January 9, 2012

More bad homework

My son, a third-grader, brought me a reading homework assignment on vocabulary words. In his basal reader program, the vocabulary is taught in isolation -- a complete waste of time.

This particular activity was more troubling than most. He had a list that contained several vocabulary words he didn't know. The assignment instructed students to place the vocabulary word next to its synonym. I asked him if he'd learned the words previously. "No," he replied. Hmm. Sounded strange. How are you supposed to know the synonyms, I inquired. He shrugged.

Without droning on about the uselessness of homework, let me say that the idea of asking a student to locate synonyms for words he hasn't learned, without the help of context clues, is beyond foolish.

If you agree that this is an act of futility, you'll love the coup de grĂ¢ce. The words in question were, "coy" and "toil." When is the last time you heard a 9-year-old use these?