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
9. Match assignments to the skills, interests,
Students are more apt to complete homework successfully when assignments:
and needs of students
are neither too easy nor too hard;
match a child's preferred learning style; and
allow students to work on material that they truly enjoy.
Teachers with many students cannot be expected to customize all homework assignments for each student. However, most teachers can provide assignments to a heterogeneous class of students that vary in style, format, and content. This assures that all students have some that suit and interest them.
It is important to provide at-risk students with homework that challenges them to work to their full potential. A student may be at-risk because of a variety of factors other than academic ability: for example, a student may be at risk because of Limited-English Proficiency (LEP), poverty, race, geographic location, or economic disadvantages.
An at-risk student could also be in an advanced placement class or a class for gifted and talented students.
Most teachers, however, give students in their advanced placement classes assignments that differ from those in non-a.p. classes. The assignments for honors class students are usually longer and require a level of abstract thinking that could frustrate less advanced students.
- Linda Fosnaught, a high school English teacher in Merrimack, New Hampshire, was frustrated with the number of her low-achieving students who were coming to class with their homework incomplete. So one day she stopped the class and told her students to complete the assignment right then and there. Those who had already done it were allowed to work ahead on other homework or read ahead in their books. Without telling her students, Ms. Fosnaught timed how long it took for them to get the assignment done. Knowing how disappointed Ms. Fosnaught was, her students all worked efficiently and cooperatively. She then told her students that, although they had all been complaining about how much time her assignments took, that they had just managed to complete their work in seven minutes. She did not give them credit for the work they had just completed, but she pointed out to them that, had they taken this much time at home, they could have had full credit. Most of the class has been coming to class prepared ever since.
Teachers can also provide choices. Students may all be expected to master the same material, but they can do so in different ways. Providing choice increases the chances that students will enjoy more assignments. It also helps students feel they control parts of their learning, which enables some to enjoy an assignment more than they would otherwise.
- Mrs. Harman gave her junior high and high school English students broad leeway in a writing assignment involving time capsules. She asked her students to write something about their present lives that might intrigue their own children around the year 2040. "This is your opportunity to write for posterity!" Mrs. Harman told her students. Students could decide for themselves what to write and could choose their own format. Some wrote poetry. Some wrote journals. One sent her an e-mail message. One sent her a fax. One youngster wrote about his first-hand experiences as a visually impaired adolescent living in the 1990s. A senior accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy wrote on how he felt about beginning his military education.
[8. Tie assignments to the present]
[10. Use school and community resources]