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Ask an Expert: Is my child’s homework too hard?

Two teaching experts weigh in on a parent’s concern that the words her 5-year-old daughter is learning are too difficult for her age.

Q. My daughter is 5 and her teacher gives her words to copy that are, in my opinion, hard and a waste of time for her age. Words like “difficult, living, nonliving, strategy” and she has to copy each at least five times, which leaves us no time to study and review anything else. Is this right for her age?

Having fun with clunky words

Dear Vocabulary Mom,

Being a word junkie, it’s always challenging to find ways to hook kids into this journey.  I would like to encourage you – pat yourself on the back, you are working with your kiddo and she knows you are exploring together.

You can have fun with even clunky words. I just did a quick Google search and here is a site that had some fun printable that might help with the writing bit: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/themes/letters/f.shtml.

I’ve enjoyed playing with fun stories and odd words. Props like, Tell Me A Story Creative Story Cards or Rory Story Cubes, both work. I’ve bought blank playing cards at U.S. Toys and made my own cards. That way, even though the words might seem disconnected, you can connect them as you tell each other stories. This will help your daughter grow and find ways to use words. Her imagination will flourish and she’ll grow in her understanding of story structure.

You asked if these words were right for her age. I don’t have enough information to even guess, but that might be a good question for a conference. In the meantime, have fun with clunky vocabulary.

– Suzanne Lustie 

These words are not OK for a kindergartener

No, this work is not appropriate at all for a 5-year-old. Since the work is to copy the words, I am assuming the goal is spelling. If the goal is vocabulary because they are content-specific words for a unit, then talking about the words in context when they come up in conversation should suffice as homework, especially at this age level. For example, if you are out taking an evening walk, discuss whether the rocks along the path are living or non-living. Is the family dog living or non-living? Is this walking path difficult or easy?

If the teacher is truly sending home spelling work,  ask for your child’s writing journal or notebook. Agree to work on five words a week that your child is using in their writing but misspelling. A word is only powerful if it has context. Your child’s choice of words when they write are a sign of words that are most important. Thus, it would be great to know how to spell those words. Also, as far as homework, writing a word five times isn’t going to work either.

Making games can be fun. I used to have students:

  • Use different colors for consonants and vowels;
  • Create word  pyramids: worried – w; wo; wor; worr; worri; worrie; worried.

Honestly, I don’t agree with weekly spelling homework and tests. I had students own their spelling with one-on-one conferences about their writing. As far as vocabulary is concerned, it is most valuable in context and thus I strove to have kids find the words and recognize when they were being used in everyday life. Beyond that, copying words is a futile task.

– Amy Turino

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