and addition and subtraction problems.
Children who want to do something “extra” (the very curious, the very bright, those with special skills or knowledge, ie farm children who help with animals or crops) can contribute to volunteer projects outside the school (not made by parents!) who can present in various ways, with the help of the teacher or paralyze during school hours.

Fourth graders are suddenly thinking of the world and asking questions. They often like projects, individually or in groups. But any project should be done during school hours or with a lot of flexibility and help from school staff. Reports of deadlines for this age are stupid and only lead to frustration and failure for most children and a lot of headache for mom, dad, or grandparents who have already graduated from elementary school.

Children in fifth and sixth grade need to learn the skills to read and evaluate what they read, to take a very short oral or written review, to do math problems on their own and with confidence, to be open to science and technology and to learn related skills. I still believe that for these grades’ homework should be limited to a maximum of one hour per night. There should be an option to do homework at school during an hour of homework or an after school session with help. (Sometimes sixth graders can be very good at explaining fifth grade work, and support may be partially from the students themselves.)

As for elementary schools that still have seventh and eighth grade:

They may have few options for assigning homework, but all work needs to be done through a system of school or community support, at least one phone line if not a homework center, physical or virtual via the Internet.

All reports should be done in sections, with immediate feedback and help from teachers, or from external experts involved. If a teacher has a “prove me you can do this” attitude about homework or reporting, they should find another line of work. They are called “teachers” and not “markers” because their profession is to teach, not to arbitrate or judge.

Competition for “excellence” or any such nonsense should not be part of the picture for twelve and thirteen-year-olds. Each child should be helped and encouraged to do his or her best, without fear of the shame of possible failure.

Furthermore, the part of the day dedicated to “play time” is equally important for children of all ages, and homework should not deprive them of this essential time.
If these guidelines are followed, the school, the children themselves, the parents, and eventually the secondary schools, will benefit from the ability and trust of the children.

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