Following an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph about homework, here are a few reasons why Kip McGrath homework really works and a few ideas about how to maximise the rewards of homework and how it can help build confidence for students.
The original article suggests, after a report by the Victorian state parliament’s Education and Training Committee, that homework for Primary aged children has ‘no academic benefit’. Homework is also described as ‘stressful’ and ‘boring’. The rest of the piece is just as damning about homework, just more detailed!
I wonder how many teachers agree with the report and the comments. To a certain extent I know I agree but being a Kip McGrath tutor for the last ten years has made me see homework differently.
All homework at Kip is based on the taught lesson. Here’s how it works.
The main exercise done in class and checked through with the tutor is repeated on the computer program during the lesson. So for instance, a maths work sheet is completed by the student to the best of their ability and maybe, if the level of work is just right, three or four questions remain unanswered. The tutor then goes through the worksheet with student and discusses the areas that need help. The student then checks their answers on the computer program that backs up the sheets. They do this by themselves and the program rewards them with smiley faces when they are correct. Student confidence and independence is being fostered by getting them to self check their work.
Exactly the same sheet is given for homework. The work is repeated at home after a recommended interval of three or four days. A little like fitness ‘interval’ training builds stamina, leaving longer and longer gaps between recalling the work really aids memory. I tell my students to review their homework within 24 hours; not to actually do the work but just read through the sheet and remind themselves how it works. They actually do the homework after an interval of the best part of a week having already worked on it three times with the tutor and by themselves.
Of course this is not a solution to the thorny problem of homework because Kip McGrath is an after school maths and English tuition program and not a school! This is a method for learning particular things or techniques. Schools have much greater responsibilities and remits. And of course, there are other reasons for homework, other methods of setting and checking it, other expected outcomes.
As a parent of a child at an English high school, I’ve had anxieties with homework like every parent. I’ve been presented with tiny printed questions on torn off bits of paper, Year 9 work set for a Year 7 child (it was a past maths SAT paper), and instructions like ‘revise everything done so far’ for a test. I’ve helped my child far too much with her homework because she found it way too difficult; I’ve fallen out with her when she wanted to do homework minutely and perfectly and I’ve wanted to opt for the old 80/20 rule and just get the job done!
Many, many parents have told me over the last ten years that they never have trouble getting their child to do Kip homework and many tell me that getting the child to put off doing it is often the difficult bit! I think that is a pretty good recommendation for the Kip system. Bit of a pitch in this post but if you’ve got any comments, I’d love to hear them.