by O. S David



Homework is a great tool for measuring students’ understanding, and a fantastic way to show parents what students are learning in your classroom.

However, homework is a hot issue for some classroom teachers. Dealing with homework can be the source of great stress for many of us. Many questions run through our minds like: How much should I assign? How do I collect it? How can I keep track of it? When do I mark it? How do I grade it? Why don’t my students complete it? And, most importantly, how can I motivate students to do it?

Aside from that, many of us find ourselves unable to meet up with marking one homework before assigning another or doing corrections for previously given homework and before we know it, parents start to complain, our students start to lose interest and God help you, your Oga at the top gets to hear about it!

For some, parents even complain that the homework is too much, too advanced and too complex.
While I have had many parents complain about these personally to me as a friend and as a teacher, I also have my own dose of experience with my children too.

So, in this post, I’m going to outline a homework plan (an excerpt from my e-book), strategies aimed at making “managing homework” a simple yet effective process for us as teachers.

The key to homework success is to eliminate all the obstacles and excuses that get in the way of students getting it done.

Here is how to do it.

1. Assign what students already know.
Many teachers struggle with homework because they misunderstand the narrow purpose of homework, which is to practice what has already been learned. Meaning, you should only assign homework your students fully understand and are able to do by themselves.

Therefore, the skills needed to complete the given homework must be thoroughly taught during the school day. If your students can’t prove to you that they’re able to do the work without assistance, then you shouldn’t assign it.
It isn’t fair to your students or their parents to have to sit at the dinner table trying to figure out what you should have taught them during the day.

2. Don’t overload students with homework
While some teachers feel that giving much homework keeps the student busy at home, one thing we need to bear in mind is that homework overload can ruin a student’s motivation. It can also deprive a student of development in other spheres of life as it robs him of time to be spent on other things. Give the right amount of homework that will let your students have time for other things.

3. Don’t give complex homework.
When assigning homework, consider the length of the assignment as well as the difficulty level. It is important to give students the opportunity for independent practice in order to reinforce concepts you are covering in class. However, if the assignments require several hours to complete or are far above the students’ capabilities, homework may serve only to frustrate rather than encourage your students and their parents who will be forced to attend to the homework. Also, be mindful that your assignments are reasonable and relevant, and that they reinforce your daily curriculum. You may also consider asking parents to notify you if homework is a constant struggle for their child or if it is taking more than the recommended time to complete. This will help you make an informed decision about further homework assignments.

4. Vary the kinds of homework
Students get bored if all homework is similar. Try mixing approaches and styles. Since it’s almost impossible for all homework to interest all students, this approach increases the chances that all students will have some homework that they enjoy.

5. Don’t involve parents.
Homework is an agreement between you and your students. Parents shouldn’t be involved. If parents want to sit with their child while he or she does the homework, that’s great! But it shouldn’t be an expectation or a requirement of them. Otherwise, you hand students a ready-made excuse for not doing it.

You should even tell parents, “I got it covered. If ever your child doesn’t understand the homework, it’s on me. Just send me a note and I’ll take care of it.”
Holding yourself accountable is not only a reminder that your lessons need to be spot on but parents will love you for it and be more likely to make sure homework gets done every night.

6. Review and then ask one important question.
Set aside a few minutes before the end of the school day to review the assigned homework. Have your students pull out the work, allow them to ask final clarifying questions, and have them check to make sure they have the materials they need.
And then ask one important question: “Is there anyone, for any reason, who will not be able to turn in their homework in the morning? I want to know now rather than find out about it in the morning.”

There are two reasons for this question.
First, the more leverage you have with students, and the more they admire and respect you, the more they’ll hate disappointing you. This alone can be a powerful incentive for students to complete homework.
Second, it’s important to eliminate every excuse so that the only answer students can give for not doing it is that they just didn’t care. This sets up the confrontation strategy you’ll be using the next morning.

7. Confront students on the spot
One of your key routines should be entering the classroom in the morning.
As part of this routine, ask your students to place their homework in the top left-hand (or right-hand) corner of their desk before beginning the day’s work.
During the next five to ten minutes, walk around the room and check homework, don’t collect it. Have a copy of the answers with you and glance at every assignment.
You don’t have to check every answer or read every portion of the assignment. Just enough to know that it was completed as expected. If it’s math, I like to pick out three or four problems that represent the main objective of the lesson from the day before. It should take just seconds to check most students.

Remember, homework is the practice of something they already know how to do. Therefore, you shouldn’t find more than a small percentage of wrong answers, if any. If you see more than this, then you know your lesson was less than effective, and you’ll have to reteach
If you find an assignment that is incomplete or not completed at all, confront that student on the spot. Call them on it.

Let them know that, the day before, you taught them and gave them everything they needed to do their homework confidently that evening. You did your part, but they didn’t do theirs. It’s a disrespect to the excellence you strive for as a class, and you deserve an explanation.
whatever he or she may say in response to your pointed questions, what is important is that you make your students accountable to you, to themselves, and to their classmates. A gentle explanation of why they don’t have their homework is a strong motivator for even the most unserious students to get their homework completed.

8. Don’t collect it
I am of a personal opinion that collecting homework wastes time and is unnecessary because: most students don’t give it a second look, returning it the next day after you’ve moved on to the next lesson is too late to be of any benefit to students, and homework is practice only and therefore shouldn’t be heavily graded.

Instead of collecting it, have your students pair up and cross check their answers while you (or your students) correct on the board. Why? Because it adds motivation and accountability to homework. It also deepens comprehension and is done before the next lesson, when it really matters.
If there is a disagreement in answers, you as the teacher can quickly give the right answers.

During this time, if there is a student whose homework is incomplete, he or she must begin work on it immediately and may not participate in the partner activity, and every student can instantly correct whatever they missed. At the end, you just append your signature on their corrections or markings.

9. Want to collect it?
As much as I don’t support collecting the homework, I understand that some classes or subjects may require that we collect the homework. In such cases, try one of these quick and easy ideas to make daily homework collection a snap!
– Set up a homework tray on the corner of your desk or on a table around, and instruct students to place completed homework assignments in the tray every morning before taking their seats. Once you establish this routine, your students will make this a daily habit! Then, assign a student to be the homework monitor and have her use a Class Homework Checklist to record which students have turned in homework each day.
– Have students place their homework notes on their desks as they complete morning work. Then, let you assigned “homework monitor” silently collect the homework off their desks while they are working. However, to use this method, you must be sure to carve out some minutes, either during the class exercise or after, to mark and return the notes.

10. Double it.
Any student who comes to school without homework completed, and doesn’t get it finished during partner check, must do it at home that evening along with the new homework assigned for the day. This teaches them to always be prompt at doing their homework.

11. Give homework Incentives
Some students complete homework assignments and turn them in promptly without any additional reminders or external motivation. However, most of us know that students not only appreciate positive reinforcement but also perform more consistently when incentives are provided. These incentives will give students an improved outlook toward completing and turning in homework assignments.

In my next post, I will discuss simple handy homework incentives that we can use to motivate our students.


By Lanre Akinola.



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