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Helping Your Students With Homework: A Guide for Teachers - February 1998

Tips for Getting Homework Done

12. Assign an appropriate amount of homework

Many educators believe that homework is most effective for children in first through third grades when it does not exceed 20 minutes each school day. From fourth through sixth grades, many educators recommend from 20 to 40 minutes a school day for most students. For students in 7th- through 9th-grades, generally, up to 2 hours a school day is suitable. Ninety minutes to 2 1/2 hours per night are appropriate for grades 10 through 12. Amounts that vary from these guidelines are fine for some students.

A common mistake, particularly among beginning teachers, is to assign too much homework. It can be hard to resist doing so if parents push for more homework and assume that the best teachers assign the most homework. (This is not necessarily the case.) Most often, however, a math teacher can tell after checking five algebraic equations whether students have mastered the necessary concepts.

Teachers also need to coordinate their homework assignments with those of other teachers so that students aren't getting four assignments on a Tuesday night, but no assignments on Wednesday night. This coordination most often requires leadership and support from the principal or other administrator.

Finally, teachers need to keep alert to how long students take to complete assignments. It is natural in a class full of varied students for some to take longer than others. Moreover, it is fine that some students do take longer, since research shows that students with low test scores who spend substantial time on homework get grades as good as students with more ability who spend less time. If an assignment takes too long, however, this may signal that a student needs more instruction to complete it successfully.
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[11. Match assignments to teaching.] [Table of Contents] [13. Encourage good study habits]