Whether you are 'for' assigning homework or 'against' assigning homework, there are definitely a few advantages to assigning homework to upper elementary students.
- Homework gives students the opportunity to develop their Executive Functioning Skills as they get ready to enter middle school.
- It allows students to practice skills independently in order to see if they have mastered it on their own.
- It gives families an insight as to what students are learning at school.
- Lastly, if used properly, teachers can use it to informally assess students to help guide them on further individualized instruction.
All that being said, we know that not all students are intrinsically motivated to complete their homework. How to motivate students to do their homework is a challenge quite a few of us teachers face, but there are several techniques that we can implement to guarantee that most (if not all) of our students are turning in their homework on a consistent basis.
Only assign homework on concepts you have thoroughly gone over. As stated at the start of this post, the purpose for homework falls into a few categories: developing Executive Functioning Skills, allowing for practice, informing families what's been taught, and as an informal assessment. If a concept has not been thoroughly taught, students and family will become frustrated with the assignment, and chances are, you will be too when the homework assignment comes back incomplete.
Keep the homework assignments short. According to the National Education Association, the amount of homework assigned should directly correlate with the grade the student is in. Students in first grade should get about 10 minutes worth of homework a day, and each grade after that gets 10 minutes tagged on to that each year. (For example: 3rd grade = 30 minutes)
Students will be much more motivated to complete a homework assignment if it is short and relevant.
Be mindful of the assignment you send home. If the homework assignment you are sending home requires more than a pencil, some students may not have the additional supplies at home. Try to stay away from those types of homework assignments. If it's unavoidable, allow students to take home supplies they will need from the classroom in order to complete their assignment.
Check the homework assignments. Yes, it will dig in a bit into your instructional time, but students will not be motivated to complete assignments they know will not be checked, especially in the upper grades. These kids catch on quick. Plus, if one of the benefits of motivating students to do their homework is so that we can informally assess if they are understanding the material, how can we do that if we do not check it nor give them the opportunity to ask questions about the assignment?
Offering students choices on the assignments they wish to complete to show understanding of a skill or concept can also be another way to motivate students to do their homework. Choice boards or lists are a great way to offer alternatives to students.
For example, if you have taught a lesson on coordinating conjunctions, you could offer a choice of three different task to students and have them complete just one. You could offer the following:
- Find three examples of sentences using coordinating conjunctions in a book you are reading and tag it with a post-it note.
- Write three sentences about your day, and include a coordinating conjunction in each sentence.
- Complete page ___ on coordinating conjunctions from your workbook.
Acknowledge their efforts. As adults, we really appreciate when others notice our efforts. Kids are the same way. Sometimes writing a little note on their desk or giving them a certificate acknowledging their efforts is enough to get them to continue on their journey of working hard.
If you'd like access to the homework certificates pictured above, you can click on the image below.
Sometimes, reaching out to the parents is necessary and effective.
First of all, there can be external variables that we do not know about that may be at play. Letting parents know that assignments are being completed can be the gateway into them giving us important information that can help us support and motivate our students.
Secondly, sometimes kids will be kids, and since we are not at their homes monitoring them and prompting them, they may fail to get homework assignments accomplished. If parents know that assignments are not being completed, they are given the chance to help monitor the progress at home.
Using an incomplete homework notice is a quick way to inform parents of their child's progress when it comes to doing their homework.
Now, I strongly suggest that you before sending home an incomplete homework notice, make sure you have made a positive contact with the parents previously. Parents need to know that your intentions are good and that you are working with them to help their child strive to develop good study habits and Executive Functioning Skills.
All this being said, get to know your students and their situations well. This will help guide you to making the best decisions when it comes to how to motivate your students to do their homework.