A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Helping Your Students With Homework: A Guide for Teachers - February 1998
Tips for Getting Homework Done
14. Provide constructive feedback
Students are more apt to complete assignments and advance their learning when they get consistent and constructive feedback. Students need to know where they excelled and where they need more work on an assignment. This conveys the vital message that homework helps students learn and is important.
Teachers can evaluate and review homework in a variety of ways. Many teachers give letter grades, others assign numbers, and many provide written comments. Grading homework motivates many students to do their best work and to learn more, but in some situations grades may not be beneficial. For example, written comments may be more constructive for a second-grade student whose homework assignment required her to write a poem.
Feedback is the most helpful when teachers provide specific suggestions on how the homework can be improved and discuss problems and remedies with individual students or the whole class. Math teachers may review a completed problem and point out any step in which an error has been made.
Peer feedback can also be helpful. In addition to providing students with another perspective of their work, peer feedback can help students learn cooperative social skills and teach students how to evaluate their own and other's efforts.
- A Kansas seventh-grade teacher, Christy McNally, explains, "I do not assign anything I don't grade and put a comment on, and the students know that. Anything I assign, I look at and record. So the students know they are doing something for a reason."
- The first thing students do when they walk in the door of Ms. Dunn's classroom is to place their homework on a stool in front of the class. While the eighth-grade math students are doing review exercises, Ms. Dunn looks through every paper. "I don't grade, but I look through to make sure they have gotten the concept," she explains. "If everybody has left out #17, it was not clear. Then I can adjust the class and instruction accordingly."
- Mr. Howe reports receiving a higher return rate on homework since he began grading for both knowledge and skills and effort. "I think it makes a difference because it says to kids that making the effort has some real value that goes beyond the esoteric value of learning something," he says. "It says that when I put forth the effort, I will be rewarded in a tangible way."
- Mr. Beyer whizzes around the room for five minutes at the beginning of each class to glance at homework and see who has mastered the basic concepts. He grades some but not all assignments and records his findings in his class book. At least every two weeks, students and their parents get a computer print-out showing their homework completion rate and their grades. "If any problems exist, I put in a note saying, `How can I help you?'" he says. "In addition, I call their homes. In a small town, after teaching for 35 years, I've taught parents, their kids, their uncles and aunts. Word gets out that Beyer checks--and that he cares. That's the most important part."
[13. Encourage good study habits]
[15. Give praise and motivate]