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Winning Ideas for Getting Students to Complete Homework

Five winning ideas for encouraging students to take responsibility for completing their homework and turning their work in on time

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

We asked teachers to tell us their best ideas for encouraging students to take responsibility for turning in work on time. Here are the five winning entries.


Turn It In

Submitted by Alicia Vandermale, West Elementary School, Tooele, Utah

My students have HORSE homework folders that they turn in to me every morning. I empty them, then put them in the students' mailboxes. Students really want to do their homework because 10 stars on the homework chart earns them a trip to the cow box, which is full of cool stuff like magic ink and rubber snakes.

 

Treasure Treats

Submitted by Tonya Rowswell, Drane Intermediate School, Corsicana, Texas

On the first day of school my campus provided each student with a tracker to record all homework assignments on. They are able to use the tracker as a restroom pass in each class period (middle school students), so they are required to bring the tracker to every class each day.

On Monday, as soon as they enter my room, they are to be seated and copy their homework assignment from the board into the tracker. Once the tardy bell rings, I check attendance and then I walk around the room and check each tracker to make sure they have their assignment written down (IN INK). I initial the box. The students put away the tracker and we proceed with class. This takes approximately two-three minutes.

At the close of each class period we have a "wrap-up" time. We reflect on what we have learned for the day and I have someone in the class remind us of our homework assignment and parent signature that is required in the tracker that night.

The next day we go through the same procedure, checking for parent signatures when I walk around the room and to check what they have written for that day's assignment. I also collect the previous night's homework they have placed on the corner of their desk (or we take a few minutes to check our homework together).

For students who have a "completed" (all required spaces filled in, signatures each night, and homework completed and turned in on time), I give them either one free homework pass for the following week, or a treat from my treasure box.
 

Work Responsibility

Submitted by Pamela Connor, St. Andrews School, Savannah, Georgia

In my third-grade classroom, my co-teacher and I feel that students really need to internalize the value of doing the work not so much for a reward, but because it helps them learn. For this reason, when we have our Back to School night we tell parents that we want the homework done by their children, with little or no help from the parents.

We explain that we need to know which children had trouble so we can help them. If a parent does the work or helps them too much, we don't get a picture of how the child is doing on his or her own.

We tell the parents that nothing goes home for homework that we haven't gone over in class, so the children should at least be familiar with the concepts.

Next, we explain to parents and the children that the homework is not graded. We use it to discuss strategies, thought processes, etc. This gives us the opportunity to go over the work with a child at a deficit or if he/she does not complete the work.


Homework Superstars

Submitted by Carolyn Campis, PS 180 Hugo Newman School, New York, New York

In my classroom, students who complete all components of their homework for 20 or more nights in one month, are entered into the "Lunch-Date Raffle." At the end of each month, two homework superstars are selected to have a lunch date with me.

During lunch, I'll order a pizza and the superstars stay in the classroom and chat with the teacher while they eat. Every homework superstar also earns a free no homework pass.

It's cheap and it's easy to maintain every month!


Getting Homework In On Time

Submitted by Laura Ingoglia, Timothy Christian School, Piscataway, New Jersey

I think an important part of getting the students to turn in their work on time is first teaching them organizational skills. Every morning when my students come in, the first thing they do is turn in last night's homework and write down the new homework in their planners. I have homework helpers in my class who check the planners to make sure all the homework is written down before they sign the planners.

When it is time to pack up at the end of the day, the students take out everything they need to pack up. Then they do a quick self-desk-check to make sure there are no loose papers in their desk. (Usually those loose papers end up being homework pages.) To make sure that everyone took out all the right books and folders I will tell everyone to put their hand on their Take Home Folder, then put their elbow on their planner, until they've checked to make sure they have everything they need for homework.

This helps every day because there are always some students who put their hands on their folders only to realize that the folders are not there. Eventually they catch on to the routine and they are able to self-desk-check and check their books without me telling them.

An incentive I use in my classroom is keeping a chart that records each day the entire class has turned in their homework. Once the chart is filled up, the class earns a reward (prize, candy, or extra recess).

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