I have appreciated the many comments and feedback we have gotten on this topic thus far. Here is one from Dawn Hauser, a district specialist over curriculum and instruction, that I found particularly interesting. Keep the feedback coming!
“In response to the superintendent’s request for feedback regarding WORD SEARCHES:
In their oft-quoted “Research-Based Homework Guidelines” for teachers, Robert Marzano and Deborah Pickering (2007) discuss evidence that, when used appropriately, homework benefits student achievement. These two experts include a short list of four guidelines for teachers, the first of which reads as follows:
· Assign purposeful homework. Legitimate purposes for homework include introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest.
I can find no mention in the K-12 Utah State Social Studies Core Curriculum of identifying letter patterns or distinguishing vocabulary words from among other words and letters, the skill most arguably associated with word searches. Rather, the verbs in the core that indicate WHAT students should be doing with new social studies content and skills include: describe, analyze, compare, use, examine, explain, propose and investigate. None of these learning “actions” are achieved through word searches, which also don’t reinforce knowing and using key vocabulary.
It is impossible to argue that word searches are purposeful or legitimate for introducing new content, practicing a social studies skill, elaborating to deepen knowledge, or providing an opportunity to explore a topic independently. Adults don’t gain a better understanding of why they pay taxes or how to file by circling tax-related vocabulary words in a word search. What makes us think students will have a better understanding of important concepts and skills by doing the same? There are so many better ways students can practice and demonstrate what they know and can do with their knowledge – let’s use our professional expertise to “search” those out, instead.
Research-Based Homework Guidelines
Research provides strong evidence that, when used appropriately, homework benefits student achievement. To make sure that homework is appropriate, teachers should follow these guidelines:
• Assign purposeful homework. Legitimate purposes for homework include introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest.
• Design homework to maximize the chances that students will complete it. For example, ensure that homework is at the appropriate level of difficulty. Students should be able to complete homework assignments independently with relatively high success rates, but they should still find the assignments challenging enough to be interesting.
• Involve parents in appropriate ways (for example, as a sounding board to help students summarize what they learned from the homework) without requiring parents to act as teachers or to police students’ homework completion.
• Carefully monitor the amount of homework assigned so that it is appropriate to students’ age levels and does not take too much time away from other home activities.
Marzono, Robert J. and Pickering, Debra, J. The case for and against homework: Teachers should not abandon homework, instead they should improve its instructional quality. Educational Leadership, March, 2007, Vol. 64, No. 6, pages 74-79.”
Dawn Hauser, NBCT
Curriculum & Instruction
Granite School District