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So, what do we think about homework in year 1?

(37 Posts)
gallicgirl Sat 11-Mar-17 08:42:03

We have parents evening coming up so I'm trying to order my thoughts and points around homework before meeting with DD's teacher.

DD currently reads every day at home. She has a reading book from school which is changed as frequently or infrequently as she remembers to change it.
She has spellings once a week (around 5-10 words) which aren't particularly challenging for DD but I appreciate other children might struggle to learn them.
DD has just started being set online maths homework but this has only been set twice this term.
The whole school has creative homework to complete during the holidays, the theme of which is set around the topic for that term.
All of this homework appears to be optional.

I understand that if work is completed well in class and the child is making progress then homework might not even be necessary. However, I feel the right kind of homework can be good to challenge a child and help them to progress further.

I think my main issue is a lack of feedback. I don't know what topics DD is covering in class so it's difficult to support her and foster interest in topics. I'm capable of encouraging her to undertake additional study when she shows an interest but it would be nice to know that this is going to tie in with school work.

What are your thoughts? Should I just accept that parents don't need to know anything about what their child is covering in school or how they're progressing? What works well in your schools?

jamdonut Sat 11-Mar-17 09:17:39

The school I work for sends weekly newsletters for the whole school, and each half term sends year group newsletters setting out what our topics are and what we are going to be learning in maths, science, PE etc., and reminding that homework is to read every day, and practise number bondsand 2, 5 and 10 x tables .( I'm in Year2)
From time to time there may be a research or fact-finding homework, but not " official" - it is purely voluntary.
Children can log in to Activelearn at home, and teachers put on maths, literacy and reading tasks for children, at their own level. Official homework doesn't start until Year 3.
Communication with parents is something we have worked very hard at over the last few years: as well as sending letters home and texts, we also have a website, Twitter and a school app, trying to make sure our bases are all covered, so that no-one should be able today they don't know what is going on .
As for progressing, there are parents evenings twice a year, mid term and end of year reports....And you can always ask the teacher, if s/he hasn't already flagged up any problems with you.


gallicgirl Sat 11-Mar-17 09:35:16

Thanks jam donut, that sounds good.
The school app is ok but tends to be used to share info about clubs or pics of kids participating in activities.
The weekly newsletter is more of a monthly newsletter and has whole school info like please park nicely, get kids to school on time etc.

I like the idea of the year group newsletter informing parents of upcoming topics. I might suggest that.

Arkadia Sat 11-Mar-17 09:45:49

I share your pain. There is a recent (and brief) discussion of mine on the matter homework, what is the point?).
I understand that my school is going to do away with homework altogether very soon, but we are going to get some sort of planner for each term to see what they are going to do.
Said that, if it is true that children are moving at different speeds, how can they work according to the same planner? We shall see...

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 11-Mar-17 10:15:58

I don't know what topics DD is covering in class so it's difficult to support her and foster interest in topics

Your DD is in the school every day, she can tell you what she's worked on, and if she was interested in learning more on the topics she should be asking surely? If she can't tell you what she's been doing, then surely that's the first thing to work on together simply reviewing the things she's learnt that day.

Arkadia Sat 11-Mar-17 11:05:49

Sirfred, pleeeeeeaaaazzzeeee ;)
I am sure i am not the only one whose kids, to the question "what have you done today", invariably reply "nothing". grin

BeyondThePage Sat 11-Mar-17 11:16:15

Sirfred has good point there - we always did a bit of a review of how the day went when we were eating dinner. What did you most enjoy? was there anything you hated? did you get to read? was there anyone different in your classroom today? did you go out anywhere? visit the library,?what did you play at lunchtime? did you enjoy your lunch? what was the tastiest bit? Tell me something you learned about....

lots of questions, some open some yes/no. Good habit to get into (though I now seem to have the most talkative teens in town! and getting them to shut up sometimes would be nice)

MilkRunningOutAgain Sat 11-Mar-17 11:43:17

I'm with the OP, I've never extracted useful info about what they are doing at school from my 2 DCs, from yr r onwards. Actually there may be light at the end of the tunnel as DS has recently started talking about his day and even on occasions wants to discuss homework with me. He is 14.

gallicgirl Sat 11-Mar-17 12:08:12

Yes, I do my best to extract information from my DD but I'm often met with I can't remember, or nothing, or mummeeeee why do you keep asking me this?!

Anyway, even if she was chatty about her day, the average 6 year old is going to struggle to give more than the barest details. She might tell me she's covered literacy or counting in twos but is unable to express the details of her overall progress.

Part of the problem is that I have no idea what her targets are and if these are appropriate. I want her to be happy and enjoy education but I don't want her coasting either. She's very capable so I'd be surprised if she was struggling with anything but I really don't know if she's being challenged enough.
Oh, and she's also a stubborn monkey so if she's not in the mood to talk or learn, there's no moving her.

BigWeald Sat 11-Mar-17 14:52:42

I'm with the OP too, despite having tried all the types of questions proposed, and I've read 'How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk' - I get vague answers at best (and DS is in Y2). Vague as in:
Me: Did you do any maths today?
DS: Yes. No, not really.
Me: What do you mean?
DS: Well some of us did. I think.
Me: How about you?
DS: I don't remember.

Luckily our school sends weekly newsletter with a 'children's week ahead' section that covers, in a few sentences, what each year group will be covering in Maths, English, Topic, and sometimes Science. So on a good day the conversation might continue like this:

Me: Well, the newsletter said you'd be working on telling the time this week.
DS: We didn't do that!
Me: Are you sure?
DS: Yes! No, actually, red group were working with Mrs X, I didn't see what they were doing, perhaps they did that?
Me: Ok, so what were you doing while red group was working with Mrs X?
DS: Blue group was 'working independently'.
Me: What was your work then?
DS: What do you mean?
Me: Did you have a work sheet, a problem to solve, something to read, ...?
DS: I think we had a work sheet.
Me: So what was it on?
DS: I forgot.
Me: Perhaps it was on telling the time?
DS: .... [memory finally triggered] oh, yes, it was!

That's the best I get. Ongoing questions as to what exactly, how easy/hard, anything interesting, anything learnt ... draw blanks. 95% of the time.

So with lots of quizzing, which annoys him and we both find tedious, I can 'find out' pretty much what I know already.

I think many teachers (and parents whose children are more forthcoming with information) underestimate just how much many parents are in the dark regarding what goes on in school.

For example:
Teacher to parents: Each child is given their own learning goals. They are stuck in the front of their books. We discuss them with the children, go over them pretty much every day. Your children know their learning goals. Please do ask them about them, and ask them how they are getting on.
Head teacher to parents: We are very keen to work in partnership with the parents. Please do discuss your children's learning goals with them. It is great if you can support them in achieving their goals. We welcome your feedback, please let us know if you feel your children's goals are too easy or too hard for them. But don't worry, we make sure that every child is appropriately challenged, and even if it seems very hard for a child initially, you'd be surprised at what they can achieve!

Me (to DS): So what are your learning goals in maths?
DS: Learning goals?
Me: Yes, Mrs X said you had learning goals, she said you'd know them.
DS: What are you talking about?
Me: They're stuck in the front of your books. You go over them often.
DS: There's nothing stuck in front of my books.
Me: Why don't you have a look tomorrow?

Next day
Me: Did you check if you had learning goals stuck in the front of your books?
DS: No, I forgot.

Repeat last paragraph several times.

DS: Mum, I checked, there are indeed learning goals stuck in front of my books!
Me: Well done for remembering. Did you read them?
DS: Yes.
Me: Do you remember what they say, for example for maths?
DS: No. Yes. Hang on... I think it was just the normal stuff.
Me: What do you mean, normal stuff?
DS: Well, the next steps and stuff.
Me: So what are your next steps (and stuff)?
DS: I forgot.

Along comes parents evening, we have the opportunity to see the books. There are indeed learning goals stuck in the front. With a date for when they were set, and a date by which they should be achieved. Unfortunately the goals are things that DS could do backwards in his sleep when they were set. But now, a term after they were set, it is a bit late to do anything about that.

If schools mean their 'partnership with parents' talk, then they need to acknowledge that a good number of parents rely on info from the school in order to be able 'work in partnership' in any meaningful way at all.

Should homework be the means to pass on such info?
Well on the one hand, in addition to learning what specific topic they are working on, homework lets me get a feel for how difficult/easy my child is finding it. On the other hand, as I don't have any points of comparison, I don't know how hard they should be finding it. E.g. is it differentiated homework, so all children should be finding it a little bit challenging? If DS whizzes through it with no problems at all, is that because... a) he's able in that topic and everyone got the same, b) he should be in a different homework 'ability group', c) the homework was meant to be easy, to build confidence, ...? So no, in actual fact it doesn't tell me very much at all.

Arkadia Sat 11-Mar-17 15:36:11

BegWeald, you had me in hysterics!!
What you say is SO true and resonates SO MUCH (well, except the learning goal thing. I don't think we have them).

I have often wondered (we are in Scotland in case it matters): do children actually get challenged? I had a chat with the HT a few days ago and she asked me if I thought my little one was being challenged and I answered a big "no" (long story, never mind for now...). However I should have mentioned that I do not think that my eldest, AFAIK, has EVER been challenged. OK, she coasts through the Curriculum (for Excellence, whatever that might be), but not once did she say that she found something challenging nor did the teacher ever told us that she found something difficult/she'd better work on something, etc.
If she does sloppy work at school (which happens rather often), it doesn't get picked on. The very little homework we get is repetitive and very easy... so what does all that tell us? Or, more to the point, where does all that leave us?

IamFriedSpam Sat 11-Mar-17 15:50:43

There is no evidence that homework is actually effective (or learning spellings actually). Unless your DD is massively struggling at school the best you can do for her at home is foster and encourage her to develop her own interests. If you're wanting to encourage her long-term educational development then she should be engaging in imaginative play every day, spending time outside and reading for fun (not because she's compelled to do so). If she's creative let her do some arts and crafts at home, get a sewing kit, let her learn a musical instrument. Get her building lego, take her to the library, take her to a museum, take her to football, trampolining (actually incredibly good for brain development) whatever she's into.

If on the other hand you want a short-term improvement in her attainment levels it's easy enough to look up what she'll be covering in school each year and buy workbooks to go through with her. It's not likely to help long term as she'll just be bored in class and won't have fostered an interest or developed any inherent skills that she could take forward in her education.

Arkadia Sat 11-Mar-17 16:09:52


Leaving aside the utility of homework, for me the question is... what the heck do our children they do at school? To this day, to me it's a TOTAL MYSTERY.
Also, do they get challenged at school? Are they taught to strive to do better? From what I can see, the answer is a BIG no.
And lastly, why can't the school empower the parents sharing with them what they do for SIX LONG HOURS EVERY WORK DAYS?

IamFriedSpam Sat 11-Mar-17 16:18:37

I think that's a separate issue from homework. I think it depends, educational research all says that British education is too formal. On the other hand the alternative to too formal isn't just doing nothing, it should be hands on and as much as possible tailored to the particular child's level pop development. The worst way round is if it's dry formal learning that isn't at the right level for the child (either too easy or too hard).

It seems odd that you literally have no idea what they're doing. I agree it's nice to be able to have a discussion with your child at homeland support them in any area they struggle with. At my DC's school they have a book they take home at the weekend for communication so we'll know vaguely the theme's they're going over. They also allow us to communicate anything like trips we've been on and particular interests the kids have so they can be incorporated into the lessons. I certainly don't expect a detailed break down of what they've covered each day though!

I guess it depends what you mean by "strive for more". I think in Y1 you would think what you want to encourage is basic skills and foster interests and a positive attitude to education and yes you would hope the school does that.

BeyondThePage Sat 11-Mar-17 16:22:17

I'd be worried if my 6 year old could not have told me a goodly bit of detail of what they had been doing all day. To be fair I'd be worried if even my 2 year old had not been able to tell her dad at least an outline of what we had been doing.

Memory/recall and recounting are valuable tools, they need to be honed by use - that starts in the home, well before school.

BigWeald Sat 11-Mar-17 17:39:22

BeyondThePage, you seem to be implying that the source of the problem lies within our family/with our less than ideal parenting (and others where the children don't relay info from school).

I can assure you that my DS has an excellent memory and can (and does) recall and recount more detail of his imaginative play and his books than I desire to hear. We have a culture of conversation and talking to each other in our family which is noticed and remarked upon.

That is exactly my point: Teachers, and parents who don't have this problem, often fail to see the extent of it. They see a confident, bright, talkative little boy and cannot imagine how little he will share about his school days (apart from what games they played during play time). They think only children with poor memory and/or no recounting ability don't tell their parents things, provided the parents ask/show interest.

For what it's worth, from talking to other parents I'd guess-timate that up to age 6 or so it's probably more than half the children who do not convey info to the parents, making them the norm and the others more of a minority.

joeyp Sat 11-Mar-17 17:42:56

Our school posts a topic web every term on the school web site which shows what the topic is and how it will be intergrated into each subject. This seems to work well as we can go on family trips ahead of time to spark interest.

SuperRainbows Sat 11-Mar-17 17:57:25

Bigweald - that was hilarious!

OP. Your dd is 6. I would look at some of the brilliant ideas from IamFriedSpam and foster an interest in discovery. Whatever you do though make sure it's fun for your dd.
I wouldn't make her do more of the same things she has been doing in school all day, unless specifically asked by her teacher.
Children start school way too soon in the UK. Too much is expected of them and many switch off.

raisinsofwrath Sat 11-Mar-17 20:03:11

Beyondthepage memory has got nothing to do with it.

My DD (also yr 1) has an unusually good memory. So much so that her reception teacher suggested that it might be photographic. She often talks about events from a long time ago in great detail.

I ask her what she did in school and am routinely met with "I can't remember".

She can remember. She just chooses not to talk about it - maybe she's tired, maybe she wants to compartmentalise school and home, I don't know.

OP I feel the same - I know very little of what she does and it's frustrating as I would love to support her learning more. I'm quite sad as I've pored over the national curriculum to see exactly what they cover in year 1 but that doesn't help day to day.

TittyGolightly Sat 11-Mar-17 20:26:23

DC is in year 1. They get 2 books per week and some cursive writing to do. That's it.

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 11-Mar-17 20:45:07

I absolutely can understand that some kids don't talk, but my point was doing homework isn't a useful response to it. The goal we want to create is a kid who is responsible for their own learning, one who chooses to revise things that they think they need. A kid that has interests and passions to expand on what they learnt at school etc.

Now that is of course a huge ask at 5 or 6 or for most at 10 or even older, but I think the route to it is not outsourcing all thought of what to learn at home to the parent or teacher by deciding or dictating the homework but encouraging their own interest in subjects.

I like the idea of the kids knowing their learning targets - and if my kid didn't know it, that's something to ask the teacher (can you stick a note in the book bag each time it changes?) I know that DD's class does this with some of the parents, presumably those kids won't share their targets. I'm sure you could also find out lots of kids current targets simply by asking some of their peers, but I'm sure that depends on how the class is set up.

It may not be easy to get info from the child, but I think spending time trying to solve that, and finding a way to get them sharing is the way to improve working at home and revision. If they can get to where they are excited about something and keen to review, or eventually where they can actually realise they need to work on something on their own.

irvineoneohone Sat 11-Mar-17 22:48:36

My ds' school seems to be good for communication about curriculum.
They give us the half termly detailed topic list for all the subjects. Have the same on the website.
Also give us weekly newsletter(for each year group) telling us what they did this week, and what they will be doing next week.
So my ds' won't tell me what he did unless he was interested in that subject, but I know what they are doing.

jamdonut Sun 12-Mar-17 12:45:29

Do you really need to now the minutiae of your child's day in school though?

And learning goals...They take a lot of organising for each child in their maths and writing books, do you really expect the teacher to tell you ( and the other 20+ parents) each time they change?
The children ARE expected to know their targets, and we do draw attention to them, all the time, but it is an uphill struggle. If Ofsted come in, they will question the children about wether they know what their targets are, so we have to keep pushing it.

I do think( and as a parent myself), that we don't need to know EVERYTHING that takes place in school.
Ask your child how their day was,when they come out of school, be interested in their answer, but don't keep nagging at them for information!

Arkadia Sun 12-Mar-17 13:40:30

Jamdonut, I am sure one can work out a compromise between 'minutiae" and "zilch". Currently I am towards the latter.

gallicgirl Sun 12-Mar-17 16:51:57

Thank you everyone for your thoughts. It's very useful.

I definitely don't need the minutae but a broad overview would be good. DD doesn't know her targets, topics or what she's working towards.

I appreciate homework perhaps isn't the solution or even the problem.

I'll talk to her teacher in the week and maybe chat with the headteacher over the issue of feedback and involvement.

Sirfred's points about engagement are good and maybe I'll just run an alternative informal curriculum at home!

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