Homework Hassles

There is a tension around homework for lots of reasons. While there is no strong evidence that homework improves outcomes, it certainly is part of a long-standing school tradition. And, well-designed homework can be fun and interesting for your students.

  • Think about the “why.” It is helpful to be have a clear compass on each assignment. How does the work set each student up for success in your class? Is it for practice? Is it to explore a new idea or a different perspective on an idea you are working on in class? Is it to bring new perspectives to a future conversation?
  • Ensure both interest and challenge. Is your homework differentiated so that each student can practice and also meet a challenge? What if students could choose what kind of homework to try? Is there an option for students who need to review the concepts? One for students who get the concept but need practice? How about for students who are already fluent but could use a challenge?
  • Consider your students situation so that any outside responsibilities are things that students can do without the help of adults who may have other responsibilities after school.
  • Remember that play is important. Your student has been working all day and they need down time to relax and play so that their brain can integrate the information. It helps move information from short-term to long-term memory. It also gives them time to build relationships and social skills with their peers and family.

More ideas:

  • Avoid shame and humiliation. When homework is not done, give responsibility back to the student without shame or humiliation. “What is your plan for getting this done?” Support the student by checking in about their plan.
  • Set up structure for student for responsibility. Avoid requiring parent signature, when what you’re really interested in is that the student is learning. Requiring parent signatures signals that you don’t trust the student.
  • Assign the “homework” to the appropriate person. In kindergarten and first grade you are really assigning the job to the parent. Tell the parents that you would like them to read to or practice math with their children. Most children are not old enough to follow through and pushing them to do it earlier than their brain can do it doesn’t help in the long run.
  • Don’t expect homework to create relationships at home. Remember that not all families have the skills to work together without conflict. Adding a project to that mix won’t teach or give the family the tools they might need. Try encouraging parents to share one fun thing from school, or to invite their student to teach them something new. Invite students to think about what they could teach a parent or sibling.