Assigning homework in moderation can be useful to instill values of self-discipline and responsibility in older students. It can be effective to build a positive work ethic in our students. However, it must be done in moderation.
Teachers should remember that when homework is assigned, one student could easily spend hours on the same assignment that takes another student just 15 minutes to complete. Why do we need to assign 25 two-digit multiplication problems when 5 will show us whether or not students can apply the concept? If practice is what you seek, keep it in the classroom under close supervision. You do not want to deal with the frustration of working with a student who has practiced a skill incorrectly over and over without the benefit of correction and re-teaching. This happens frequently when homework is used to practice a skill. The student must then "unlearn" the incorrect application and "relearn" the correct method. This can put the student further behind in his or her academic progress.
Keep in mind the following factors which influence a child's ability to complete homework:
- Some students live in a chaotic home environment with many children. The student may have adult responsibilities within the home.
- Some students are without parental supervision for most of the time after school hours.
- Students living in poverty may not have a place to complete homework nor the supplies needed.
- Older students might work after school.
- Students have busy family and extra-curricular lives including sports, church, community service activities, and family events which are just as important as their school life.
Procedures are important to help students and parents know what you expect in regards to homework assignments. Type a list of homework procedures and expectations to give to students and parents. One copy should go in the student's binder and the other should be posted on the refrigerator at home. It is also a good idea to post these procedures in your classroom blog, Web site, or online parent portal.
- What homework stays the same each night or each week?
- Do you expect parents to sign the academic calendar once a week?
- When and where do you expect assignments to be turned in?
- What is your policy for absences and late-work? How long do students have to turn in the assignment? How will their grade be affected?
- Offer positive feedback for students who turn in their work on time.
- Allow students two days for every one day absent to make up their work. Remember, they are now having to complete double the assignments, so cut them a little slack.
- Take off points each day an assignment is late. I usually take off 5 points for each day. Be sure to clearly explain your policy for late work.
- Remind students of missing assignments each day. Many will forget that they owe you the work. If your school has an online portal where assignments and grades are posted for student and parent viewing, remind everyone to check this valuable tool frequently.
- Provide before or after-school time to make up missing work or to complete homework while you are available for supervision and help.
- Set aside one place in the classroom where assignments are turned in to be graded. Keep this the same all year to cut down on confusion.
- Have parents sign the Homework Procedures/ Policy form to be placed in the students' binders.
- Do not take away recess as punishment for no homework. This is counter-productive and will cause further stress in the classroom.
Homework can be stressful for everyone. Students and parents may feel overwhelmed by projects and activities and you may feel frustrated that homework is not turned in regularly. It is important to find a balance somewhere in between. Take some time to reflect about the purpose of homework for your class. Why do you assign certain assignments to be completed at home? Communicate that purpose to students and parents to help them understand this is not simply busywork. Keep that purpose in mind whenever assigning homework. Will this homework help students reach learning goals more effectively than doing the work in class? These are just a few questions you should keep in mind when planning and assigning homework to make sure it is purpose-driven and effective for student learning.