Thursday, May 3, 2012

Outsourcing homework?

We have had huge issues with homework this year. 
My daughters are 3rd and 4th graders. The fourth grader is the one whose homework is the wonkiest.
Four days a week, both girls usually get two pages of homework, one page of math and one page of words, which is grammar or spelling or something like that.  The math is another nasty issue, what's been bugging me lately is the word homework.
The fourth grader usually gets more, with front and back of both worksheets.

Not only does it seem like there's a lot, it is often wrong.  It makes me think it was written by someone who is not a native English speaker.  Are they outsourcing the homework sheet preparation?   I know it's nit-picky of me... but shouldn't the children be taught CORRECT English?  Instead of bizarre English?

For example...
They are supposed to sort their 20 vocabulary words by different attributes...  vowel or consonant combinations, OO sound with oo or oe vowels... stuff like that.  Under each category there are blanks.  Often different numbers of blanks... and the number of blanks rarely corresponds with the number of answers in a particular category.  One day there were three extra blanks in one category, and in another she was squeezing in answers where there are no more blanks.  This caused a lot of frustration for a while, until we gave up and decided the blanks are totally random, and she needs to totally ignore the blanks.  THEN WHY ARE THERE BLANKS EXCEPT TO SCREW THE KIDS UP?!?!?!

One of the exercises that causes less confusion but bugs me is a completing the sentence exercise.  The kids are given a sentence with a blank, and have to pick from their vocabulary words of the week to fill in the blank.  This should not be rocket science.
Often it is a process of elimination because none of the given vocabulary words seem to fit the sentence.
Yesterday it was a crossword puzzle with the blanked sentences as clues.  These stuck out:

People in different countries will use a ________.

A goal you want to reach:   ________.

Gives you practice:   __________.

First.  People in different countries will use a _____.  My husband guessed "Squat toilet."  Other possible answers...  Llama?  Rickshaw?  I can't keep you in suspense, the answer is custom.   Are those people in different countries employing the same custom?  Do they use it simultaneously, or do they take turns? 
How about, instead, to say:  A practice or ritual performed by people of a particular group or country is called a _________.

A goal you want to reach  ______.   The answer: Aspire.   In case you didn't know Aspire is a verb.  The goal is not the aspire.  The goal is the ASPIRATION.  
The sentences should say:  The act of wanting to achieve a goal or accomplishment:

Gives you practice.   The answer - Intern.   An intern doesn't give you practice.... for that you would need an INTERNSHIP.  An intern is:  Someone performing a job for reduced or no pay in order to gain practice is an _________.  

I didn't used to think of myself as a real grammarian.  But these are just three from yesterday's homework.  There have been many many more.  Sometimes it's a word scramble, with some of the letters of the vocabulary words replaced with blanks.  Only the number of letters taken away and the number of blanks don't match.  
INTERNSHIP becomes  _ _ E _ _ _ S _ P
Stuff like that.

Or there's something else screwy. 
"Go back to the classroom and rearrange the _____"  answer is DESK.  How are you going to rearrange a desk in the classroom?  The desks are cleared... there's nothing on the desk to rearrange.  Oh, you mean DESKS!  Then why didn't you say DESKS!

I talked to the teacher.  I volunteered to go over the homework to check for accuracy before the homework is handed out.  She told me the homework is usually made last minute, by one or the other of the fourth grade teachers.  So those worksheets with the problems are probably not hers.


Hopefully fifth grade homework will be better.  And we're already forewarned for the next kid that 4th grade homework is wacky.  And often just plain wrong.

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