Thursday, September 08, 2011

Homework : So Basic and So Important

One big hassle for teachers is homework.  They have to plan it, hand it out, chase after it and in some cases, get really worked up over it.  Well, they don't HAVE to get worked up over it but then that would mean that they just don't care about it.  Tough choices.

However, the fact remains that homework is one of the most important tools for a student to master a topic.  For an English teacher, homework is about the only way for her to get students to finish an essay or a project involving more than 300 words.  For a Math teacher, homework is the only way she can get students to acquire skills in solving math problems. As a student, I used to have to do around ten to twenty sums for every sub-topic before I could reach that oh-so-sweet level of 'looking at a problem and instantly knowing the solution'.  I was definitely a product of constant slogging. 

I have a few colleagues who religiously keep a log of their students' homework.  It is no coincidence that their students consistently perform well in their subjects and in the govt exams. 

Here are a few tips on homework from author Nancy Paulu.  The sentences in green are her words but the elaborations are all mine.

* Lay out homework expectations early in the school year.
I would normally do this in the first lesson itself.  Lay down the rules and stick to your own words.  Once you are lenient or don't keep to your word, your students will lose their trust in you.

* Create assignments with a purpose, and make sure students understand that purpose.
This is BASIC teacher smarts.  Are you 'smart'?

* Make assignments clear and focused.
Duh.  Won't say more.

* Create assignments that challenge students to think and integrate.
The key to getting students to like your class and to grow as thinkers.

* Vary assignments. (Students get bored with the "same-old-same-old.")
Yep.  A teacher should ask herself how she'd feel if HER teacher gave her such an assignment.

* Give homework that makes learning personal (for example, assignments that allow students to draw upon their family, cultural, and community experiences).  Relevant learning is effective learning.

* Tie assignments to the present. (Students often complain that they can't relate to assignments involving events that took place in the distant past.)  Such an easy thing to do to catch students' interest and encourage their involvement.

* Match assignments to the skills, interests, and needs of students.
Another basic consideration that should be implemented more.

* Use school and community resources.
This is being smart.

* Match assignments to your style of teaching.
This is another way of making things easy for yourself as a teacher.  I like to hear lots of opinions, I like technology and I like music.  So I try to get my students to do homework using technology (blogging, powerpoint etc).  For those with no access to a computer, I schedule time for them in the computer lab and also size down the work according to the limited time they have in the lab.  Once I asked a student to write a debate speech.  He didn't do it but offered to deliver the speech instead.  Since I considered delivery of a speech to be at a higher level than just writing one, I agreed.  To my surprise, he did a great job (and was immediately conscripted into the debate team.)

* Assign an appropriate amount of homework, and keep alert to how long students take to complete assignments.
Keep track.  Be considerate.

* Encourage and teach good study habits.
Something that needs to be looked into in our school system.  Some schools (with far thinking principals) always conduct seminars on study habits for every student at the start of school.

* Provide constructive feedback.
A tick or an X is NOT constructive feedback.  Neither is a question mark.

* Give praise, and motivate.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR A TEACHER TO DO.  And it doesn't cost a single sen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

CNN Money's Top 10 Money Wasters

Read the CNN article on Top 10 Money Wasters today.  It's always good to be reminded of things like this.

These are the culprits, according to CNN Money.

1. ATM fees
    I'd have to be careful of these.  Time to check my bank account rules.

2. Lottery tickets 
    Luckily I don't buy any!

3. Gourmet coffee
    I totally agree!  Fortunately I am now allergic to coffee and nescafe :)

4. Cigarettes
    So glad that I don't smoke. 

5. Infomercial impulse buys
    Not a problem for me.

6. Brand name groceries
    Guilty!

7. Eating Out
    Yes, this IS expensive.

8. Unused Gym Memberships
    Phew!  I don't have any :D because I believe in running around my house.. ha ha ha

9. Daily Internet Deals
    GROUPON!!!  Well, so far I've only bought one and that's for photobooks (for the many photos I have in my hard drive which never  
    see the light of day.  I have to watch my book buying though.

10. Bundled cable or phone services
      I do think sometimes of the Astro packages I pay for but hardly ever have the time to watch.  Time to downgrade, I think.