Learning Challenges Takes on Traditional Homework – Total K/O


We are no stranger to the homework debate, and how it ignites some strong opinion in the education field. If you know me, you know I do not debate, I simply share why I feel the way to do, and support it with experience or research. I simply like providing a different view of what learning outside of the classroom should be.

Let’s rewind to the 2011-2012 school year. I had just become a connected educator and my mind was swirling with all the learning and sharing I was now a part of. I made a decision that year to kick homework to the curb, and try something different. I used Edmodo and opted for what I called Learning Challenges. Each week I took our learning targets in ELA, Math,  and SS or Science, and started three threads with a challenge on each. Students would need to at some time during the week show understanding through text, image, or video, and post to the corresponding learning challenge thread.

My favorite memory of those challenges was math vocabulary. I had tried for years to make sense of the word ARRAY. It truly isn’t a word that stuck with kids and I hated that I felt like I was always reviewing math vocabulary. One week our learning challenge was to find and share an array with our class. It was like I had hit the jackpot. I had kids walking down the halls of the school pointing out how the hallway tiles were arrays, and our ceiling tiles were arrays. They stopped to see classroom displays and point out they were arrays too! It hit me like a rock. I finally found out how to make math vocabulary meaningful and understandable.

Conversation around our learning changed so dramatically. One week when learning area and perimeter, our learning challenge was to measure our beds at home in feet. Since they had the whole week to submit it, I had a few responses roll in each day. As we started our day I would pull up the thread and we would look at what our classmates had shared. It was amazing how our conversation about area and perimeter changed. Suddenly kids were questioning the math. This led to kids sharing that some had bunk beds, some had twin beds, and some had full beds. Our math wasn’t all the same, because our lives are not all the same. It gave my students a glimpse into understanding that we all have different experiences, and it all came from an area and perimeter learning challenge.

Now here we go into 2017-2018 and here is what is changing. My go to daily will be SeeSaw. I will create a learning challenge folder on Monday of each week, and students and families will easily be able to find them and complete them at their leisure during the week. As a mom of a soccer player, we have two or three nights a week that we simply aren’t home, let alone doing homework. The nights we are home are a great time to jump on the learning challenges and submit them. I have a feeling many families have lives just like mine!

My learning challenges will start off with one Book Snap . (Find Tara Martin on Twitter and Book Snaps Real to learn more!) What a great way to teach kids to truly connect with text rather that just reading it! Students will also need to complete one mentor sentence, and one math or science task based learning challenge. We will wrap up our Monday morning meeting by planning out our learning challenges, and our Tuesday – Friday morning meeting wrap up will be us looking our peers examples and celebrating their learning. If you missed my blog on morning meetings, fear not you can find it HERE!

I truly can’t wait to see what amazing learning and sharing comes out of our learning challenges this year. You won’t want to miss it either, so follow JVand3rd on Instagram and @jaimevanderg on Twitter.  I will be sharing our amazing journey daily! If YOU don’t tell your story, someone else will!



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