As the school year progresses and students get used to the new classroom routines, there is something children and parents know will come sooner or later….homework. While my personal view on homework has changed and evolved over time (I have written about it in detail on my blog), I know that ‘in general’ homework, at one point or another, is part of every student’s schooling years.
Late last week, as my dual immersion fourth graders where getting ready to go home, I was half-listening to one of my students as he was asking about a math word problem he needed to complete at home. First, I began with the usual “If you had used your time wisely, you would not be taking any work home.” I then went on and said, “You will have to ask someone at home for help on that problem.” To which my student replied: “Ms. Serrano no one at home speaks Spanish. They will not be able to read the problem. They will not be able to help me.”
Not only did I feel like the worst educator on the phase of the earth, but this also brought me to the point of: Where/How do children get help for homework or ANY other task when he/she is the only one speaking the language at home?
Yes, I have many students whose families are Spanish speakers, but I also have plenty of students whose families do not speak ANY Spanish at all. From that point on, I asked, probed, questioned and questioned again several co-workers and friends who teach at other dual-language schools hoping they would tell me how they do it. It seems that in the lower grades (K-2/3) homework help is not very complicated as children are learning many basic skills (for the most part). However, once children reach fourth grade and up, homework/tasks become a bit more difficult. Many teachers send home every piece of communication in both languages – homework, projects, newsletters, etc. But, how can parents effectively help children when they do not speak the language?
I am taking the time to translate everything I send home (even for what at the beginning I thought was ‘obvious’). I am also sharing the English version and links of our math curriculum as well as science. Additionally, I send weekly emails informing parents about our class happenings: what we are working on, what children are reading, and/or what we are writing about. But, what else can a teacher do? (Again, the homework ‘story’ at the beginning of this post should have never happened).
So, I am really eager to hear from parents. I am looking for both: what has worked and what your frustrations really are. Parents – what have you been doing when something gets home and you have no idea what it means? (Besides using Google translate!). I cannot wait to hear from you.
Photos by Robert Couse-Baker