Monthly Archives: September 2015

Homework – A valuable exercise or a necessary evil?

 

Homework represents a regular link between home and school and as such represents a good opportunity for the development of a practical partnership between parents and teachers. (National Parents’ Council)

The negative effects of homework are well known.  They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning.  (Alfie Kohn – Re-thinking Homework)

Much has been said over the years about the value of giving homework to children, but whether we like it or not, homework is a part of our education system and as such a requirement in all schools. We strive for very high standards in RETNS, both in classwork and homework, while always mindful of a child’s ability and circumstances. We believe that small, regular amounts of ‘do-able’ homework reinforce what is taught in school, enable children to extend their knowledge, encourage self-discipline and strengthen links between home and school. Homework also provides opportunities for research and for use of sources which are outside of school, e.g. parents/grandparents, library, museum, internet, etc., which help children to realise that learning is not just something that is done in school but can be an enjoyable lifelong activity.

In RETNS our aim when setting homework is that it is suited to the capabilities of pupils, that it is properly explained, and that it has meaning in the overall context of learning in the classroom. Homework assignments will change with age, with more project based assignments, due at a future date, being set for senior classes. Teachers also aim to give variety, with a combination of oral homework (learning or reading), written homework, an occasional physical task or experiment, or indeed a choice homework on occasion.

Parents have a crucial role to play in supporting children and helping them to see homework as a meaningful experience. A positive attitude is essential.  It is important that children are supported to do their homework well by giving them a regular time and a quiet space where they can work. In younger classes children may need some help with homework, but even as children get older and begin to work independently, it is important that they are supported to keep their books and copies neat and tidy and to do their best work. While children are expected to do their work themselves, they are encouraged to discuss their tasks with their parents/guardians, who, in turn, are asked to provide the appropriate support. If children feel that their parents value what they are doing, they will value their own efforts also.

This key role that parents play in their child’s education is emphasised in both the Primary School Curriculum and more recently, Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life (NCCA, 1999, p.21; Department of Education and Skills, (DES), 2011, pp.19-26). Although homework is not discussed directly, the strategy states that “The support of parents who are engaged in their child’s learning has a significant positive impact on a child’s educational achievement, especially in literacy and numeracy” (DES, 2011, p.19).

For some children homework poses no problems and they actually enjoy completing their assignments. For others it is a chore that they constantly try to delay or avoid and as such it poses a challenge to parents also. The INTO has described homework as the ‘thorniest issue’ at primary school level, with complaints from parents of too much homework, parents uncertain how to help and negative attitude from children cited as the main difficulties. It is important that homes do not become second classrooms, with parents feeling obliged to act as teacher to police children’s homework. In this situation, everyone will feel under pressure and homework will become a very negative, stressful experience for the child.

So, what can we do to help?

There are things we can do, as parents and teachers, to make the homework experience a more worthwhile one, maybe even an enjoyable one. The challenge for teachers is “to ensure that homework is enjoyed, valued, and not seen as a disliked solitary activity” (Warton, 2001, p.164). The task for parents is to plan for homework, create a positive space, be supportive and ask for help if necessary. If children persistently have difficulty in completing homework assignments parents should not hesitate to speak to the teacher about the difficulties before it becomes an area of stress for the child. Teachers are always glad to know if difficulties arise so they can adjust their approach or work with a child individually on an issue. As in all areas of education, the pupil’s voice is important. If pupils voice their concerns about homework, we need to listen. With some thought, the right attitude, and the child’s development kept to the fore, homework can be an enjoyable experience that enhances the child’s independent working skills, increases their knowledge and develops their interests in ways that can be enhanced by the unique parent-child relationship with the backing of the school.

 

See below for link to NPC document ‘Homework’ and RETNS homework policy.

http://www.npc.ie/attachments/ac9e5834-39eb-46c3-a0cc-c97efec2ecb2.pdf

 

http://www.retns.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Behaviour260814.pdf

Positive Behaviour Week 2015

September 7th-11th is Positive Behaviour Week in RETNS.

Due to their very nature, primary school classrooms tend to reflect all the diversity of cultures, identities, backgrounds and families that make up Ireland today. In celebrating that diversity we in RETNS hope to create a school community where everyone is cherished for the unique individual that they are. All teachers are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive classroom where all children can flourish to the best of their abilities and for this reason, at the start of each school year, we have a designated ‘Positive Behaviour Week’, designed to raise awareness among children that they are part of a community of people, all with different backgrounds, abilities and identities, and that they can choose to relate in a positive and inclusive way to all others.    IMG_7127

The Department of Education and Skills Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Schools, which form the basis of our school’s Anti-Bullying policy, are based on the principle that a welcoming and positive school climate is the optimum environment not just to prevent bullying but also to encourage respectful relationships across the whole school. It is well documented that a significant proportion of bullying is rooted in a lack of respect for difference (INTO). Central to creating a welcoming and positive school climate where bullying cannot emerge is the developing of respect among children for others’ individuality and differences. All children thrive when they feel respected and valued and they are therefore encouraged to extend this respect to others. Developing respect for others needs modelling by adults, encouragement and support. During Positive Behaviour Week children will engage in a range of activities, both inside and outside the classroom, which will aim to develop their understanding of community and their responsibilities to others within that community. From junior infants upwards they will be helped to develop respectful attitudes to all others and to reflect those attitudes in their behaviour.

Our school behaviour policy states that in RETNS we believe that in order to create and maintain a happy, safe and effective learning environment for all, there must be high standards of student behaviour which must be mutually agreed, widely promoted and actively supported by teachers, other school staff and parents/guardians. During Positive Behaviour Week we negotiate positive rules with the children, which are discussed as a class and seen to be fair. The children then draw up their own class charter. By drawing up their class charter and discussing their commitment to positive behaviour early in the school year children take ownership of the class and school rules and are encouraged, with support from their parents and teachers, to take responsibility for their own behaviour and agree to accept the consequences of breaking a rule.

 

Our school diary outlines our vision for a happy school and our commitment to inclusion and diversity (pages 2 and 3). Our vision is based on fundamental principles of human respect and dignity, and fair treatment. We believe that taking a whole school approach to encouraging positive behaviour is the best way to live out this vision, where everyone involved in the school has a part to play. In particular it is important that the children have a role in helping and supporting each other to take personal responsibility for their behaviour, for the benefit of all.

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Some images of last term’s co-operative games sessions led by the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors.