Although it can be a real challenge to get middle school students to turn in their homework every day, homework is still one of the most effective ways for them to practice new skills and reinforce learning. To make sure that your homework assignments are worthwhile and well-designed, keep these tips on assigning homework top-of-mind.
- Link the homework assignment to student achievement and make sure it serves a purpose that is clearly related to what your students are currently studying.
- Honor the "ten-minute" rule — ten minutes of homework multiplied by the grade level. For example, sixth-grade students should have no more than 60 minutes of homework.
- Begin homework in class so you can demonstrate it, evaluate students' understanding of the assignment and material, and address any problems before your students go home.
- Assign work that doesn't require extra help or access to resources students may not have at home. Many kids lack computer and/or Internet access at home. Many families do not have digital cameras or camcorders. In addition, many go home to non-English-speaking households where additional guidance is not available.
- Provide support before, during, and after if students need help completing the assignment. This may be as easy as giving them a few minutes at the end of class to get started or as involved as offering to meet with students during lunch or after school.
- Give students choices whenever possible. For example, if there are ten study questions on the chapter, invite students to answer whichever five interest them the most.
- Write homework assignments on the board so students can see them and hear you as you explain and demonstrate. Make sure students write down the homework assignment in their planners.
- Avoid homework that requires students to coordinate with others who may not be able to meet such obligations. The logistics of family life are often very complex and make it difficult for students to work together after school. If you assign group projects, provide class time to get the work completed.
- Be careful about how much homework counts toward students' final grades. If grades are largely based on homework, then it reflects effort, not learning or achievement.
- Assign homework students must complete to participate effectively in class the next day. Say, for example, "Go home and read chapter 10 tonight and take notes on the key aspects of the war in Vietnam. You will use these notes to participate in a forum on the war. Take good notes and be ready to defend your position."
This article was adapted from The Teacher's Essential Guide Series: Effective Instruction by Jim Burke (© 2008, Scholastic, Inc.).