Managing homework is definitely something that many teachers struggle with. Whether your issue is “How much should I give?”, “What is the best way to correct it?”, or “How can I make it more effective?”, I’ve got you covered. I have lots of tried-and-true tips for “EVERYTHING” homework related!
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Tip 1 – Keep it consistent!
This will save you TONS of headaches. Keeping things consistent will keep students from getting confused and forgetting their homework. Parents can also stay in control when they know what is expected. There should never be the question of “What is our homework tonight?” because everyone already knows. The BEST way to keep your routine consistent is to pick a resource to use for your homework for each subject and stick with it. Try not to jump all over the place and pull random worksheets out. By doing so, you are setting up everyone to fail. Here is the system I use every single week. It is very consistent and everyone knows what to expect!
Tip 2 – Use Homework for Review Only
I NEVER give my students homework on something I just taught them. Odds are, most of your students don’t understand the concept enough to perform on their own, so if you think about it, they will just be practicing the new skill incorrectly. Not good for anyone. Instead, give your students a nightly dose of review (include skills you’ve already fully taught) and maybe just one or two problems on the newest skill.
This just makes sense! Every student gets a different level of support at home with their work. It is safe to say that it is not fair to penalize a student for not having a parent who can answer questions and help them correct mistakes. On the other hand, I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with giving a “complete” or “incomplete” score. Whether students turn in their homework or not is definitely something I keep track of.
Tip 4 – Less is More!
Focus on what is most important. Pick the areas you feel your students need the most support/practice/review. You don’t have to have homework for EVERY subject. Aim to give your students a handful of review problems for each core subject (ie. Math, Reading, etc.) These assignments should only take about 10-15 minutes each. Really, that is all that is needed. Giving too much homework can actually be less effective and just frustrate parents and students. However, giving some homework is important because it allows parents to stay informed and actually see what is expected of their child. I always use the rule “quality over quantity”.
Tip 5 – Creative Consequences
If a student doesn’t complete their homework, what then? I am not a believer in taking away recess and I think a lot of schools don’t encourage that either. So, what else can you do? I have come across a few strategies that have worked for different groups of students. First, I have told my students that I will call home and speak with their parent if homework is missed. A lot of times, students care more about this kind of consequence than they do about sitting out or working through lunch. As soon as I know their work is not with them, I call home. I have found that this consequence drastically limits the amount of missed homework.
If calling home isn’t for you, you could try having a student who doesn’t complete their homework sit down immediately and complete it. They are now responsible for completing their missed homework and whatever morning work is expected of them. If the real goal is to get them to do the work, this accomplishes that goal without the stress of calling home. However, I do recommend getting parents involved if this behavior is a regular occurrence.
Of course, my preferred method is a positive consequence. I find the most success when I reward those who do their homework rather than punishing those who don’t. No matter which way you decide to go, being consistent with your consequences is key.
Tip 6 – Simplify Your Systems!
Don’t make correcting homework a hassle! In fact, don’t make anything homework related a hassle. My next 4 tips are going to explain more about how to do this.
Tip 7 – Hire a Student
You are busy! You don’t have time to spend each morning asking each student to show you their homework. So….don’t! I love having a dependable student take this job. I use a simple checklist where they can simply mark if a student did or didn’t complete their homework. They aren’t checking for correctness, just completion. This saves me time and my sanity during my morning routine.
Tip 8 – Don’t Check it!
I don’t check homework! There, I said it. Who has time for that? However, I do go over homework as a group every single day. By doing this, I save lots of time and still use my homework effectively. (NOTE: I do check homework more closely during small group instruction and use it as a learning tool).
Here is exactly what I do…
Before the day begins, I project the answer key up on the front board (zooming in on the day we are focusing on) for my students to check their work for accuracy. As I scroll down the answer sheet, my students ask me questions and we go over anything they are having trouble with. This usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes. (longer only when necessary).
Here is why this works…
Starting the first day of school, I explain that there is no penalty for getting a problem wrong and that there is only a penalty if they don’t try! I explain that I expect them to always do their best and that homework is simply a tool for them to use to monitor their own learning. If they are having trouble with a problem, this is their opportunity to get more help because they are more than likely going to see a similar problem on the next night’s homework. This attitude towards homework has helped my students understand its necessity and promotes them to use this time to ask for help.
If you really want to save time, GO DIGITAL! Google Forms are great for homework and they grade themselves! I have a TON of Google Form Homework resources I know you will love!
Tip 9 – Get More Out of Homework
Yes! Don’t just use homework for….well…..homework. Use homework to help you monitor your students’ progress and see what they still need to work on. Although I do not check every student’s homework, I do ask them to bring it to small groups and we do use it as a learning tool if necessary. I glance over everyone’s work and make a mental note of what I notice. This has been a very helpful tool in making sure that ALL of my students are meeting the standards.
Tip 10 – Be Flexible
Homework shouldn’t be stressful for anyone. If homework is stressing you out, step back and make a new plan. If you can incorporate some of the tips I mentioned, homework can be a pleasant and helpful experience for everyone involved.
If you are interested in reading more about my favorite homework system, check out this blog post!