Helpful Homework Tips For Students

These Homework Tips will Take the Fire out of the Homework Wars!



Introduction

The homework tips presented on this page are targeted at the three key people who are most directly involved--you, as the teacher, the kids in your classes, and the parents who must deal with them at home.

As teachers, we all know that homework is good for kids for a variety of reasons that don't need to be enumerated here.

Although parents recognize the long-term benefits of homework, they aren’t any happier about the daily struggle to get it done. In the homework wars (“Sit down and do your homework now!” “Stop nagging me!”), parents often times must shoulder the responsibility of making sure that it gets done regularly and on time.

And the kids?

We ALL know how they feel about homework.

The mere utterance of this word causes them to grimace and writhe in disgust. They hate it. We all know that. But, we all know that it's essential to their academic success.

What follows on this page are some homework tips from Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology at Duke University who studies homework.

Additionally, I have prepared some documents based on his suggestions that may be useful to you. These documents may be downloaded free of charge.

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You may use the following quick links to go directly to what interests you on this page. You may also scroll down the page manually if you choose to do so.

Tips for Teachers
Tips for Parents
Tips for Students
Sample Homework Documents
Homework ChartsFree Download
Conclusion

Homework Tips for Teachers

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Give the right amount of homework.

Research suggests students should get about 10 minutes of homework each night for each grade (10 minutes for 1st grade, 20 for 2nd, and so on). Adjust upward a bit if assignments are mostly reading or your students come from families with strong educational orientations.

Don’t overload kids with homework. It can ruin motivation.

Keep parents informed. Let parents know the purpose of homework and what your class rules are.

If communication is clear, homework is an important bridge between schools and families. If communication is lacking, homework creates tensions that are hard to resolve.

Vary the kinds of homework. Homework is a great way for kids to practice things that are learned by rote (spelling, math facts, foreign language).

It's also a great way to show kids the things they learn in school apply to things they enjoy at home (calculating batting averages, reading the back of a cereal box). Mix it up.

Be careful about parent involvement. Consider the time and skill resources of parents when requiring their involvement. Working parents may have little time for a direct homework role. Poorly-educated parents may have trouble being good mentors.

Students who are doing well in school may benefit most from homework they do all by themselves.

Never give homework as punishment. It implies you think schoolwork is aversive. Kids will pick up on this.

Homework Tips for Parents

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1. Be a stage manager.

Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Make sure the needed materials (paper, pencils, dictionary) are available.

Unless the homework assignment involves using a computer, power down electronics and remove other unnecessary distractions.

2. Be a motivator.

Homework provides a great opportunity for you to tell your child how important school is. Be positive about homework.

The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires.

3. Be a role model.

When your child does homework, don’t sit and watch TV. If your child is reading, you read too. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook.

Help your child see that the skills they are practicing are related to things you do as an adult.

4. Be a monitor.

Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. If your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers. If frustration sets in, suggest a short break.

5. Be a mentor.

When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it. If homework is meant to be done alone, stay away. Homework is a great way for kids to develop independent, life-long learning skills.

Over-involvement can be a bad thing.

Homework Tips for Students

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1. Pick a good time to do homework.
homework tips
Try to do your homework at the same time everyday--right after school, just before dinner, or right after dinner. Try not to leave homework until just before you have to go to bed.

2. Find a place that makes studying easy.

Collect up all the books and supplies you’ll need (and your snack) before you begin to work. Do your homework in the same place every day.

3. Spend more time on hard homework than easy homework.

If you know what’s easy and what's hard, do the hard work first. Take a short break if you are having trouble keeping your mind on an assignment.

4. If homework gets too hard, ask for help.

If your parents are busy and you have an older brother or sister, ask them for help, or get your parents to ask them. Only ask for help if you really need it.

5. Remember to make time for long-term projects.

Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates. If you need special stuff for a project, make sure to tell your parents to get it for you well in advance.

Sample Homework Documents

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What follows in the first part of this section is a collection of PDF documents that are suitable for printing and distributing to the concerned parties.
homework tips
I have set these up in a way that will allow you to add your own customized header, if you choose to do so.
homework tips
The screenshots that you will see here give you an idea of how each document is set up. Basically, the text of these documents is identical to what you were reading above.



Homework Charts

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The second part of this section is a collection of homework charts that may be useful for you, your kids, and their parents. These documents are also in the PDF format.

Here is the screenshot for the Homework Reading Log. You WILL be able to customize the header on this one.



Note: The final seven pages in this PDF package come from Free Printable Behavior Charts.com:

Here is a Checklist without Subjects.

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Here is a Checklist WITH Subjects.

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Here is a Weekly Log.

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This is the Homework Chart.

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This is the Checklist without Subjects.

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Here is the, "My Homework Chart."

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This is the Daily Assignment Sheet.

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Free Download

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All of the documents represented by the screenshots above are available in one PDF package, which I am offering completely free of charge.

As always, all I ask in return is that you support my efforts by sharing an idea with your fellow teachers on the Teachers' Ideas page and/or adding a comment to one of my blog entries at The Teacher Beacon.

Take a few seconds to click on my Facebook Like button, or take a minute or two to add a brief comment about one of the Daily Teaching Tools pages that you may have found useful.

Or, how about grabbing a T-shirt or coffee cup at The TeacherMarket? He__! If you really want to go all out, purchase one of my software products!

In the meantime, you may download the Homework Package here.

Conclusion

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A recent poll (August, 2013) of teachers and parents by AP/AOL Learning Services found that 63% of teachers and 57% of parents say that homework levels are about right.
homework tips
Although the poll did not include the opinions of students, I would suspect that 95% of them would say that homework levels are NOT about right.

Hopefully, the homework tips on this page will help you, your students, and their parents to be proactive and effective. I know that what I'm offering here is by no means a total solution, but I think it's a pretty good start.

If you get a minute, which is a challenge for all of us, let me know your thoughts on this. It would be great to hear from you.



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Here is the best guide to helping kids do homework successfully that we’ve seen, published by the National Association of School Psychologists on their website, NASPonline.org. Our thanks to NASP for sharing it with us.

There are two key strategies parents can draw on to reduce homework hassles. The first is to establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done and setting up daily schedules for homework. The second is to build in rewards or incentives to use with children for whom “good grades” is not a sufficient reward for doing homework.

Homework Routines

Tasks are easiest to accomplish when tied to specific routines. By establishing daily routines for homework completion, you will not only make homework go more smoothly, but you will also be fostering a sense of order your child can apply to later life, including college and work.

Step 1. Find a location in the house where homework will be done. The right location will depend on your child and the culture of your family. Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom. It is a quiet location, away from the hubbub of family noise. Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better at a place removed from those distractions, like the dining room table. Some children need to work by themselves. Others need to have parents nearby to help keep them on task and to answer questions when problems arise. Ask your child where the best place is to work. Both you and your child need to discuss pros and cons of different settings to arrive at a mutually agreed upon location.

Step 2. Set up a homework center. Once you and your child have identified a location, fix it up as a home office/homework center. Make sure there is a clear workspace large enough to set out all the materials necessary for completing assignments. Outfit the homework center with the kinds of supplies your child is most likely to need, such as pencils, pens, colored markers, rulers, scissors, a dictionary and thesaurus, graph paper, construction paper, glue and cellophane tape, lined paper, a calculator, spell checker, and, depending on the age and needs of your child, a computer or laptop. If the homework center is a place that will be used for other things (such as the dining room table), then your child can keep the supplies in a portable crate or bin. If possible, the homework center should include a bulletin board that can hold a monthly calendar on which your child can keep track of longterm assignments. Allowing children some leeway in decorating the homework center can help them feel at home there, but you should be careful that it does not become too cluttered with distracting materials.

Step 3. Establish a homework time. Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. The time may vary depending on the individual child. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework while they are still in a school mode (i.e., right after school when there is still some momentum left from getting through the day). In general, it may be best to get homework done either before dinner or as early in the evening as the child can tolerate. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the more slowly the homework gets done.

Step 4. Establish a daily homework schedule. In general, at least into middle school, the homework session should begin with your sitting down with your child and drawing up a homework schedule. You should review all the assignments and make sure your child understands them and has all the necessary materials. Ask your child to estimate how long it will take to complete each assignment. Then ask when each assignment will get started. If your child needs help with any assignment, then this should be determined at the beginning so that the start times can take into account parent availability. A Daily Homework Planner is included at the end of this handout and contains a place for identifying when breaks may be taken and what rewards may be earned.

Incentive Systems

Many children who are not motivated by the enjoyment of doing homework are motivated by the high grade they hope to earn as a result of doing a quality job. Thus, the grade is an incentive, motivating the child to do homework with care and in a timely manner. For children who are not motivated by grades, parents will need to look for other rewards to help them get through their nightly chores. Incentive systems fall into two categories: simple and elaborate.

Simple incentive systems. The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or instant messaging, or playing a game with a parent. This system of withholding fun things until the drudgery is over is sometimes called Grandma’s Law because grandmothers often use it quite effectively (“First take out the trash, then you can have chocolate chip cookies.”). Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. When parents remind children of this as they sit down at their desks they may be able to spark the engine that drives the child to stick with the work until it is done.

Elaborate incentive systems. These involve more planning and more work on the part of parents but in some cases are necessary to address more significant homework problems. More complex incentives systems might include a structure for earning points that could be used to “purchase” privileges or rewards or a system that provides greater reward for accomplishing more difficult homework tasks. These systems work best when parents and children together develop them. Giving children input gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. We have found that children are generally realistic in setting goals and deciding on rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process.

Building in breaks. These are good for the child who cannot quite make it to the end without a small reward en route. When creating the daily homework schedule, it may be useful with these children to identify when they will take their breaks. Some children prefer to take breaks at specific time intervals (every 15 minutes), while others do better when the breaks occur after they finish an activity. If you use this approach, you should discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks (get a snack, call a friend, play one level on a video game). The Daily Homework Planner includes sections where breaks and end-of-homework rewards can be identified.

Building in choice. This can be an effective strategy for parents to use with children who resist homework. Choice can be incorporated into both the order in which the child agrees to complete assignments and the schedule they will follow to get the work done. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.

Developing Incentive Systems

Step 1. Describe the problem behaviors. Parents and children decide which behaviors are causing problems at homework time. For some children putting homework off to the last minute is the problem; for others, it is forgetting materials or neglecting to write down assignments. Still others rush through their work and make careless mistakes, while others dawdle over assignments, taking hours to complete what should take only a few minutes. It is important to be as specific as possible when describing the problem behaviors. The problem behavior should be described as behaviors that can be seen or heard; for instance, complains about homework or rushes through homework, making many mistakes are better descriptors than has a bad attitude or is lazy.

Step 2. Set a goal. Usually the goal relates directly to the problem behavior. For instance, if not writing down assignments is the problem, the goal might be: “Joe will write down his assignments in his assignment book for every class.”

Step 3. Decide on possible rewards and penalties. Homework incentive systems work best when children have a menu of rewards to choose from, since no single reward will be attractive for long. We recommend a point system in which points can be earned for the goal behaviors and traded in for the reward the child wants to earn. The bigger the reward, the more points the child will need to earn it. The menu should include both larger, more expensive rewards that may take a week or a month to earn and smaller, inexpensive rewards that can be earned daily. It may also be necessary to build penalties into the system. This is usually the loss of a privilege (such as the chance to watch a favorite TV show or the chance to talk on the telephone to a friend).

Once the system is up and running, and if you find your child is earning more penalties than rewards, then the program needs to be revised so that your child can be more successful. Usually when this kind of system fails, we think of it as a design failure rather than the failure of the child to respond to rewards. It may be a good idea if you are having difficulty designing a system that works to consult a specialist, such as a school psychologist or counselor, for assistance.

Step 4. Write a homework contract. The contract should say exactly what the child agrees to do and exactly what the parents’ roles and responsibilities will be. When the contract is in place, it should reduce some of the tension parents and kids often experience around homework. For instance, if part of the contract is that the child will earn a point for not complaining about homework, then if the child does complain, this should not be cause for a battle between parent and child: the child simply does not earn that point. Parents should also be sure to praise their children for following the contract. It will be important for parents to agree to a contract they can live with; that is, avoiding penalties they are either unable or unwilling to impose (e.g., if both parents work and are not at home, they cannot monitor whether a child is beginning homework right after school, so an alternative contract may need to be written).

We have found that it is a rare incentive system that works the first time. Parents should expect to try it out and redesign it to work the kinks out. Eventually, once the child is used to doing the behaviors specified in the contract, the contract can be rewritten to work on another problem behavior. Your child over time may be willing to drop the use of an incentive system altogether. This is often a long-term goal, however, and you should be ready to write a new contract if your child slips back to bad habits once a system is dropped.

Click here to download the homework planner and incentive sheet.

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