Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs”

A few posts ago, I wrote about the blog of Angela Bunyi, a fourth grade teacher from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ms. Bunyi then write to me:

Thanks for sharing my article under Scholastic (Homework: Applying Research to Policy) and my note from the homework page on my class site. I wanted to add to your readers ongoing discussion about reading logs. I did away with them this year. I also did away with a specific reading time at home.

Why? First, I don’t want students reading to the clock. The thought of seeing “30 minutes” read for child after child in the daily reading log is really, really sad if you think about it. My goal is for students to get “lost” in their homework.

Second, I did away with reading logs because they were a pain for all involved. When I did use them, I found my best readers didn’t fill them out. Now I just meet with my kids during reading conference time to talk about their reading habits at home. When a student was on page 35 the day before and they are on page 75 the next morning, why push a log? I can do the math! The proof is with the pace of finishing books in your room each week.

228 thoughts on “Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs”

  1. My daughter is a voracious reader. Just out of the 4th grade, she is reading 8th grade-level books on a regular basis. I have started taking her to the public library since they only let children check out two books at a time at her school library, and she finishes those long before the next library day. And once a week or so, as she flies out the door on her way to school, she will exclaim with dismay, “Mooommm! You NEED to sign my reading log!” And then I sign it every for every day that I have missed, even though the rows are blank (she will fill in the rest on the way to school). I have tried to tell her that it’s ok for her to sign that one paper for me, because my signing it makes absolutely no difference – I know she reads, she knows she reads, and her teacher knows she reads, and me signing empty rows for her to calculate pages and books read later, on the bus on the way to school, is pointless – but I have also raised her to be honest, and she refuses to sign for me. Instead, we go through the ritual once a week or once every other week, the day after the teacher tells the class that he will be collecting the logs the following day.

    And every time a report card comes home with excellent marks all around, there is usually a slightly admonishing note on the reading portion: “Needs to read more non-fiction!” At which I laugh, and promptly ignore. When you make something like reading a chore, a required activity, a timed duty, you take away all of the fun. I am a big believer in reading, and yes, some kids need to be encouraged to read, and need more help reading than others. My daughter does not, so the last thing I am ever going to do is to try to dictate her choices in reading. I’m so glad that some other people share my views!


  2. Get a life people! You have been complaining about this for over a year! The time you have spent bullying others on this blog could have been spent with your children. If you are all for spending precious time with your kids, please tell me why you have spent SO much time ridiculing people on this blog?

    Oh, that’s right, you are all crazy, controlling parents who I’m sure have kids that CANNOT wait to get out from under your roof! I feel sorry for your children’s future spouses. Talk about in-laws from HELL!

    I’m also sure the teachers at your children’s school know about you before they meet you because you make every year so “enjoyable” for the teacher before. The real issue is who is in control…not homework or reading logs! Heaven forbid you teach your kids to obey authority figures and meet guidelines that are less than desirable. A reading log is not a big deal. The reason your child is turned off to reading and signing a log is because you make it such a negative experience and make a huge deal out of it in front of your child I’m sure. How embarrassing for your child!

    Your children will go out into the world on their own and not have a CLUE how to function in a real job. I would like to see you go tell their boss that your child won’t be particiapting in a job requirement because you do not see the value.



  3. Oh Anonymous….we’ve been at it a lot longer than a year…..But when you’re trying to change the system, you have to be committed for the long haul. The interesting thing is that when you are old and grey and maybe have some wisdom, you might see that blindly obeying anything is sure to lead you down the wrong path. Everyone of the parents who write in have attended traditional schooling and been taught to obey. We are questioning it, finally. We are fully functioning, working Moms and Dads with demanding lives…who don’t just do what we’re told. Why should we?

    Oh and by the way, I don’t want my child to go through school so she can get a job. That strategy worked in 1970. She has to learn how to live in 2020, to be flexible and to know herself and to be an independent thinker. Obediently writing in a little book what stories you’ve read, and then nagging your mother to sign on the dotted line because if you don’t, you miss recess, is not the start down the path to independent thinking.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Heaven forbid you teach your kids to obey authority figures and meet guidelines that are less than desirable.

    So you figure the purpose of education is to make kids do things they don’t want to do, to get them accustomed to people bossing them around, which is what their adult life will also consist of.

    What a dreary world you live in.

    How about an education that encourages kids to ask questions, to think for themselves, and to learn real intellectual content?


  5. I stumbled upon this blog looking up a reading list for my fourth grader and all I can say is WOW!

    Not all students are great, avid readers like yours. They do not start out as good readers nor do they love it right away, nor do they have the parental support at home like your children seem to. They need all the practice they can get.

    Reflecting on what you have read is a great comprehension tool. I’m not saying a reading log is the answer but a journal to reflect in is a great way to think about what you have read when necessary. Short, picture books maybe not so much, but longer novels need more thought and some kind of journal can organize these thoughts.

    As an adult, we read with all of these reading strategies without knowing it because we have learned to either by teaching ourselves or elsewhere. We use our inner dialogue to interact with what we are reading. It seems to come naturally because we have had so much practice.

    Asking them to reflect on their reading is not a waste of time, it teaches them to use that inner dialogue. I agree with Anonymous. Every night, yes, that is too much but being defiant to what your child’s teacher requests they do is not the way to go. Talking to the teacher first to decide a more appropriate avenue for your child is best. Not telling him/her my child will not participate. Being honest with your child’s teacher and letting them know signing every night is too much to ask will keep the communication lines open between you and the teacher, the partnership which you desire. Teachers are there to work WITH you not against you.

    That’s great your child wants to read on their own but some children would NEVER read unless asked to and that is just the way it is. Not because he has lost his “love” for reading but because he has never been told to.

    I too am an employee, whose salary comes from your tax dollars. Many people are paid this way. I understand you want YOUR money to control what you want it to but that’s not how it works. Your tax money also pays for those people that cannot afford food. Do you feel the need to control them to because they work for YOU considering you pay for their meals? That is just absurd.

    Education today does teach our children to be independent thinkers in this world. They cannot get a well paying job without education. So, when you say you don’t want your children to go through school just to get a job, well that’s just confusing. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Learning and developing your skills to be a functioning adult in a profession that you love is the goal. Maybe your child will have a boss, maybe they will be their own boss, either way we all have things we don’t want to do, but we know we need to. You can’t just not do something because you plain don’t want to it. Do you let your kids tell you that they aren’t going to do their chores because they don’t want to? I doubt that. Teachers aren’t there to “boss” your child around and make him/her do things they don’t want to do.

    Seems like you both have a poor idea about what teachers really do for your children and that is just sad to think. Teachers where I’m from encourage cooperation, imaginative play, oh, and EDUCATION! The children work at their own pace and are rewarded for their accomplishments. They ARE professionals and take pride in the training and education they have received. I know there are some teachers that should never be around children, but they are the minority. The parent is the child’s first teacher but a teacher has training that gives the knowledge to go beyond what you can do with them when your child is at school. Stereotyping every teacher because of the poor experiences you have had is just not right. Telling your teacher your child will not do homework because they learn enough at school is silly. What exactly does your child do at school for 7 hours a day? A LOT! Volunteer a day in your child’s room and you will see. Homework is intended to extend the activity and allow time for practice. It is not meant to be busy work. And if it is taking your child a long period of time to do their homework, TALK TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER and see if you can work something out. You might be surprised. They are there to work with you not make your life harder than it already is.

    The point I’m trying to get across is this…reading logs that require title, author, blah, blah, blah are boring and do not serve a purpose, I understand what you are saying. Talk to your child’s teacher before throwing something back in their face and saying my child won’t participate. That is not a positive foot that any teacher wants to start the year with. If you are defiant to the teacher that not only makes it uncomfortable for them but for your child who has to sit in class EVERYDAY with the teacher you despise. If you don’t respect the teacher, why should your child? That is the message you are ultimately sending.

    When you ask the questions of, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How do you think (character) feels?” it teaches the child to develop an inner dialogue while they are reading. You may not agree with that but it works. When you can interact with what you are reading and feel the characters’ feelings, that is when the real love of reading takes place and it becomes pleasurable. If you do not know how to interact with a book, you will not learn to fully enjoy the experience. How is reflecting on your reading not independent thinking?

    If you think you can do a better job of teaching your children, GO FOR IT!


  6. ***
    When you ask the questions of, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How do you think (character) feels?” it teaches the child to develop an inner dialogue while they are reading.

    No it doesn’t. The child feels like she’s being put on the spot to come up with the “right” answer that the teacher will approve of. All it does is alienate the child from her own experience of reading the book.


  7. From the US Dept of Education website:
    Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction
    Many students in middle and high school can decode the words in a text, but are unable to identify the central ideas or to explain the meaning of what they have just read. Students can improve their comprehension through the use of specific comprehension strategies such as questioning and summarizing. Content area teachers and reading specialists can provide direct instruction in comprehension strategies by encouraging active participation with text, as well as opportunities for both guided and independent practice.

    Dr. Dole (recommended by the US Dept of Education) states:
    There are two comprehension strategies that seem to be the most powerful for students. One is summarizing, and many students do summarize, but it’s a very, very difficult skill to learn. And very honestly, it’s a very difficult skill to teach as well, but we know that it’s one strategy that has a powerful effect on comprehension. The other strategy that’s most effective is asking questions. Now, by asking questions, I don’t mean that the teacher ask questions of the students. Rather, the students ask questions about the text itself. So, students may be reading, and they may stop and ask a question, say perhaps: “What do the authors mean by the three branches of government?” Or “Why are there three branches of government instead of two branches of government?” Students asking themselves those kinds of questions seem to also have a powerful effect on comprehension.

    So I guess you think the US Dept of Education is just a bunch of MORONS?

    –The !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa believe that children must be drilled to sit, stand, and walk. They carefully pile sand around their infants to prop them upright, and sure enough, every one of these infants soon sits up on its own. We find this amusing because we have observed the results of the experiment that the San are unwilling to chance: we don’t teach our children to sit, stand, and walk, and they do it anyway, on their own schedule.

    That has nothing to do with learning to read! Putting a book in front of a child EVERYDAY for years will not teach them to read. Nor will it teach them to love reading. And they definitely won’t start reading out of the blue one day.

    –A three-year-old toddler is “a grammatical genius”–master of most constructions, obeying adult rules of language. To Pinker, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psycholinguist, the explanation for this miracle is that language is an instinct, an evolutionary adaptation that is partly “hard-wired” into the brain and partly learned.

    So we should partly already know how to read before we learn to?

    Also, teachers that recommend books to their students are not horrible teachers! If a student loves it great, if not, that’s OKAY too!

    Listening to a parent read aloud is a great way to show your child how to read fluently and with expression. But unless you are “thinking” out loud as you are reading, asking those higher level thinking questions, how is your child going to learn to do it themselves when you are not there to read to them? And guess what…if your child was “left alone to read” they would probably choose something else to do! Unless you encourage them to start the habit early, they will not carry that on into adulthood. Blaming your child’s teacher for the fact your daughter didn’t read for 6 months is just ridiculous! You just wanted a reason to justify it. Maybe she just didn’t want to do it at the time!

    I’m not a teacher, nor am I an expert on reading, but I can tell you one thing. If my child was not encouraged to read he wouldn’t. He makes straight A’s, is in the gifted and talented program, and is a great reader. But he would always find something else to do. He enjoys reading when he takes the time but it is not something he wants to do ALL of the time! And I APPRECIATE all of his teachers for teaching him how to “interact” (as you say) with his books. I think it has taught him to be a better reader!

    Instead of preaching what not to do, give the people that read your blog some positive things we CAN do with our children besides, “leave them alone to read when they want and what they want” and they will love reading. That doesn’t work for every child. Encouraging a child to read requires more. So tell us what else we can do!


  8. Notafanofthisblog! says:

    So I guess you think the US Dept of Education is just a bunch of MORONS?

    I don’t think they’re a bunch of geniuses, that’s for sure.

    You’ve got a bunch of different issues mixed up, and I see you’ve also mixed up a bunch of different writers (I’m not the same person as PsychMom). I don’t have the energy to untangle it right now.

    I will just say this. My objection to making kids answer questions like “what do you think will happen next?” and “what is the character feeling?” is that it turns kids off to reading.

    For more, try this:


  9. Notafan is mixing blogs and writers…
    Just for the record, I was not blaming a teacher for my daughters lack of reading for 6 months. The teacher told me repeatedly that she did in fact read at school. She didn’t at home. But I blame the teaching method for suspending the love of her books. Reading became a chore…that’s what I didn’t like.

    And all this “depth” that kids are supposed to develop through thinking and questioning. It’s all internal processing that can come about with group discussion during class time. I don’t need to be sitting at 7pm on a Tuesday night with an exhausted kid trying to get her to figure out and compose a paragraph about how some character in a children’s story feels.
    It felt ridiculous just writing that last sentence, let alone actually doing it.


  10. When kids don’t feel that they need to do homework, most of them begin to carry that same feeling about class assignments.

    Every student who consistently brings homework also has the work ethic to get their classwork completed in a timely manner. Students who don’t do homework also don’t do classwork.

    I teach third grade and have students reading two grade levels below. I am a good teacher, but I am not a miracle worker. Your child is going to need to do extra at home.

    I send homework to see if you can do the work without me. I tell parents I don’t need them to help with the homework just to see if it is done. I use the homework to help drive my instruction and create my small groups. If you can’t do it without me then I know you don’t understand.

    I have three children and I often don’t agree with some of the things the teacher gives, but that is between their father and myself. You have to support the teacher. I tell my children often times we have to do things we don’t always agree with or want to do – we do because we have to – like following a dress code at work.


  11. Sorry Tiredteacher, but a dresscode is not the same as doing homework. And besides that, many barriers around dress codes have been broken down too. You must be a tired teacher, because that’s a weak analogy.

    If you have a problem with what the teacher sends home, it’s between you and your husband? I don’t get that. Even a teacher can’t have a conversation with another teacher? That’s serious.


  12. Our 4th grade son makes straight A’s in fourth grade, has scored in the 98% percentile on the National Measure’s for Academic Progress (MAP) by NWEA in Math and his Reading scores on that assessment are in the 90% percentile range. (Math and Reading are subjects that are assessed at this level in our state)…he has also scored the highest score possible on the state assessment in Math and has scored well above the state average in Reading…he continues to score 95+ in each of his subject areas…BUT, he has received ‘detention’ (loss of recess) at least 4 times this year already for not having his homework completed…Just recently, he received ‘detention’ for not having his homework completed – he needed to ask the teacher a question before he completed one last question and I advised him to take it in and ask her about it at the beginning of class. Unfortunately, that advice resulted in him getting another ‘detention’ – To top it off, the loss of recess every now and then doesn’t even bother him – which says that the ‘punishment’ isn’t working! I am just now starting to research this topic and I have appreciated all the comments on this thread (haven’t agreed with all, but have appreciated the comments). I hope our district will begin a little research of their own on this subject and stop expecting our students to be in ‘school’ extended hours each day (and I would like to stop doing part of their jobs once my child comes home each day) 🙂


  13. Psychmom – All I am saying is all your life you end up having to do things that you don’t like. You can either do it or keep looking for that Eutopia where you can do whatever you like (I would love a job like that!)

    I am sure the reason homework was assigned in the first place in history was because some parent started complaining that the school system wasn’t doing enough. So now we have another wave – my child is tired from working all day and homework in the evening is too much – blah, blah, blah.

    There is no pleasing parents – you complain if the teacher doesn’t give homework and you complain if the teacher does give homework.

    The parents who do the most complaining are the ones with the children struggling and who can’t get up to the school for conferences unless it’s about something ridiculous. I have a student who does zero class assignments and zero homework yet his mother is there in a heart beat if I take some toy away from him during class.

    Some of these comments sound so vicious – like teachers are going out of their way to make your child miserable. Believe me all of us would gladly give up giving homework if we didn’t have to listen to another long list of bloggers complaining that teachers don’t give homework so I don’t know what my child is doing etc, etc.

    As far as my children’s assignments – they are practice. It helps my middle schooler learn to manage his time and get things completed on a timeline. He does plan to go to college and I don’t think his professor will care if I send a note that this is too much homework.

    It also allows them to practice what they learned in school that day. If we encounter anything we don’t understand I ALWAYS send a note about it and asking her to explain it.

    I don’t have problems communicating my concerns about the homework to a teacher. I just don’t encourage my child to become this homework activitist.

    My husband and I don’t discuss our feelings about a teacher in front of them. That is what I mean when I say it is between my husband and I. If we need to talk to the teacher we will, but that does not give my child a “get out of homework pass.”

    I don’t feel like supporting the teacher’s efforts at home is “doing her job.” After all I have an advantage, instead of 25 – 30 children vying for my attention, I have a perfect 1:3 working ratio. When my husband gets home from work the ratio is even better.

    I would love to hear how you can please all of the folks all the time when it comes to homework.


  14. ***
    I would love to hear how you can please all of the folks all the time when it comes to homework.

    I’ll tell you how you do it — you make homework optional. Let every family decide what works for them. Parents who want their kids to do homework can have their kids do the homework, and parents who don’t want their kids to do homework can opt out, or opt out assignment by assignment.

    And you know the amazing thing? You would probably see no difference in performance, unless there was an improvement because the kids are happier and less stressed out.


  15. Tired Mom said:
    All I am saying is all your life you end up having to do things that you don’t like. You can either do it or keep looking for that Eutopia where you can do whatever you like (I would love a job like that!)

    As FedUpMom said, you really should learn how to spell utopia before you can ever hope to find it. You know what Tired Mom? The trouble with this way of thinking is that what we end up doing as a society is teaching children to give up before they even start. I know you think your outlook is “mature”…I think it’s just depressing. Sure, we adults DO have to do things that are boring and routine …who the heck likes to do laundry. But to give children tasks that are boring and routine, that shuts down their love of learning, just because we believe they are doomed to an adult life of boredom, well that’s just not the way I think.

    When my child started kindergarten I told myself that what I truly wanted for the next 13 years was to never hear her say, “I don’t want to go to school today…I hate school.” I’ve been luck so far, she’s made it to Grade 4 and I haven’t heard it yet. Only 8 more to go. Why would anyone want to do something they hated? Why should teachers turn school into something kids hate?

    I’m not suggesting that bouncy castles greet them…..oh wait…I take that back. Bouncy castles at the entrance of school every morning is a great idea. It promotes exercise and kids would walk in the door excited and pumped for school. Then they should all sit down for a hearty breakfast. After all that, they might be interested in settling in for an hour or two of something interesting.

    And by the way…adults would be a lot healthier if more people were doing jobs they enjoyed instead of the mind numbing work they force themselves into because they feel they have to. I am not going to teach my kid to settle. It’s a lousy way to live.


  16. TiredTeacher- Snarky comment to be sure. I have never seen Utopia spelled Eutopia. Is this an Old English spelling? I’m sure this spelling would be counted as incorrect on a spelling test.


  17. Looked it up on and they say it is an obsolete spelling (kinda like the curriculum at many schools). I know, I know, snarky right back at ya!


  18. What? “Utopia” is the title of a book by Thomas More describing an ideal society. His title was a pun — “Utopia” means “no place”, but it sounds like “Eutopia”, which simply means “a good place”.

    If you’re referring to the famous book about the inaccessible perfect society, it’s spelled “Utopia”, period, full stop.

    If you spell it “Eutopia”, you’re no longer referring to the famous book, you just mean “a good place”, which might or might not be findable.

    They are not at all alternate spellings for the same idea.


  19. I just don’t get the “no homework” approach? Homework teaches our kids skills beyond the classroom – i.e. responsibility, initiative to complete a task without mom asking, etc. My middle school-aged kids do their homework after school before I am home from work. It is their responsibility to start, finish, and ask questions as necessary. When they join the work force, any employer would be thrilled to hire someone who doesn’t need their hand held to complete each and every task.

    I keep hearing “my kid is smart so he doesn’t need to do homework.” My niece is a prime example of this. The girl can pull straight As without cracking a book. Yet, she is failing because she refused to do her homework. However, if you ask her to do the dishes, you better plan for “the Look” and a lot of grumbling before the dishes will ever be done. Homework teaches more than classroom skills.

    Parents are the child’s first teacher. The teachers are there to assist us in teaching our children to survive the world when they become adults. Any help provided by my kids’ teachers are a huge benefit to me since I don’t think I would be that great at teaching them history and calculus. I welcome comments from my students’ teachers and feel it is my job to assist them in teaching my child. I have two kids to teach. They have 30. It is the parent’s responsibility to raise their child and that includes teaching them. By sending them to school, you, as a parent, are getting ASSISTANCE in teaching them. The teachers are not there to teach your child everything and raise the child for you. As a parent, that is your job.


  20. ***
    The girl can pull straight As without cracking a book. Yet, she is failing because she refused to do her homework.

    Clearly the homework is not necessary for her. Why should she do it?

    However, if you ask her to do the dishes, you better plan for “the Look” and a lot of grumbling before the dishes will ever be done. Homework teaches more than classroom skills.

    I’m not interested in teaching my kids mindless obedience. If that’s what you want to teach your kids, be my guest.

    A lot of kids these days don’t do household chores. They don’t have time, because of homework overload.

    The teachers are not there to teach your child everything and raise the child for you. As a parent, that is your job.

    Believe me, I want to raise my kids. That’s why I don’t want homework taking up the little free time I have with them.


  21. My AP classes have precious few graded homework assignments, I rarely did homework and make high As and aced the AP tests. If you need it, the assignment should be there; if not, not! Seems pretty simple to me.


  22. To start, no, I didn’t read all the comments. I read about fifty, but I’ve been here too long, and I’m a university student with, you guessed it, too much homework to stay online any longer.

    From what I have read, however, I see both sides. The comments I was reading start in early 2009, when I was less than a year out of high school. I’m nearly finished my third year of university now, taking Elementary Education, and reading this is seriously just //stressing me out//.

    I see the side of the parents. I remember homework. I remember the tediousness, the pointlessnes, what have you.

    But I see the side of the teachers.

    I don’t know how to reconcile these differences. We are taught to teach fewer topics more in depth. Yet the curricula include not a few topics, but a vast many. So… We spent the day deep in discussion, allowing children to “construct” their knowledge in true Vygotsky fashion, but now the kids need to practice and do an assignment so that the teacher has something to mark for the report card coming up which must include x number of topics if the entire curriculum is going to be covered on time.

    But wait! We can’t take marks from anything done at home because we don’t know who did the work or if the student cheated! So all summative assessments must be done during class hours. That sounds good, especially in elementary. But WHEN? Not to mention the fear of burning out our kids… There is absolutely nothing I want more than to have my kids love learning. Absolutely nothing. That is my honest to god goal in life. But then I will be rated as a teacher according to their standardized tests covering these huge curricula.

    I am absolutely rambling, but having just come off of my first practicum, I simply do not understand how it all can be done.

    My opinion? It’s not the teachers. What is failing our kids, our parents, AND our teachers the province/ state who creates the curriculum and trains the teachers.

    They actually teach us in university that teaching elementary is more of a race against the clock. They teach us that it’s impossible to teach everything we’re supposed to in the time that we have, but we sure as hell better try. Oh, and you had BETTER get your 40 minutes of daily physical activity in (in addition to recesses), as well as the fine arts! It’s like we’re being mandated to make up for those few parents (those who wouldn’t even come to this message board because they are not involved– I know you are all here because you are fighting for what’s best for your kids!!) who do not try to raise a well-rounded child by either not encouraging physical activity or not encouraging intellectual activity (or both..).

    I see the point of views of the mothers fighting with their kids, I really do. I remember that. I remember pulling an extremely late night in the fourth grade because I had a project due the next day and I had put it off to the very last night. That sort of thing shouldn’t happen! But I simply don’t understand how NOT to assign homework. I say again. It’s the system, not the individuals within it.

    I think all of you, on both sides of the debate, teachers and moms alike will very much appreciate this video:

    Enjoy. Good luck to both sides. I, for one, am going to go back to my positively abhorrent amount of reading I have due for tomorrow, all about the elementary curricula, and try to figure out what the hell my own stance really is.

    I do not know if I will make it back to check up on this blog, but I’m more than happy to learn from parents and other teachers alike, so please, if you have anything valuable to share with me, feel free to send me a message (please don’t make me regret this). But goodness me I REALLY NEED TO GET BACK TO MY HOMEWORK (lol… ).



  23. Sorry to double post. Also, having read the assault on the anonymous teacher with poor writing, I think I should be editing my posts! Perhaps I could insert a disclaimer so as not to be torn apart for any of my typos?

    Anyhow, I’ve now read posts 1-50 as well as 120 on.

    I have trouble with the solution of “make homework optional.” The trouble? The kids who need it most won’t do it. Solutions for that? I mean, yes, we should be differentiating instruction for our students (and I think most teachers do?) and I think their homework assignments ought to be differentiated as well, but I’m not sure about simply not giving homework to those who “don’t need it”. One solution we’re taught in university is not to give the gifted students more work, but rather, more challenging work, so as to occupy approximately the same amount of time that their peers are spending. So if the students having trouble need the extra practice, and take stuff home, in theory, their peers will have the same amount to do for homework.

    But this doesn’t solve the no-homework-for-those-who-do-not-need-it problem. I know most of you advocate no homework at all for anyone, but I have seen some concessions that some children need extra practice. Your thoughts on qualitative differentiation?

    I love HWB post 121 about Alfie Kohn. I love his ideas. While I was in the school (did I mention I was teaching grade six in my practicum? I don’t know if it makes a difference for you all, but anyway…) we talked a lot about getting rid of grades. The teachers are talking about it. We’re talking about it at the U as well… Using primarily formative assessments, and simple outcome based reporting. Yes, your child can do this, or no, your child cannot. All about comments.

    That scares me a little. Probably because I am a student yet and a full 75% of my life has been hinged upon my grades… particularly now when my funding depends on it. But for the little bit that it scares me, it TERRIFIES most parents. I kid you not! I was able to witness parent-teacher interviews while I was on practicum, and the parents obsess over grades. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘They’re only in the sixth grade! One poor math test is only one poor math test!’

    Despite my apprehension, I like the idea of outcome based reporting over grading… I can’t imagine what the backlash would look like though.

    I also would like to comment on the post by teachermom and subsequent replies.

    But I have lost the ability to string together cohesive thoughts. I need to be awake again far too soon, and homework for the evening didn’t happen… I guess I’ll be suffering the consequences. I’ve spent the past hours (almost three, oh my god), learning something besides what’s in the text… Let’s hope it helps me.


    PS: Sorry for the short essay I’ve now posted. If you only take one thing out of all of it, let it be the youtube link I posted in my last post.


  24. I hope you’ve seen Ken Robinson’s two TED talks as well, Cera. And read his book, “The Element”.

    Just one comment from me…when we talk about homework being optional, I don’t think we’re meaning that the homework is optional for the child. The teacher does not stand at the head of the class and say, “Here’s your homework. Do it if you like.”

    We’re offering that the option should be with the parents, and the decision made on a family basis. In my case, I don’t check class webpages, check my 9 year old’s child’s backpack, or ask her about homework. Whether she does school work at home is her choice, but it’s not instigated by me because I do not see school work as part of our homelife. If she asks me to help her with something, I will. If a document comes home saying that I, the parent, must do some school work with my child at home, I go back to the school and say, “No thanks, I’m busy.”
    1) The option should be there when schools start asking parents to do things.and 2) Homework should be optional because adults who run households and who have children who work hard in school, should have the say so over what goes on in their home.
    Whether teachers can get all the curriculum covered is not really my concern.


  25. Cera says:

    I have trouble with the solution of “make homework optional.” The trouble? The kids who need it most won’t do it.

    This is already true. The kids who most need the homework don’t do it (or cheat), and the kids who least need it will stay up all night worrying about whether it’s perfect.


  26. Psychmom:
    I should clarify. I don’t expect curriculum EVER should be covered at home. I just wonder if a student can be taken from a level of basic understanding to mastery without that extra time that simply isn’t available otherwise.

    I’m also very curious as to your opinion on what I would consider positive homework. For instance (please, give me the opportunity here) in social studies where the students have a unit on communities and the past. I’m sure you can agree that the most meaningful community in a child’s life is their immediate family. Something I might do with my students would be to ask them to approach the unit by beginning with an assignment where the children were to go home and discuss with their families their roles and responsibilities, what their parents roles and responsibilities may have been when they were children, their grandparents, and so on. I come from a very rural area, so many students would have different responsibilities living on a farm than in town. Some in town might find their grand parents had very different lives than they do presently. Perhaps they’ve come from another country and traditions are different there. I would want children to have that personal connection to the material and the valuable knowledge that would enrich the following lesson on community.

    I could stand up there and say “fifty years ago, things were done in such a such a way” but that’s just blah, blah, blah to the child. I don’t believe in lecturing. I believe in discussion.

    So, then, I’m curious if you may bend your rules for that sort of assignment? And no, I wouldn’t expect anything written to be turned in, but I would (of course) mark the child’s participation and activity in class which could potentially be inhibited if they lacked the background knowledge.

    Thoughts, please! =)


  27. Please, forgive the typo. I don’t know how it ended up that way, but my post should read “Something I might do with my students in order to approach the unit is by beginning with an assignment where the children…”

    I had originally been saying something else about approaching grandparents. Apologies! You can tell my attention was diverted.

    As I write another post, I’m interested in your (the three of you who are most active here, in particular) thoughts on some of my other points in the earlier posts. How would you approach the backlash if we did move away from grading? The video I shared? Of course, the most recent post including the scenario as well.

    Thank you! I look forward to your replies.

    By the way: I shared some of your thoughts in one of my lectures this morning. Very many responses of a very wide variety of course. The discussion there was cut short, but is expected to continue. I hope to bring ideas back here and gain your thoughts on them as well. Nothing to report as yet however.


  28. To Cera:

    While I appreciate what you’re getting at, and I’ve heard this suggestion before, but an awful lot of thought has to go into it and from my experience, teachers don’t often have the time or inclination to think of meaningful tasks.

    I think of the genealogy projects that often happen in Grade 2 where children are supposed to create a family tree. The teacher asks the child to bring in baby pictures…to comment on how the child has features or characteristics similar to other family members. But did the teacher consider the adopted child ….this task may cause alot of upset.

    I’ll get back..I have more to say later.


  29. continue..

    For me, the term “positive homework” is an oxymoron, particularly if it’s applied to school children. If the world of education were to change into the type of world I would like to see, the term homework would not even exist. I do not accept it as a given part of education. In today’s system, homework is seen as a given part of the curriculum because…..and only because….it’s a habit. It’s the way things are done. The belief that sending school work home (in K to 6) is beneficial to learning has not been proven to help any child learn anything. In the older grades, a small effect has been found, but the correlations between time spent on homework and achievement are weak.

    To get to your specific question Cera, no, there’s nothing wrong with having a discussion with your class about family traditions and history. But you don’t have to turn it into an assignment. To me, your role is to get the kids wondering…so that they will want to go home and ask questions on their own and discover for themselves. How do you do that??? You talk about your own family, you ask the kids what they already know about their own families (but be prepared for some of the unsettling things you might find out). You can bring in an older member from the community and have the kids interview that person. Or invite the kids to bring their grandparents in…or anyone they admire. That’s how you bring the community into your classroom…..quite literally. Yes, it takes a lot more work on your part..

    Teacher’s need to stop forcing learning down kids’ throats, and instead create circumstances where it happens naturally. I often recall a field trip I chaperoned a couple of years ago. It was to a country farm and the kids (ages 7/8) travelled in groups around the farm, dutifully listening as an adult spoke for a few minutes about some aspect of this 1800’s style farm life. The kids were supposed to ask questions…I think the teacher had made up some questions ahead of time that the kids were supposed to find answers to…..All of this was the forced learning part. Then, near the end of the day, we were all heading back to the bus when one of the “farmers” decided to shear one of the ewes right there under a nearby tree. She had new lambs with her and he brought them out too and tied them up close by. The kids were transfixed. Suddenly they were full of questions..What’s he going to do? Why is that baby lamb crying? Why did he bring out the lamb if he was going to shear the ewe? How are you going to shear the sheep? and on and on and on went the questions. If you would ask those kids what they remember from that day…they’ll tell you about the sheep shearing first….and not much else second.

    My 9 year old daughter is keen to learn how to iron. Do I send her to her room to look up “iron” in the dictionary and then write it out 10 times? No. Do I get her to look it up on the internet? No. Do I ask her to think about why we iron clothes, how she feels about ironing clothes, and ask her to read books about characters who like to iron clothes? (ok I’m getting silly) Do I dump a pile of clothes on her, tell her to iron them, and leave the house and go shopping? No. I teach her how to iron. That’s the way I wish teachers would think? Figure out what the kids want to learn about and then bring it to them..or go out with them and find it. We need to stop telling kids what they should know, and start asking them what they want to know.

    And as a society we then need to figure out how to make THAT happen.


  30. Psychmom:

    Please do not take this negatively, but that is the single best post in this entire discussion so far.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Very insightful.

    I see so much distaste in your post, however… and I find it so unfortunate and just downright saddening. There’s such a burning passion in the people in my courses, the “pre-service teachers” to do exactly what you promote: Teach in a TRUE constructivist manner, through experience and practice in applicable contexts. Student-directed, with the teacher as a mere guide. It’s such a shame because that’s exactly how they’re trying to teach us to teach, too. May I ask whereabout in the world you live? I am in Alberta, Canada… We have been updating all of our curricula these last five years, trying to force teachers to do all of this… though I am perfectly aware of plenty of resistance.

    The reason I used Social Studies as my example is because it’s truly my favourite subject. Some of the suggestions you give for gaining interest, such as having someone come in to talk to the kids, are actually mandatory aspects of unit plans I design for my courses… and things I fully anticipate to use in my future classroom. I appreciate your correction to my idea. Get them interested so they ask the questions on their own, don’t “assign” questions.

    Now, to get defensive of myself and my peers for a moment, and I hate to sound high on myself, but as I stated before, my goal in my career is to make kids have the same love of learning that I have. And (this is where I get egotistical) I do very well in anything I do. I see no sense in doing a half-assed job of anything. I really do want the best for these kids, and I will absolutely try to do what I think will help them… And I will keep in touch with outside views as best as I can.

    I can’t help but say again, though, that there are so many more pressures put on by people other than the students. It’s like we have to teach these in spite of so many things (…not to mention how so often, in so many classrooms, the kids are learning IN SPITE of the teacher). I agree with you that a lot of teachers are going about teaching entirely the wrong way. Just don’t tell anyone I said so, because it’s against professional code of conduct! The standardized tests are the worst part. Oddly, it sounds like all teachers seem to think that standardized tests are dreadful, yet they’re becoming increasingly central in public education. Schools in my province are ranked by Provincial Achievement Test results. Funding is dependent upon these. Enrollment counts on good numbers. It’s just awful.

    Now… It all comes back to the fact that the problem is not that it’s impossible to successfully teach our children without homework “assignments”. We all know that!

    The problem is the “practice” garbage that teachers are virtually force to do in order to get the students ready for the meaningless, de-contextualized, (pardon me) shitty questions we rank our kids on. I guess that’s the part that gets me. We teach them properly all day, but where do we fit the “shit” that is going to get the kids ready for what I feel are shit tests. (I could most definitely get in trouble for saying that, heh). I hear these tests are even worse in the states. I’m not very familiar with their system, aside from having heard about the “No Child Left Behind” ideal, where teachers lose their jobs if the kids don’t do well enough on the standardized tests. More like “No teacher left standing!” (Or kid, for that matter).

    What I suppose I’m getting at here is that I don’t know about fighting the teachers… Because I really like to believe that most teachers are like me and understand that the meaningless tasks are a waste of time, which is why they appear as busy work and are getting sent home. That and an honest misconception about what constructivism is meant to look like.

    Am I an insufferable optimist? A little. I’m going to go ahead and blame that on being just-turned-20. You’re supposed to still believe the world is a good place at 20.

    When I taught in my IPT, my mentor was very traditional. She was trained as a high school PE teacher, took fifteen years away from the classroom to raise kids, and returned to an elementary school teaching all subjects. I gave homework, because she expected me to… It was the way she was trained almost 30 years ago. My homework was the practice questions similar to what would be on the PAT (because the sixth graders have them! …3, 6, 9, what a joke). IN class, I gave them problems. They solved them. Not always ideal problems, but stuff they could dive into. Stuff that related to their world, like the bake sales they were having, and the sports they played. We didn’t have time for time wasting textbook questions… I think we were too busy actually learning. We played games. MAN I cannot wait to get back into the classroom.

    Anyway, I think that for the most part, we agree on what education should look like. I see the use for some at home stuff, but I definitely don’t see a necessity in it being “assigned”. I mean a reading log would be great just to help me pick books for the kids, and adding books to the classroom library.. just keeping track of interests and stuff. But to make it mandatory is silly too… it’ll make it seem a chore. I see the use in at home discussions and individual research… actually the necessity of intrinsically motivated research… but I have to be mindful that I’m not forcing it.

    I just worry a lot more about the system forcing teachers to do homework… I find it very hard to blame the individual teachers at this point. I’m pretty sure that’s the point at which we part ways in our views.

    But anyway, this has become a rambling mess. Hopefully I’ve been somewhat coherent. I really must stop trying to write any sort of, well, anything this late at night.

    Thanks again.

    PS: I really know what you’re saying about the geneology thing… I hope I can stay mindful of students’ differences. I know Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day was always very touchy for me as I had step-parents, and I’m somewhat resentful of the experience to this day. Same goes for Christmas concerts that were overtly religious. Just not mindful of the students… Definitely something to keep in mind. Doesn’t mean the past of the families can’t be looked into of course… a case such as an adoption can be celebrated within the classroom, and adds a whole new, wonderful dynamic to the discussion. The kids can really learn from it. Same if there’s just one parent, or two moms/ two dads. Anyway. Just wanted to touch on that briefly too.


  31. Wow, what a post Cera..I live in Nova Scotia, a resident for 14 years. Before that, born and raised in Ontario.

    I must say you’re a surprising 20 year old. The perspective that you have on your profession is something I did not have at that age. But I find it a little concerning that you say this:

    I agree with you that a lot of teachers are going about teaching entirely the wrong way. Just don’t tell anyone I said so, because it’s against professional code of conduct

    Talking about a specific teacher in an unprofessional way, should be contrary to professional codes of conduct. But finding problems within the profession and how it’s carried out should not. This is why I feel changes are not happening in education. Teachers feel their employers have more power than they actually have. To me, when you are a professional, you must question.

    There was relatively less “distaste” in my post than there has been in other posts I’ve written. But it’s not actually distaste. It’s dismay and frustration. You are just getting started in your career but already you’re submerging your beliefs in favour of what you’re being told. Respect for elder teachers only holds if what they’re doing is correct. If you young teachers are so willing to hold your tongues…when will anything change?

    The situation in the States does sound much worse in terms of standardized testing, but they do it here in NS too, at 3, 6 and 9 as well. And 10 years ago before I was a parent, I looked at the stats from these assessments and thought they actually meant something. But in the last 5 years, I started to read about education and about how damaging standardized testing is…I’ve changed my mind. I’m no one special..but I consider myself informed, or at least willing to be informed. No “idea” that I have is set in stone anymore..the world is changing too fast. My ethics remain solid, I hope….but if I offer my child guidance that is based on fear and maintaining the status quo….she’s doomed. I just would like to have faith that schools worked on that same principle. I do not have that faith.


  32. I do apologize for the length. I can’t seem to say anything without writing an essay about it. Perhaps it comes with having an English minor.

    I don’t have time to say much tonight… I get to go back to the real classroom tomorrow. Your mention of how things are rapidly changing reminded me of a cute video, one which you’ve probably seen, but which I actually used as a conversation starter once with my grade sixes. It was pretty fun to see what they thought of it… And helped me gain some insight. For instance, something that came up is that they had never heard of a floppy disc. Anyway, link:

    I have a few things I’d like to talk about but don’t trust myself to write tonight. Tomorrow!



  33. One way or another, it’s up to us as a society to figure out how to keep the joy of learning alive in kids for as long as possible, until a bit of maturity kicks in hard enough to engage their self-discipline.
    How we do that is essential, and I don’t think multiplying homework hours exponentially is the answer. Kids are still kids, and their capacity to absorb pure academia is finite. Learning by rote is just (ultimately) stupid, and by definition, if you think about it.

    On reading (I’m a librarian, and rather in love with books)
    …it’s been a lifelong affair.
    A book is always a possible treasure to a child, and the potential it releases is such a fundamental part of the learning process.
    No-one gets anywhere anymore without hard reading skills, and the only way to get them….is to read.
    Along with that package comes the added bonus – what’s actually in the books. Perhaps the trick is to tap into whatever it is that turns the kid on.
    I read tons of comic books as a kid – they did me no harm.
    But stat-packing reading is not the way to beat the endless teckie-distractions in a kid’s life. That, unfortunately, is probably a lifelong battle.
    (when I was a kid, the only distraction was the tv – and that came with danger-zone consequences if abused by over-indulgence – parental thunder.)
    Yet the wide world was the biggest distraction, only it was so well-enhanced by what I found in books.
    Encouraging kids to read can never be a bad thing. Turning reading into crime and punishment is not, however, the way to go.


  34. I’m at a brain conference in the Bay area of California and several Harvard and Stanford professors/researchers state that doing homework doesn’t lead to more academic success. Homework is just busy work. Instead just saying go home and read what you want for as long or as little is better and having a parent read to their student has an even better result on memory. Now that is something that should be shared with everyone.


  35. To Tracy:

    For those of us who have been writing here for awhile…you’re just confirming what we’ve been saying for years. Harris Cooper, who has done extensive metaanalysis of the homework literature said the same thing about homework in elementary school a long time ago, but then complicated the issue by saying that 10 minutes per grade is acceptable. Not necessary, but acceptable….what is that supposed to mean???

    Who were these researchers?


  36. My daughter is still new to English at 11 years old — I adopted her at 8 years old. Reading is something her teacher has been totally relaxed about with her. Rather than push her to read we’ve been concerned with her literacy in a broader sense — her interest in stories, her vocabulary, her spoken English, her attention span — these are all very highly developed. Her actual reading skills are coming along slowly, but at least we didn’t “spoil the milk” as her teacher cautioned.


  37. I read these comments with interest. I’m a teacher and a mom and before I was a mom, I plead guilty to being a teacher to assigning what I realize now was too much homework. Do I still assign homework? A little. Unfinished work (as a last resort for someone who has been away a lot) and a home reading program where one book is sent home for a week. To be honest, it’s the kids that are reading at and above grade level who are doing it regularly. I have given the parents a guide to help them help their child. My son’s teacher used it and I found it so helpful for me as a parent (despite being a teacher) that I adapted it for my students. What some parents forget is that they are their child’s first teacher and that is the most important role of all. Why are some children entering school without knowing the alphabet? Or in the fourth grade and can’t read? Or in the tenth grade and can’t write a sentence? Some people blame the teachers but I look at how the students who have parents who are supporting them seem to get further and further ahead (despite learning disabilities or behavioural needs). I can only do so much with what I have been given despite additional support, resources and time. Often the kids who are far behind, struggle because their parents struggled in school as well and don’t know how to help or didn’t know how to help in the pre-school years, where so much learning is going on. We have free early years centers in my community and it’s the educated parents (who may not need these services) who use them most. It’s hard to get the parents whose children are at risk to come to the centers and to get involved into their child’s learning. If someone has the answer, I’d love to hear it!

    Now I teach at the neediest school in my community and my children go to one of the wealthiest schools in the community within the same school board. I am amazed that an 8 minute drive can take you to a different world. My school doesn’t assign anything new for homework. There are no projects, no busy work. There is home reading with a guideline for parents (available in a variety of languages) with a-z books provided. Students may have unfinished work to complete but that is a last option because it rarely comes back finished and is usually not seen again. I have students in grade 4 who are reading at levels C, all the way to Z. Contrast this with my son who in grade one has home reading every night (15-20 minutes), spelling (5 minutes), math or sentence dictation (10 minutes) plus projects, and tests to study for. He is reading at level H (late grade 1) and we were told that despite getting B’s in reading, that he is being referred for reading support because he is one of the lowest readers in the class. My second lowest group in my class is level H!!! This is simply ridiculous. My board is apparently moving away from homework but clearly, my son’s school is not supporting this trend. I value my family time and resent the amount of time we are spending on his homework. I am not looking forward to when my daughter starts to get homework too!


  38. ControversialMomma, if a child is in the fourth grade and can’t read, you bet I blame the school.

    If you really believe that it’s the parent’s job to teach the kid to read, what exactly is the school’s job?


  39. ControversialMomma- I’m wondering if you read PsychMom’s vision for re-thinking education in the western hemisphere. The framework for education hasn’t changed in 100 years. I doubt PsychMom’s vision will take root because education is somewhat akin to organized religion. It takes an enormous amount of vision to re-define a government institution and such a vision would come up against many long held fears, myth and dogma surrounding education.


  40. AFter reading the remarks have to put my 2 cents in here. I have 5 children… 3 of whom have learning issues. I have to say that after school is the most dreaded time of day for me. I don’t totally knock homework. I can understand studying spelling words and for tests but when I have to stay up long hours with one of my children in tears I have to draw the line. Its just not worth the emotional upset . So yeah studying for tests and spelling yeah Im for it but other subject that require hour after hour of sitting and no time do the other things that Children are suppose to do ; like I dont know be active, have family time, socialize . Yeah I got a problem with that


  41. It’s a sensitive time of the year for me because it’s the section of the school year when books are handed out for kids to read (at a prescribed rate) and then answer questions about what they read. My daughter says she likes the books but only the first few pages…then the book is untouched. This has been a pattern for over three years now. This year there is even less involvement from the teacher with a greater expectation that the child (age 9) take responsibility for the reading and doing the weekly questions. My daughter is two weeks behind and she is not reading the book. I don’t know if the teacher knows..I’m not hearing anything, My daughter is too tired and lately, sick with a cold, to do work at home at night and I’m not forcing her because I inherently disagree with this whole situation. How will this end up?

    Invariably my daughter will be pressured. Will she miss a whole week of outdoor time at lunch because she has to read a book she’s not interested in? It’s possible. I have a problem with how this is being handled and it so glaringly illustrates my problem with how reading is fostered and how inhumane homework is for young children.
    To the teachers reading….what would you suggest I do as a parent?


  42. As a reading teacher and a parent, I agree that too much homework is an issue, however I do believe in some homework. My students have always been given time in class to complete their work if they chose to use the time. For those that chose to socialize, they had homework. The only real homework I assigned were some bigger projects, although they were always given time in class to work as well.

    Independent reading is different than required reading. My students had required reading throughout the school year- although these were read in class- and they had independent reading- again also required during SSR time.

    There needs to be a balance and for parents to think that teachers assign homework because we are not doing our job is ridiculous and quite frankly, insulting. I wish I was allowed to do the job I was hired to do and signed up to do. Instead I am required to teach a curriculum created by non-educators so that students will pass the almighty test.

    I have always been a supporter of public school, but my son will be attending a private school that values education and not a test. I do expect he will have homework, I expect that he will need my assistance (one of my responsibilities as a parent), yet I do not expect him to have hours of it each night.

    I must also comment on the parents who have said they do the homework themselves- yes, as teachers, we know when a parent has done the work. We also know the student is learning that s/he does not have to responsible for anything, and that it is ok for him/her to lie and cheat his/her way through life. What a lesson for a child to learn.

    If we, as parents, want education for our children to change, we need to start storming Washington. NCLB needs to be repealed, not just modified. NCLB is dumbing down our children and has not been proven to have had a positive impact at all, but actually a negative one.


  43. Like many teachers who post here….your self-righteousness shines through. Many parents would elect to opt-out of homework if it was socially exceptable and there were no penalties. The internal bias you have towards homework is ingrained. Young children don’t need to be “accountable and responsible” to any large degree. As with all life skills, these traits come with time and degree.


  44. oi. i have a pre-k and 2nd grader and genius IQs run in my family. i myself had anxiety disorders so i always turned in my homework for rear of bad grades and whatnot, but i see noooo need for homework.
    my genius 16-yr-old brother has a 4.0, jr. year, and spends 4 hours per night on homework. he has no other life. it isn’t right to me, for him to have to sacrifice this time of his life this way. it disgusts me. he won the Pi contest, 3.14– recited 198 numbers of it at his school. he doesn’t need to do homework. i didn’t need to. i never studied and got over a 3.0 always. i don’t know, every child is different, but childhood is supposed to be a time to have FUN, not meet deadlines.


  45. I think homework is a necessity by high school but homework in K is ridiculous! In high school my 16 yr old spends so little time receiving instruction that h/w HAS to be done at home. The school day is filled with rallies, meetings and schlepping from one class to another. By the time teacher has everyone’s attn so much time is lost.
    My home schooled son is faring much better and of course when we’re in charge of their day, we can do so much more that we feel is worthwhile.
    To the parents sitting up with their child till 3am in the morning – why? Helicoptering ur child is insane, it’s their homework not urs! My son recently stayed up till 2.30am to get an assignment done. He felt so cruddy the next day I doubt he’ll leave it to cram that late again. His problem, not mine.


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