Question & Ideas: Homework Issues

The question below was featured on our forum a few years ago. Since then we’ve had lots of people offer suggestions. We’ve summarised some of the responses below and added a few of our own.

Question:

‘Hi,

I have a student who has trouble getting his homework completed. This means he tends to hand in work late or work that it is not quite up to the standard he is capable of. He says he spends 2 hours a night on his homework, but he gets distracted and procrastinates, and appears to do very little work in the 2 hours. Anyone have any good tips for motivating a Year 7 to get his homework done?’

Gheeb

Ideas :

  • Break homework tasks and duration into smaller parts by:
    • Helping the student to create a task plan that breaks the work into its specific components over a few days. This will provide the student clear guidance about how to get started and what he should do each night. (Doing this with the whole class may benefit more than the one student.) For example, if the student has a 2-page essay due in 5 days, he might break it up in the following way:
      • Monday night – 1 hour doing research.
      • Tuesday night – 30 minutes brainstorming and writing dot points of the main ideas he could include.
      • Wednesday night – 30 minutes writing the introduction and 2-3 paragraphs, and so on…
    • Using a timer to break the homework period into small chunks of time (approximately 15-20 minutes). The student could use the timer on his phone. Only homework can be done within the time frame. Follow each work time by a 5-minute break. Break times are for relaxing, having a snack, searching the internet, talking to others, or other things not related to the work.
  • Talk to the student about what he can do if he gets stuck or doesn’t understand what to do. For example:
    • Have him highlight questions he doesn’t understand while completing the homework, or list them and ask the teacher about them in the morning.
    • Ask someone for help. Call, text or message another student from your class, or ask parents or relatives who may know.
    • Use online tutorials. There are lots of free online videos, and websites that explain and provide information. For example, look at Khan Academy, FUSE, You Tube (Teachers). Note: teachers can create online content for their class using iTunes U.
  • Check the student’s organisational practices.
    • Ensure the student is consistently writing or recording all homework in the same place and taking it home.
    • Encourage the student to use a prominent monthly wall calendar, and write in assignment due dates and tests. This will help the student to see what is coming up, and plan for completing assignments and studying for tests. Help the student to then use the calendar to plan, breaking up required work over several days rather than leaving it all until the last minute.
  • Provide time in class to begin homework. Allowing students to begin an essay or assignment in class allows you to check that the task is understood. It also allows the student to ask any clarifying questions. Follow up sessions for longer tasks before the due date can also support successful outcomes.
  • Ensure the physical space the student completes homework in is conducive to working. Check in with the student about where he does his homework. The space should be well lit and free of clutter, noise and other distractions. If the student does not have a space like this at home, recommend that he works in the school or a local public library to complete some or all his work before going home.

For further assistance with homework and to ensure that homework and assignments are fair and accessible, see Psych4Schools ebooklets and resources, by clicking here or by entering ‘homework’ in the Home Page search.

Have any of these strategies worked for your students? Or have we missed a great one that worked well for you. We’d love you to let us and others know in the comments section below so we can make this a useful space for teachers and other school professionals to exchange ideas.

Zoe Ganim and Murray Evely, Psych4Schools Psychologists