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Daily Reading Time Instead Of Homework? Some Schools Are Nixing Homework for Daily, Designated Reading Time

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Two years ago, Gaithersburg Elementary School in Maryland nixed traditional homework in favor of 30 minutes’ reading time every night.

After Gaithersburg Elementary School Principal Stephanie Brant and her leadership team evaluated the homework assignments for grades kindergarten to eight and found they didn’t connect with the work students were doing in the classroom, the idea to replace take-home worksheets with reading time came up.

Despite conflicting opinions, Brant cited two problematic situations when students were given homework. First, parents of kids who struggled with traditional homework suspected something was wrong with the teaching. Second, parents of kids who breezed through rote memorization homework wondered if the instruction was challenging enough.

The Global Edmonton reports that Dr. Ben Levin of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has studied the phenomenon. “You have to balance the work in a way that students don’t feel like there’s an endless amount of stuff to do and they’re depressed just thinking about it,” says Levin.

Asked about the Gaithersburg program, Principal Brant explained: “We know our students need more background knowledge, we know everyone will do better with vocabulary, we know reading builds stamina. There’s so many great things about reading.” The result is a culture at her school where kids bring books to recess, recommend them to each other and even blog about favorite stories. Reading has become exciting again and students are “reading on or above grade level than they have in the past,” said Brant.

“It turns out that a lot of what we ask kids to do in mathematics involves reading skills,” says Levin. “So really every subject involves reading skills…Reading, for example, thinking about issues, talking about them, doing some research…but we don’t want it to turn into a chore for the sake of doing a chore. We always want students to be able to see how this work is actually related to their skills.”

To join the discussion and learn more about Canadian educators’ ongoing debates about homework and the Gaithersburg program, you can find the Global Edmonton’s story here:

photo credit: slightly everything via photo pin cc

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

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