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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

What does good homework look like?

September 7, 2011

Teachers give homework just about every night of the week. A good homework assignment can provide students with practice with a skill already taught, can prepare students for an upcoming test, and can extend a project or topic under study. A poorly designed homework assignment can bring tears and frustration and a lost opportunity to build a bridge between what's being taught in school and talked about at home. Homework struggles are particularly real for struggling readers and for students with LD.

Citing findings from research, Kathy Ruhl and Charles Hughes provide great information about homework in Effective Practices for Homework (PDF provided by TeachingLD.org). Written for teachers who have students with LD, the document outlines homework practices that are less effective and those that are more effective.

What can teachers do to make their homework assignments as productive as possible? First, give less more often. Borrowing from learning theory research, practicing a skill a little bit over time (called distributed practice) leads to greater maintenance and retention of information. Second, make sure students understand the assignment. Seems intuitive, but lots of times kids get home and don't understand what they're supposed to do. Third, explain the purpose of the homework. Students who understand why the homework is important may be more motivated to complete it. Fourth, allot enough time to present the homework. Avoid rushing through the directions or assuming students will be able to figure it out.

There's much more information in Effective Practices for Homework. I encourage you to take a look!

Comments

I agree! It is very important to give less homework more often. If a teacher gives too much it can burn the child out more quickly. Also, making sure the children understand the assignment is a huge step. As a teacher you definatly don't want a parent writing in a note saying no one understood the assignment.

Hello out there-I just found this site or should I say the site found me--I am having a very difficult time trying to understand why my child is having such difficulty with reading. We review sight words every night, we read every night and we right our words numerous times every night only to have her not remember them the next day. I don't know the missing link is and all the other students in her class are on task with their reading--is there a first step someone can offer me or simply let me know that I am not alone--thank you very much.

I agree that homework should used for practice of skills taught in class. It is often stressful for parents and students to struggle through new skills at home. This is particularly true for students with disabilities. Also, I like weekly homework packets. This allows students and parents the flexibility to plan homework time around busy schedules and reduces stress. I believe students also learn valuable time management skills when they have to plan their time around weekly assignments.

I think that homework should be practice of a skill or reviewing of skills. I try not to give homework more than once or twice a week. I try to give my students choice in homework assignments and also meet their individual learning styles so that it is more beneficial for them. I also keep in mind that some students get very little (if any) parent support so homework may be more challenging for them. I also have some students whose parents do their homework! It becomes very obvious when homework grades are near perfect and quizzes & class work grades are quite different.

This year I have decided to assign homework on Monday and the due date is Friday. The homework assignment is on a skill that we learned the week before for reinforcement. I think that this will be beneficial for my language arts students and provide them with repetition in grammar or reading on specific skills they need to take the state test. After the Winter Break I may go back to the Think Tac Toe boards that I used last year for Science, but I am undecided. The students loved this type of homework assignment, but I often received "parent" work rather than the student's work. Homework is definitely beneficial to students as long as it reinforces a skill or concept that has already been previously taught.

Couldn't agree more! Giving students questions 1-50, when questions 1-15 test the same learning target, 16-30 another, etc. is just a good way to make students (and their parents) less likely to nominate you for "teacher of the year." Assinging enough homework to adequate judge as to whether the skill or concept is understood allows for much less grading as a teacher and much less "busy-work" for students. Great points in this article! Especially liked the "practicing a skill a little bit over time (called distributed practice) leads to greater maintenance and retention of information" line. That is SO true, and our kids prove it every day in the classroom.

I found this article to be very interesting and beneficial. I personally do not assign a lot of homework because I'm never sure of who is completing the work at home. However, looking at the strategies which were discussed I find the tips to be very helpful and I will use them in my classroom. I do think homework is useful if not abused, but used in an efficiant manner

I think that some teachers just assign homework because they think they are supposed to. I do not give homework unless I feel a child needs extra practice. I feel that homework should only be given once the skill is understood. I know it does help the student at all if they take it home and do it wrong. Also, parents may not always be able to help the child. If I do my job and the child works hard all day, then why send them extra hours of work at home. They need time to be a kid.

I am not a big fan of giving homework due to the fact that some parents don't know how to help the student with the material once they get home. I like to give the students practice at school so I can monitor their knowledge and mastery of the material.

I agree with the four recommendations for homework. I think that homework should be a small amount and just enough to review what was learned during the day at home. I think homework is also helpful in letting the parents know what we are learning at school. There are times where I do not explain homework as thoroughly as I should before it is sent home. I can tell when I get the homework back. I think as a teacher it is better to give more directions than less when it comes to homework.

I agree with the four recommendations for homework. I think that homework should be a small amount and just enough to review what was learned during the day at home. I think homework is also helpful in letting the parents know what we are learning at school. There are times where I do not explain homework as thoroughly as I should before it is sent home. I can tell when I get the homework back. I think as a teacher it is better to give more directions than less when it comes to homework.

In my classroom, the majority of homework is unfinished classwork. I believe if homework is assigned, it has to be very planned and purposeful. My students will be asked to read at home and keep a reading journal, which is where they will react to what is being read during free and independent reading. I agree that homework is not beneficial if the student is not the one doing it.

I give my students a homework packet each week, that way they have the whole week to complete it, and not feel rushed when they have an assignment on a particular night. Students have a spelling, reading, language, and math page each week that reinforces the skills we will learn for the week. I teach all the skills on Monday so that students are able to then practice them in their homework that week. I also communicate what we're learning that week to parents in my newsletter so they too know what the homework will cover. We also go over homework each Friday so that students know it is important, and they just don't hand it in and get zero feedback. I think homework can be an effective learning tool and bridge the gap between home and school if it is used properly. Students should be able to complete the hoomework with little difficulty.

I give homework on Fridays. It is due the following Friday, giving the flexibility for families to use weekend time if weekdays are too busy. It is always consolidation of classroom content. When I discover which students have the capacity for more, I offer optional research questions, sometimes related to our work, sometimes unrelated but interesting. I also place homework sheets online at The Learning Place. Those families who have internet access often allow their child to complete the homework in this way. It is fast and can't be eaten by the dog. This has seen an increase in submitted work, as some children will do anything on a computer, but nothing on paper.

So many good ideas! I like Charmaine's ideas, assigning homework on a Friday and making it flexible for all families. The homework packet and putting resources online is also a good idea.

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"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass