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There ‘s the popular question of which age is right to start giving students homework. But believe it or not, this is not an easy question to answer. It’s not only age that’s a factor, it’s also whether your students can handle the difficulty of the tasks as well as finding a balance between it and other aspects of their lives. Particularly if they also have extracurricular activities several times a week. 

These days, more kids than ever are also unsupervised during the immediate after-school hours between 3pm and 6pm. Some even longer. Elementary-aged children especially require proper supervision to complete their homework accurately and they often don’t get it until fairly late into the evening. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m against homework altogether. I just question whether loading elementary school students with hours of homework is the way to go. 

To answer the original question, I think it’s best to start homework in the first grade. That’s when they’re really ready to start handling basic academics related to reading and math. However, I do not believe that they should have hours of homework piled on them then. That would just overwhelm them and then they won’t be able to process it the way you have in mind for them to. It’s best to go slowly with them in order to help them properly process what they’re learning. 

Hence, through the third grade, up to about three homework assignments a week is sufficient. Up to forty-five minutes for the tasks is sufficient. They are also just learning the concept and how to tell time at that same stage. Even one minute is forever to children that young and many of them can’t sit still yet. 

One major mistake we seem to be making these days is giving students even in the lowest grades hours of homework. But pretty much all that has led to is constant disgruntlement on the part of the students and parents. Worse, it easily tires out both parties and it does not take long for the students to lose interest in learning. 

At that age, less is more. Especially to accommodate those who have several extracurricular activities, flexibility is also key. For example, assigning the homework one week and then making it due the next. Whatever you do, make it meaningful to whatever you’re currently teaching. More importantly, your students will be more likely to learn from it if you make it meaningful to their lives as well. For example, if you’re currently teaching about space, you could start with what we can see in the sky with our naked eyes, such as the moon and stars. From there, you could start explaining their cycles. 

One thing that homework should never be used for is to introduce new material. Especially in grades as low as the first. As much as your students’ parents may be able to help them, the student is not likely to take in new material very well that way. With more parents than ever working these days, they can’t be expected to everything for their children. The whole point of homework is the reinforce material that you have already introduced and are currently teaching. 

Homework in the First Grade 

If you’re just starting out in your teaching career, it can take time to perfect a method of homework that works for your students and their parents. You may be tempted to try several different methods all in one year but this usually does not work very well. In fact, that’s the sort of thing that ends up leaving everyone, including your students, stressed and frustrated. Aside from more parents working than ever and students with several extracurricular activities, you also monitor your own preparation time by not giving as much. 

Think about it. Which do you think would be easier? Scouring through tons online templates at a time or changing templates on a monthly to bimonthly basis? Assiging up to four books to read per week or two per week? 

Considering that everyone has different schedules these days, kids included, you also might want to consider doing something like putting everything in one packet per week and making it due the next. Or assigning at the beginning of the week, assign the homework in the packet according to what you studied in class that day, and then making it due at the end of the week. Or another way would be to assign a packet on Monday and make it due on Thursday so that they can start their weekends free. 

One of the best things you can do is also acquaint yourself with your students’ parents, get to know their schedules and note what would work for them. There are many ways that you can help the parents stay involved, such as e-mailing a newsletter every week or every other week. You can print it out send it home but there’s no guarantee that some of your students won’t throw it away before their parents have a chance to see it. 

Whatever you do, remember that this is also the start of getting your students ready for the work world. For example, it teaches them that supervisors are generally not very happy when jobs are done halfway. We are not living in the factory era anymore. With more and more jobs going online, the work world is increasingly valuing those with the ability to work independently, who are motivated to launch their own ideas, etc. Some ways that you can encourage this in those as young as first grade is to do things like ask open-ended questions in the comprehension, encourage the use of artistic methods wherever possible, and have them try to guess at things (such as paintings) on their own wherever possible. 

Conclusion 

When it comes to the early years, remember that less is actually more. These days, it’s becoming more essential than ever to encourage creativity and self-motivation. It is better to give your students small tasks in which they can apply their own thoughts than to pile on a lot at once and end up confusing them and dulling their minds.

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