Saturday, October 3, 2009


The issue of homework for kindergarten students has become quite the hot topic lately.

More specifically, 'should they' or 'shouldn't they' be assigned homework?

Lauren and I subscribe to the latter viewpoint. The only thing we ask these four-and-five-year-old children (and their parents) to do each evening is to enjoy books. To achieve that end we send home a Ziploc baggie containing either,
  • An emergent reader text that the student can read to their parents or family members. These are books with usually one sentence to a page, strong picture support and repeated phrases like "I can see the ______". The only thing that changes is the _____ which can be figured out by looking at the picture.
  • A children's trade book by such authors as Todd Parr, H.A. Rey or Jack Gantos. These are usually books that we have read aloud in class. Parents can read these books to and with their children. This practice helps establish a love of books for the child, you know, good memories surrounding reading rather than the dread of the published word that many folks seem to share.
  • A mixture of both.
However, it seems that given the current climate of testing, testing, testing (Thank you, W.) some concerned parents are worried that their children will be ill-prepared for first grade and life (!?) without completing worksheets and various nonsensical assignments.

In New York City it is recommended that first grade students receive about 10-15 minutes of homework each evening. There is no stipulation, as far as I know, as to the nature of this homework. There is no requirement for kindergarten.

In Boston I am told (by my scholarly friend Laurie) that homework in kindergarten consists of reading and sharing books.

In Australia (according to my brilliant friend Lisa) homework is not recommended until third grade.

And according to this article in The New York Times, the push to create children who are academically competent by assigning homework in kindergarten and before fourth grade can be actually emotionally harmful, especially for at-risk children and it does not improve their chances of getting a better job or making them smarter.

Play is of vital importance to these young folks. That is well documented.

How about let's allow children to be children without standing in their way? Just a thought.


Barbara said...

I'm convinced that the reason my children never needed glasses (until my son recently got them at age 28) was because they went to a progressive school that didn't give grades until grade 6 and seldom had demanding homework assignments. There was an emphasis on learning for the sake of learning and on cooperation. Today they are both avid readers. They've certainly never expressed disappointment at missing out on take-home worksheets!

Steve said...

I don't ever remember having homework at that young an age. But then, I barely remember being that young! I suspect it's better to just let kids be kids...playing and so forth.

Barbara said...

Amen to No homework.
Dittos drive me nuts.
I also ask them to read with their children every night.
I found a cute chart for each month somewhere...if I figure out where I got it I will give you the link...each month they fill in apples or pumpkins or turkeys for each 10 minutes they read together...(just an insentive) the end of the month they get a "prize" if they bring it back filled in.
Ok now I will attempt to locate it!! hehehehe

Gary said...

Barbara - That is progressive. I think that parents are truly uncomfortable with not giving in to the pressure becasue they don't want to do their children an injustice. It all feeds upon itself. It is kind of a mess.

Steve - I remember kindergarten as a time to play with block and nap. No more napping in kindergarten these days. And our students have a full day from 8:25 - 3:30. That is a long day. Especially considering that many of them have about an hour travel time each way.

Barbara - I was wondering what your thoughts on this were since you also teach kindergarten. Thanks for commenting.

If you find that chart I will def put it in place. Thanks.

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I'm glad you believe that kids shouldn't be over-programmed. Now what are your thoughts on 53-year-olds doing homework?

Gary said...

I am all for it. I want it on my desk tomorrow morning!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

I think enjoying books each night is perfect homework. I loved when my mom read to me as a kid and I plan to read every day to my own child when I have one. I think you and Lauren have the right idea, Gary. And what a great idea to send home a baggie of goodies to help the process along. :)

Sebastien said...

I believe the yoke of compulsory homework should be put on these kids at the earliest age possible. They need to learn the hard lessons of life, namely: life sucks!

Just kidding of course, I think your idea of bringing a book home and reading to the family is a great idea! Unfortunately I agree that there is too much focus on standardized tests. Seems like that kind of thing takes the fun and creativity out of learning, both for the students and the teachers.

Of course, I have no experience in the educational field...

lettuce said...

oh this makes me so cross, we get the same debates over here too.
testing and performance and grading and labelling

basically misconceives what education should be about so far as i can see

And for kindergarten too? STUPID - thats my measured opinion

Gary said...

I must state that it thrills me to read your comments and feedback on the issue of homework. Since I wrote this post I have done some more research on the topic and our A.U.S.S.I.E. consultant, Lisa, has also found many, many articles on the subject arguing that homework is simply not academically beneficial in the lower grades.

However, I don't think that statistics and journal articles will convince a parent (who feels the pressure of having their child succeed in school) that no homework is acceptable. I do think it is wonderful to open up the dialogue about this between parents and teachers.

This is where I am at right now. Just working it through together. It is exciting (Okay, say it - How geeky am I?).

WAT said...

Homework was fun when I was a kid, it's when I got to high school that it became a nightmare! I used to spend weekends working on all kinds of term papers and other crap! UGH!


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