• by Blaine Helwig

Teacher Tips to Improve Homework Completion

“Andrew will not complete his homework.”

“At least half my class does not do their homework, consistently.”

“I have called the parent repeatedly. Her daughter still will not complete her homework.”

“Johnny’s mother told me three times that he will sit down and complete his homework the minute he walks in the front door. Yet, Johnny still is not completing his homework.”

Unfortunately, there are far too many anecdotal stories like these in our elementary schools. It can be very frustrating when the teacher appears to care more about the child’s education than the parent. There are no easy answers to solve all the situations when kids do not complete their homework, but these are several effective tips that may help with many students. There are a several actions listed below that teachers may employ to improve the likelihood their students will complete nightly homework.

Teacher Tips to Improve Nightly Homework Completion.

1.) Use a nightly homework assignment book. Check or assign a student to assist any student that consistently demonstrates difficulty completing their assignment book. The use of a teacher website listing nightly homework assignments (cumulatively) is helpful to both student and parent alike. The more structured the teacher’s homework routines, the higher probability of student completion.

2.) Establish a consistent daily routine at or near dismissal time. For example, if the teacher collectively practices a couple math problems to refresh students on content and methodology, it is usually effective since students are mentally prepared and reminded of their homework obligation. Also, the teacher may ask his or her students as they are prepared to leave the classroom, “What do you have to do tonight?” – Reply: ‘Read and do my homework.’

3.) Individual student and/or class contracts/agreements are viable if the incentive is meaningful to students. The incentives can vary from colorful stickers to extra recess time. It has been my professional experience that teachers are incredibly insightful in determining what matters to children and what does not. The classroom teacher needs only to set-up an efficient accountability system with a motivating incentive program and these type of student-teacher agreements invariably yield positive results.

4.) All homework should be quickly reviewed for accuracy the following school day. Otherwise, the student will discover that nightly homework has no accountability. They will believe it is not important and not to do it or make-up answers so their homework appears complete. Rule: If the classroom teacher is NOT reviewing nightly homework the following class day for accuracy, then homework should NOT be assigned at all.

5.) If a student is NOT completing their homework, there must be a consequence. The child should complete the work at some point during the day on their time – lunch, recess, after school, etc. I recommend asking the parent for permission when their child can complete their unfinished homework – in writing. If there is no parent support, ask the parent to write and sign a dated note (day, month and year) that states, “My child, John Hancock, is NOT required to complete nightly homework.” I recommend telling the parent that (your) intention is to place the note in the child’s cumulative folder – physical or digital. Frequently, the parent will hold their child accountable for nightly homework rather than allow written documentation citing their own lack of parental accountability.

If the parent will not provide a note, the teacher should document the crux of the conversation. Place that documentation in the student’s cumulative folder – for a future colleague’s reference. This task is well worth the time. The student’s pattern is clearly documented, and parents guilty of complicit behavior often blame prior year’s teachers. A teacher’s historical note of this nature helps parents’ recollection if they possess convenient memories of prior events.

6.) If the student refuses to do work but there is parent and administrative support, a very effective technique is requiring the student to remain in the office and complete that day’s nightly homework for an hour or a specified time. Generally speaking, the child will not complete the homework on the first couple afterschool detentions, but when their time is monopolized for two to four consecutive days, the child is ready to choose to complete their work in lieu of afterschool time.

As long as the child consistently completes their homework, they do not have the afterschool office assignment. In general, within a week, it has been my experience that the child is much more willing to be compliant. It is usually a test of wills. The parents and school faculty should remain calm and collaborative. The child is making this choice, and afterschool 'detention' is nothing more than a common consequence.

7.) If a large number of students are not completing homework, initiating an afterschool homework club is usually effective – one club for each the primary and intermediate grades. Teachers can take turns in the two grade level ranges, and a teacher only has this duty once or twice a month in a normal sized elementary campus. If the campus is Title 1, ask the lead administrator for funding an afterschool homework club. Hence, teachers are paid for their time. Additionally, children who repeatedly fail to do their homework, may come proactively to homework club – eliminating a reactive punishment. Students often tire of proactive work and begin completing their work at home, in lieu of afterschool.

8.) Resignation – If the school administration and the parents do not support the teacher’s efforts on the importance of the child’s education and completing their homework, the classroom teacher has definitely done their due diligence. I recommend focusing on what can be changed for the good of the student.