Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Welcome to the SFLO Blog!

Check back here for frequent updates of the goings-on of Students for Literacy Ottawa (Frontier College) at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.

We'll also be featuring cool links to online literacy resources, news articles, and all kinds of other great stuff.

If you're new to the blog scene, you might want to read up on all things bloggy, here.


At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Louise said...


Just thought I'd post to let you know I thought this was a great idea.

You mentioned posting resources and news items. Came across two news pieces that I thought were intersting. The first was that CD Howe just came out with a study that says that smaller class sizes don't increase academic achievement (I always thought they did - ie: classes too big, children don't get the attention they need) - there was a piece in the National Post yesterday on it at: http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=41fe81dd-2939-497d-a963-d665f25b3640

Secondly, found this article in the Toronto Star (below) on "the benefits of homework" and how kids learn/what gets them interested - Thought it was interesting seeing we're all working with kids!



AUG 25, 2005

Homework boring and useless, experts agree Family time gets squeezed; Too many drills, too little relevance Kids still need time for family and play
Elvira Cordileone, Toronto Star

Dayton Gardiner, 9, speaks for many children when she says her homework is boring and useless.

The elementary school student graduated Grade 3 in June with a fair number of As, but says homework didn't help her get good marks.

"I do about 20 minutes of homework a day. I do it really, really fast to get it out of the way," says Dayton, who attends Whitney Public School in mid-town Toronto.

She learns best by simply "getting into" a subject. That means paying attention in class and then applying what she learns, which is fun.

Much of her homework, on the other hand, is multiplication tables, spelling and other forms of memorization. Dayton finds it boring.

Perhaps surprisingly, many teachers and education experts are starting to agree with the soon-to-be fourth grader.

"Kids today have too much homework that's useless," says Linda Cameron, an associate professor in the curriculum, teaching and learning department at U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

"It's skills-and-drills boot camp and not enough that's meaningful, relevant to real life and transformative," she says. "When the challenge and abilities are matched, the children are interested, the work is meaningful and time doesn't matter."

Cameron says parents should be less concerned with how much homework their children are getting and more concerned with whether the work is appropriate.

She adds that too much homework deprives children of any time to play, which is an important part of learning.

"Do children really need to do more math questions or would they be better occupied doing something else," she asks. "How do you do it all, including dinner, sports and games?"

However, many parents think homework is good for children, and teachers feel obliged to give it, says Cameron, suggesting homework has become a social and political issue.

Winsley Belille, principal of Galloway Road Public School in Scarborough, confirms parents frequently ask teachers to give more homework. They think of it as busywork that keeps them out of trouble.

But too much homework may do more harm than good at the elementary level, suggests Etta Kralovec, of Pepperdine University. She is director of the teaching credential program in Los Angeles, and co-author of the controversial book, The End of Homework. Published five years ago, the book posits that a heavy homework load can push young people unable to cope right out of school.

Kralovec argues that homework punishes poor children who don't have computers and can't hand in slick, information-filled papers that earn high marks, and that it disrupts families as they argue over homework rather than spending time building relationships.

Reaction to the book was vitriolic, Kralovec says.

"The (critics) attacked us on the grounds that the book is un-American. America is about work and everyone has to work," she says. "The intensity of political views was surprising."

The fact is, children are individuals and they learn in different ways, Kralovec says. A teaching method that works for one may fail badly with another. No child will ever learn what he or she doesn't understand by force of repetition.

"Such children will be identified as learning disabled when they're not," Kralovec says.

Most school boards in the GTA have homework policies, with both Toronto boards recommending five to 10 minutes of work per grade level per night. So Grade 2 pupils should get 10 to 20 minutes, increasing to 40 to 80 minutes by Grade 8.

In reality, the amount varies vastly from school to school and even from class to class. Steven Reid, central co-ordinating principal of the public board's elementary program, explains the policy is really just a guideline for teachers and parents.

But one retired Toronto elementary teacher says homework doubled in 1999 after the provincial government introduced a tough new curriculum.

Gloria Allan, who stopped teaching in 2001 after a 34-year career, says the new curriculum forces teachers to assign as homework what they can't get to in class. "Now, even kids in kindergarten are getting homework," she says.

That's distressing news to Dayton Gardiner, whose friends have already told her the Grade 4 workload is bad.

"They say it takes two hours to do homework," she says, sounding discouraged.

Her father, Scott Gardiner, struggles every night to get Dayton to spend more time on her homework and stay on top of her weak subjects.

Schools expect parents to help teach their children, but Gardiner, an author and creative writing teacher at George Brown College, says it's unreasonable to demand so much in a society where both parents work.

They pick Dayton up at after-school daycare at 6 and she's in bed by 9, leaving precious little time for family activities.

"We should spend one hour with her on homework, but we don't," Gardiner admits. "Kids don't behave as well with parents as they do with their teachers. I'm a teacher, but I can't teach my own daughter because I can't be as objective. Within five minutes, I'm roaring at her."

Instead, Gardiner plans to hire a tutor to help Dayton.

"We can't let her fall down; she'll give up on school. I want to help my daughter cross all those artificial hurdles until she gets to an age where she can focus on what she's good at."


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