HOME: Making Homework Fun

marty newportHaving kids who don’t want to do homework is nothing new to parents, but one Edmond teacher is trying to change that. Marty Newport teaches second grade at Oakdale Elementary. Her upcoming book, “Homework Games,” is not only an insightful compilation of advice for parents and teachers, but also a colorful guide to games that children can enjoy.

“I actually wrote the book because I had pretty much the same question for 17 years of teaching: How can I help my child?” said Newport. “It’s a great work of support from my experience as a mom and also as a teacher.”

The book helps families prioritize their time and be able to fit homework into their busy schedules. “I made it short and sweet for a reason,” said Newport. “I want my book on their nightstand, on their kitchen counter, so that they can quickly look at it and go, ‘OK, what game can we play now?’”

One of the main points that Newport makes in the book is that teachers and parents need to work as a team and stay in communication. Teachers work with the students at school and teach them the
required skills. Parents should be reinforcing those skills by making sure kids do their homework. She explained that in situations when kids dread talking about homework, parents could facilitate the process by asking their children about what’s in their backpack. Newport added that parents should remember not to degrade what the teacher has assigned.

“I understand it’s not easy making your kids do their homework, it’s not easy being a parent, but I do relate with them, that’s for sure,” said Newport. She admits that many of her students, and even her own children, were not big fans of homework. “I think that kids are intimidated by it but that’s when the parents can help.” She explained that if the parents’ attitude towards homework is positive, that would help kids be more positive as well.

Newport pointed out that children learn differently and parents should respect their child’s unique way of learning. Some kids respond better if they play for a few hours after school and then start working on their homework. Others prefer to get started right away and be done for the evening. In any case, Newport said, kids need to have some leverage — understanding that homework is important, but also getting a reward for their hard work. “It doesn’t have to cost a lot; it can be going to the park,” she said.

However, if some children continue to complain about homework, parents can compare their own
responsibility of going to work and providing for the family to the duties of their kids. “I tell my second-graders that my job is to be your teacher. Your job is to do your homework,” she explains.

Newport shared that one of her students once told her, “Homework is the best when it’s done.”
Another one said, “Homework is hard and fun,” then explained, “It’s hard, because sometimes it’s hard to understand what it’s trying to get you to do. It’s fun, because once you know how to do it, it’s fun.”

That is why the second part of the book features different games with cards, Legos or clay. Some of them are new; others are well-known but have a fresh twist. The games are interesting to play and at the same time they help develop students’ reading, writing and math skills. “I thought, let’s first make homework fun with games, and the movie ‘Hunger Games’ came out, and I thought, that’s good — ‘Homework Games!’”

Newport’s book could be handy during school breaks when families tend to lose their routine. “It’s amazing what you can do with a deck of cards,” she said. “Kids don’t have to be doing worksheets to build their academic foundation.”

Karin Dallas, owner of College Nannies &
Tutors in Edmond, agreed that different ages come with different challenges and parents should first contact the teachers if they notice signs of trouble in their children’s schoolwork. She added that parents could consider contacting a tutor if needed. A qualified tutor would develop an individual learning plan for each child.

“Today, college admissions are more competitive than ever,” said Dallas. “Those students who are college-bound really need to make sure that they are looking at their entire academic résumé and positioning themselves as well as possible to achieve their college admissions goals and aspirations.”

Dee Allenbach, owner of Club Z! Tutoring adds, “It is important for a parent to be accessible while a child does homework, preferably in the kitchen or room away from television or other distractions.” Creating an interactive, engaging
environment is key to helping children connect homework with real life. Allenbach notes that especially middle school students feel schoolwork is unrelated to life and something they’ll never use. Club Z!’s philosophy often incorporates industry professionals that can help students see that homework and learning are necessary to achieve life’s bigger dreams.

Newport’s dream is to write a follow-up book, appropriately called “More Homework Games.” “It would make me so happy if the books could help families spend more quality time together while working on their skills,” said Newport.

“Homework Games” will be released in February. Newport is planning book signings at Best of Books in Edmond and Barnes & Noble on Memorial Road. She also welcomes questions at martygallionnewport@gmail.com.

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