How to Handle the Homework Hassles

How many people LOVE homework? Not many. Yet, it’s a necessary evil. First, as a parent, I honestly hate long periods of homework time.  It cuts into our time as a family and often leads to conflict for one of my children. Without going into detail, she truly has a low frustration threshold for lengthy assignments over material that she already knows since it’s taking time from things she enjoys, or she gets frustrated figuring out material she doesn’t know (and we have had assignments come home over material that has not been taught yet).  From the teacher standpoint, I get frustrated with following up with students who failed to do their homework.  I find I am often spinning my wheels since the same children forget, lose, or just plain don’t do the work.  I will share a few tips that have helped both as a parents and as a teacher although I certainly .  I’ll start with tips that have helped us at home…
  • Homework Organization At my daughter’s school, they have adopted a great organizational tool, and that is the 7 pocket plastic pouch.  Within the pouch, she keeps a stash of notebook paper, index cards, and her pencils, and each subject has it’s own pocket. This comes home with her agenda which teachers check each day.  (as a teacher, I find this part difficult because I do not have the students at the end of the day, so if I don’t get a chance to check during our block of time, then it is sometimes forgotten.  We use Edline in our school division which offers parents the option of checking the assignments and grades online.  
  • Homework Routine Establishing a homework routine is important for everyone.  For my child, a break and snack are needed right after school, and we try to do most of the homework before dinner.  If the load is heavy, then I will normally have my daughter split the assignments and get her up in the morning since she’s usually fresher and in the frame of mind to work with more persistence at that time of day.  My daughter works at our kitchen table, but my oldest prefers doing work in his room.  With both, the environment is quiet without a lot of movement going on.  In some homes, this may be difficult to achieve, and yet, most children work better with fewer distractions.  At school, I open my room up to my students before school to allow them the opportunity to work in a quiet place if needed. Most come in and read in my reading nook.  I think they enjoy the peace before things get hectic.
  • Quantity of Homework Most schools agree that the amount of homework should depend on the age and skills of the student. Many suggest that homework for children in kindergarten through second grade is most effective when it does not exceed 30 minutes each day. In third through sixth grade, children typically receive 30-60 minutes of homework per day.  Reading at home is especially important for all students. Reading time is typically not included in the homework routine, so the actual time suggested above may be exceeded when independent reading time is added (and what a great problem that is especially if it means replacing time watching television or playing video games).  From the reading I’ve done, 20-30 minutes of daily independent reading is crucial to reading development. My students normally have a word study assignment and an ongoing piece of writing that they work on using the writing process.  
  • untitled-8431944Types of Homework Assignments There has been a lot of talk about the Flipped Classroom where students watch introductory videos that explain concepts at home, and the practice portion is done under teacher supervision the following day in class. As a teacher, I can certainly see the benefits in this philosophy if the students all have access to the media used for introduction.  It would make it easier to monitor progress, collect materials from the students, and intervene when needed. As one-to-one initiatives are being implemented, that option certainly can be entertained.  For now, many of my students live in households where there is no wifi or computer access, so most of the homework I send is practice or extension/application of our classroom lesson.  I try to make homework assignments routine in that the activities have been done before in the classroom, include a sample question or two to show the expectation, and provide clear instructions.  Rubrics are very helpful for all, including parents. For some students, comprehending the directions and following them are complicated when new routines are introduced, and it can overwhelm parents when they’re trying to assist the child and have not been present to hear the instruction.  (Don’t we all hear, “That’s not the way my teacher did it!”) If you have parents looking for homework help, this handout from the Department of Education may offer some helpful tips.
  • homeworklog-4829299Homework Collection, Grading, and Return With my groups this year, I provide grades for reading, spelling, and writing.  Since I am not a homeroom teacher, it can be complicated to stay on top of homework completion and collection.  When students fail to complete their work, it’s up to me to follow up to make sure it’s turned in.  Since I teach part time and am not at school over the recess time, I’ve had to figure out other options to get work in.  I really like this check list from Rebecca Wishart.  It is nice that she shared it and allowed it to be edited.  At my daughter’s school, they have a study hall program set up where each teacher is assigned a day to run study hall.  If she fails to turn in work or needs help, the school can assign a study hall to get homework made up or the parent can register the student for study hall to get extra help.  I love this, and I’ve found it very helpful for her.
Now, I’m ready to see what homework tips you all have.  I’m especially interested in reading your organizational tips (We all love when we are able to redirect our attention to our lessons versus following up with kids on homework, right?)  If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments or link up with me.
Next week, the topic is engaging parents.  Please share special ways that you make your parents feel welcome and part of your educational programming.
Until next time, happy reading!


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I teach 1st grade this year and at our school we do suggest about 30 minutes max of homework for lower grades and probably 30 to 60 for upper. This is of course time that is takes for the average student who actually works at finishing up their work. (I have many parents tell me their kids sit at the table to hours doing homework every night…well, yes that's because your child is just sitting there and not focusing.)

    As a school we ask that students read 20 minutes a night and then classroom teachers send home other things as they see fit. I usually send home some math a couple of times a week that really should only take 5-10 mins and is a review of what we've covered in class. For those that need a bit more practice I ask students to practice sight words or math facts for 5 minutes a night.

    We have purchased red folders for first graders to have them take it back and forth daily with homework and notes in it. This seems to help our lower students try to stay organized.

    More often then not I give rewards if students bring their homework back in…this helps to encourage the homework and often the next day I'll have a few more bring theirs in completed.

    We have a program at our school called "Top Readers" where we reward those students that read so many times a month at home and get it signed by parents. This often helps students want to read nightly. We take their picture each month and post them on a bulletin board that shows the top readers from each class. Then by grade levels we decide what a reward will be for the month of hard reading. (This month our grade is doing an extra recess and Popsicle outside. Sometimes the reward is school wide like pj day for Dr. Seuss Day. etc)

  2. You shared lots of excellent ideas. Thanks so much for this excellent comment. Our school uses the red (rubbery) folders for checked papers and notes home too. In the upper grades, they use notebooks/dividers. I actually prefer the 7 pocket pouch, but we try to be uniform in our procedures. Thanks again, Tori!

  3. Our school has asked that we assign no more 10 minutes of written homework for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, 30 minutes for third grade, etc. In first grade we would assign our students a math sheet and baggie-book reading on a daily basis.

  4. I always sent a book home and reading log to keep track of all of our reading and communications with my Title 1 kids. So many of them are without many books at home, so they have always enjoyed choosing from my library. I meant to share my reading log form, but I have noticed many on Teachers Pay Teachers for free already. Thanks so much for posting Wendy!

  5. I struggle with keeping homework collection organized too! I just created a simple excel spreadsheet with the student's names and the dates at the top. Then I just check off who brought homework and who didn't. It's hard because it seems to be the same kids that don't get their homework done each week :(.

    The Learning Chambers

  6. Anonymous

    We do something at our school called dots of Motivation. We use this along with our School Wide Positive Behavior System. When students' buses are lined up and following the school rules, their bus is announced the following morning and they get a dot for motivation, which means the homeroom teacher places a sticker over either one question, or 1/4 of the page. Depending on grade level. It has been very motivating for the students to behave in their bus lines.
    Something else that I saw recently were parent coupons. When parents sign the papers, help their children with their homework, sign reading logs, ect. the parent and child are both rewarded with a homework pass. I thought this was a great idea because it might help get the parents more involved if they know that they will be "rewarded" too with a night that is homework free.
    I teach third grade, and to help with keeping track of who turns in their homework, I have a laminated envelope for each assignment and when a student turns it in they mark their name off with the wipe off marker. This teaches them some responsibility. It is not fail-proof, but it does help me figure out note quickly whose assignment is missing!

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