Improving a Child’s Homework Habits
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Homework is a frequent source of tension between teachers and students. For most teachers, homework is not only a way to reinforce academic skills but also an opportunity to teach children to be independent learners. For some students, however, homework is something else — an unpleasant burden to be avoided, forgotten or raced through.
The task for the teacher is to encourage students to take homework seriously and turn it in on time without spending considerable time dealing with homework stragglers. While homework is of course the responsibility of your students, and you want to make sure to reinforce this in various ways, parents are also a key resource in your effort to ensure homework compliance.
What You Can Do
- Communicate your homework policy to parents. Send a letter home during the first week explaining the purpose of homework, how often and when it will be assigned, how much time you expect students to spend per night on homework, and what resources are available if their child is having difficulty with an assignment. In your letter you might also offer some homework helpers to parents (for example, have your child do the harder assignments earlier in the evening when he is most alert).
- Make your assignments available by telephone or the Internet. Your school may already have a system of recording assignments on a telephone message system or the Internet. If not, talk with your principal about starting such a program or check out the Web site, TeacherWeb.com, which allows you to post homework assignments, announcements and other educational material on your own classroom’s bulletin board. This technology allows students who are absent to keep up with homework and prevents students from claiming they did not know what the homework was. You might also send email messages listing daily assignments to parents with online addresses so they can monitor their child’s homework.
- Have students begin homework at the end of class. This allows students to ask questions about the assignment and enables you to identify problems they are having in understanding the directions or completing the work. Pay special attention to the students who typically struggle with homework.
- Reward students who have completed all assignments with an end of the week activity. Schedule an activity for Friday afternoon for students who have completed all homework and seatwork. Students who have work that is not completed must spend that period catching up on the assignments in a separate area of the classroom or, if feasible, in another room with adult supervision.
- Establish an assignment folder for absent students. Keep a folder on your desk with assignments dating back a week or so that students can check to get missed assignments. Have a separate sheet for each day’s assignments and instruct students who were absent to sign the sheet to indicate they obtained the assignments for that day.
- Have the student complete a missing homework form. Require students who fail to bring in homework to complete a form for every missed assignment and then give it to you. The form might have the following questions:
- Did you understand the assignment?
- Why did you not turn in the assignment?
- What is your plan to make up the assignment?
- What can you do to make sure you do not miss any more assignments? The mere act of filling out this form may be sufficient to deter students from missing assignments.