Throw out homework, let kids read comics - principal

BY NATHAN BEAUMONT
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2010

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Wellington schools are scrapping traditional homework methods, instead telling pupils to read comics and the backs of cereal packets to improve reading skills.

They also suggest pupils improve their spelling by doing crosswords and playing board games but warn that parents should not rely solely on school lessons to improve the children's achievement in maths.

The move has been backed by education expert Professor John Hattie, who says he has found "zero evidence" that homework helps to improve time management or study skills.

In a letter to parents, Karori Normal School principal Diane Leggett pointed to research that suggested homework had no positive impact. "In fact, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest the opposite."

From this year the school had stopped providing homework sheets for pupils. Instead the school encouraged parents to be more involved with their child's learning.

"Encourage your child's imagination and creativity – you will do more than any homework or extra-tuition programme ever could. Turn off the TV/games console during the week. Let them play. Talk with them. Share with them.

"It doesn't matter what your child reads as long as they get a balance of reading to you, reading with you and reading for themselves. Books, magazines, comics, newspapers, model aeroplane instructions, the back of the Weet-Bix packet ... whatever, it doesn't matter. As long as your child is doing something that they are interested in, they will read it, enjoy it and be all the happier and better off for it."

They could also improve spelling by doing crosswords and word puzzles or playing board games like Scrabble.

Mrs Leggett warned that if pupils were struggling with maths, parents could not rely solely on school lessons to improve a child's achievement.

She told The Dominion Post yesterday that feedback from parents had been "very positive". "In fact, we have had no negative feedback at all. We feel that there is no point in giving children homework just for the sake of it. Learning should be fun and that's what we will be focusing on."

She was aware of similar moves at Ngaio and Seatoun schools.

Professor Hattie, from Auckland University, said homework worked for some pupils but for most it was a waste of time. If schools did give homework, he recommended no longer than five minutes a night.

"I applaud schools for taking this approach and I hope others follow what they have done. It's far more important to have interaction with parents, rather than spending hours on some project."

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- The Dominion Post

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