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Homework Options

Page history last edited by Khalid Ait-Kass 14 years ago

John James

The Homework Debate

After researching homework, I found my self again drawn to Krashen's theory of second language acquisition.  I have three to four students in my 4 classes who can’t speak English.  Homework is burying them further under papers they can not read. If each student has a learning style and approach homework differently.  Not all students learn at the same rate or in quite the same way.   Parents need to need to have an active role in supporting homework and learning language.

Traditionally, time has been considered a crucial factor in learning because different learners need different amounts of time to master materials and skills. Rosenshine (1976) studied time on-task, and its effect on reading and mathematics achievement for primary grade students from low socio-economic backgrounds. His findings indicated that although total time in school is an important variable related to achievement, the actual time a student spends engaged in particular academic activities, such as reading and arithmetic, is more strongly associated with achievement gains in these particular subjects. Time exposure also has been considered an important factor in language acquisition (Krashen & Terrel, 1983).

Description of Krashen's Theory of Second Language Acquisition

The theory consists of five main hypotheses:

  • the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis,
  • the Monitor hypothesis,
  • the Natural Order hypothesis,
  • the Input hypothesis,
  • and the Affective Filter hypothesis.


The Affective Filter hypothesis embodies Krashen's view that a number of 'affective variables' play a facilitative, but non-causal, role in second language acquisition. These variables include: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to 'raise' the affective filter and form a 'mental block' that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, when the filter is 'up' it impedes language acquisition. On the other hand, positive affect is necessary, but not sufficient on its own, for acquisition to take place.

The important component of homework is students having time.    Time is a critical factor for learning, and then measures should be taken to explore time on-task. Learning does not take place only in classrooms. Many students also need an after-school period of independent work. Homework may help address students' individual and varied amount of time needed for comprehension, allowing students to learn at their own pace.


The fact that homework can expand the time spent on a learning activity, and that it always has been an integral part of school life, is not enough to make it useful. Studies have shown, however, that in specific situations involving activities such as feedback, individualized enrichment assignments, the use of human and physical resources not available at school, and parental involvement, homework does indeed make a difference for student learning.


Many studies have found that homework, combined with parental involvement, positively affects student achievement (e.g., Maertens & Johnston, 1972). In fact, Epstein's (1995) framework of the six types of parental involvement includes "learning at home" (Type 4) as an important component of school-family-community partnerships. Epstein suggests that schools should provide information and ideas to families "about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions and planning" (p. 704). Although the practice of parental support of their children's homework is "probably the most widespread and acceptable form of cooperation between school and home" (OECD, 1997), questions have been raised about who benefits from it.






Background information on Homework Options :



Definition of Homework: “Homework is work assigned to a student in a setting outside of the classroom. Homework can help students reinforce what they learned during the class, and the purpose of giving assignments outside the class is to train students to develop personal independence in learning, self efficacy, as well as self-management skills.


  1. Types of Homework


Why do I give my students homework?



1.      Giving homework that is designed to help students learn and master the topic I taught in the classroom.

2.      I give homework to students in order to review previously learned material.

3.      I use homework as a preparation to learn new material for next lesson.

4.      I assign homework when I need my students to gather information or assemble materials for a particular lab or activity.

5.      Work which couldn’t be completed in school.

o   For example: When students work on worksheets that is supposed to be turned in before the end of the period, but after the bell ring, I allow my students to take that class work home with them ,because I believe that take their time to gather the right information.


2.      Grades for Homework:

In my class contract, I address my students’ parents that on a daily basis their child is expected to review his or her class notes, and are expected to complete all assigned homework on time. Homework and class work count as 25% of the final grade.



Homework/Class work:                                                                                     25%

Quizzes/Exams:                                                                                                  45%

Approach To Learning : “ Class participation, attendance, organization.  30%


  1. Time Limitations on Homework: My assignments are usually due a day after the lesson taught in class. As for research assignment or project I allow at least a week before the work is submitted to me. 


  1. Extra-Credit

1.      Extra-credit assignments are homework designed to give a second chance to students to focus more on the content and do better than previously.  Furthermore extra-credit can at times be seen as credit which acts as a substitute for credit work.  For example: if a student failed to complete homework or couldn’t understand the assignment,  and extra-credit opportunity might replace the assignment given before.


By Khalid Ait-kass

Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an aha! moment in the classroom in the Education World Voice of Experience column. This week, educator Brenda Dyck reflects on a year of shapeshifting -- a year in which she and her colleagues (begrudgingly, at first) came to a new understanding about the value and relevance of homework assignments.

Article summary of Brenda Dyck.

By Khalid Aitkass:

Educators came to a new understanding about the importance of homework assignments, but the questions that need to be addressed is how would we assign the right homework to students, and what is the amount of time each night students should spend on homework, and also if teachers can provide relevance, and clarity of homework assignments.

I remember that the project work, I assigned to my students helped me evaluate my students understanding of the content.


I read this article written by Brenda Dyck, and my reflection about her article is how she talked about homework practices. Brenda described the process of shape shifting due to the changes that had occurred in families in recent years. Nowadays, we find more single-parent families, and working moms, we realize that many students do their homework without the proper parental supervision, or in a very unsupportive environment.

According to Brenda Dyck, teachers should reflect on the type of assignment given to students, because assignments were sometimes unclear or complicated; parents and students had difficulty making sense of assignment expectations when working on them at home. Once teachers are aware of this issue, they should begin to restructure the methods and articulate assignment given to students. This process will result in improving assignment sheets with clearer benchmarks and rubrics.

 Ms Brenda also discussed whether students were doing the homework assignments alone or with parents' help”. Did we really know that the work we were marking was an accurate reflection of our students' knowledge and ability? As a result of that question, we decided to start having larger parts of written assignments done in class, so teachers could observe the thinking/writing process in action.”

Finally, Brenda, Dyke discussed whether lengthy projects -- some of which took several weeks to complete -- merited the time and effort involved. I quote “We evaluated what learning actually happened and whether the same learning could occur with less time-intensive assignments? The result was that many of us gave up favorite assignments. No one mandated it, but honest evaluation forced us to admit that some of our assignments amounted to a lot of fluff.”

What my colleagues and I learned along the way didn't have as much to do with homework as it did with discovering how to implement meaningful change by reshaping the learning environment. This shapeshifting, we discovered, could be a messy and exciting process -- but well worth the effort!


·         Homework Takes a Hit

Education World takes a thorough look at the homework issue.

·         Put an End to Homework Horror!

Education World interviews author Nancy Paulu examines ways to make homework more productive.

·         The Homework Burden

This insightful article by Betty Ann Browser focuses on the homework debate.

Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math, Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her "Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.


Article by Brenda Dyck

Education World®

Copyright © 2005 Education World



Tiering-- Multiple Intelligences-- Learning Styles-- Homework Options





What is the purpose of homework?
The most commonly cited purpose for homework is so that students can pracitce the material that has already been presented in the classroom.  This allows the student to reinforce the material, and develop a level of mastery on the task.  This could also be considered Extension Homework. 
However, there are two other purposes for homework.
Preparation Homework allows for introduction of material that will be taught in future lessons.  This allows the student to gain maximum benefit from the material when presented in class.
Integration Homework  gives the opportunity to the student to use learned skills to produce a single product e.g. a book review, science report.
So we can say the five main types of homework.
  • Memorization of basic rules, algorithms, or laws so the skill becomes rote.
  • Increase in skill speed, to improve students' abilities in applying these skills.
  • Deepening understanding of a taught concept.
  • Preperation for the upcoming concept that will be taught in class.
  • Time Management Skills
Others see homework as being a part of the formative assessment (assessment for learning).  This type of assessment allows the skills to be practiced in the same way that an athelete or a musician practices their skills.  Homework therefore needs to have good feedback in order for the students to feel safe enough to make mistakes and be able to improve.  In the article below, Longert gives some helpful suggestions as to the kind of feedback that can be given to students.
Students suggestions of making Homework fun
  • Every fifteen minutes listen to a song on the radio or CD
  • Don't go straight to work, start with a show.
  • Don't stay in the same atmosphere, sit on the porch, go to the library,etc.,
  • Use the tools you like, cool pencils and different highlighters keep your attention
  • When you are low on energy take snack breaks
  • Flashcards help me with vocab and bible
  • Make a pattern with the difficulty when you study(ex. do an easy class like geometry then a hard class like world history, easy class, hard class)
  • Make crazy analogies, use songs, and dance while memorizing (when the test comes you won't forget)
  • Do your homework during break before class
  • Make yourself comfortable physically for starters. Sit in a comfy chair, have all your materials handy. Make yourself a snack of your favorite treat and be somewhere that you don't have too many distractions. Music is okay, but tv is just too much.





Comic Life in the Classroomwww.macinstruct.com/node/69


(On a personal note, just by changing a basic brainstorming sheet for my playwriting class into a Comic Life version, all of my students completed this homework assignment right away.  Normally I'd have to tell them at least twice.  You must have a Mac program to use this software, but it is excellent for teens!!)

Comics have some great uses in the classroom and in a variety of curricula. From pre-readers to high school students, from English to ESL to Science and Math, comics can help students analyze, synthesize and absorb content that may be more difficult when presented in only one way.


Use Comic Life to help break down complex ideas and to create entertaining content for material that can sometimes be dull. Here are some assignment ideas that lend themselves to the use of Comic Life:

o      Timelines (history, events, sequences)

o      Historical figures (history of, life of)

o      Instructions (step by step, details, illustrations, easy to follow)

o      Dialogue punctuation

o      Character analysis

o      Plot analysis

o      Storytelling

o      Pre-Writing Tool

o      Post-Reading Tool

o      Teaching Onomatopoeias

  • …and on and on



Practical Homework Suggestions       “Any homework is not better than no homework at all.”



This site is a 1998 document entitled, “Helping Your Students With Homework:  A Guide for Teachers.” It was created by the U.S. Department of Education and basically reiterates a lot of the information that is available on the other links that have already been posted.  It discusses why homework is a concern for students, teachers and parents, and it is broken down into eighteen sections that give tips for getting students to do homework by making it relevant for them. 


Some of the tips suggested here are the same as those given on other sites, such as:

  • Create assignments with a purpose
  • Create assignments that challenge students to think and to integrate
  • Vary assignments
  • Give homework that makes learning personal
  • Tie assignments to the present
  • Match assignments to the skills, interests, and needs of the students


However, what appeals to me about this site are the quotations from real teachers and their practical suggestions.  I sometimes have a hard time putting suggestions like, “Give them choices,” into action unless I have an example to think about or work from, particularly in my content area.  Trying to make history relevant or interesting for students is also something that I always find challenging. This is one example for Middle School history that gives me some ideas for my own classes:

  • A Louisiana social studies teacher, Ronald Cormier, helps his seventh and eighth-grade students learn about the Battle of Gettysburg by asking them to pretend to be contemporary television journalists, reporting live from the battlefield. In front of the class is a big cardboard box, cut out to resemble a television set. One student might do a "live interview" with General Lee, asking him if he had to second-guess himself what he'd do if the battle were his to fight again. Other students might interview other famous historical figures involved in this Civil War battle (or masquerade as the historical figures). Through these interviews, students learn specifics of the battle and gain perspective on its significance. Mr. Cormier serves as the anchorman who helps students pull together and integrate what they have learned.



I don’t teach U.S. history, but I can use this example to stimulate my own ideas such as doing a similar assignment that incorporates video and/or podcasting.  The use of technology would help create motivation for the students, and I could also incorporate student choice into the task and group students to make the most of their strengths.


These are some other thought-provoking assignments for Middle School students that really got me thinking:


  • Read the chapter on letter-writing. Then write a letter that breaks every single rule you know. "One hundred percent return on this one," she says: "How can you break the rule without knowing it?"
  • Write a paragraph about your crazy Aunt Melba or Uncle Albert that breaks 10 rules of capitalization. The next day students present their paragraphs to see if their peers can figure out which rules were broken and correct them.
  • Sit outside for 5 minutes and listen. Spend the next 5 minutes listing all the sounds you hear. Circle your favorite five. Write a poem about one.
  • Write a 30-second radio spot using George Washington to sell deodorant soap. Work in four facts about his role as a general.
  • Generate 10 new classes for the school curriculum. Write a letter to school board members persuading them to implement one.
  • Here is an answer: 54. Now generate 10 different questions, problems, or situations that can be answered with that number.



What kind of homework is most beneficial to students?

There is not much research on this topic. Some studies have shown that homework that prepares students for new material or asks them to review or practice old material leads to higher test scores than homework that simply reviews what was covered in class that day. One study of science homework found that students were more likely to return homework that required them to interact with their parents. Also, students who were assigned this kind of homework received better science grades than students who were assigned homework to complete on their own. 


Dr. Cathy Vatterott of the University of Missouri - St. Louis is a leading name in the study of homework practices. She advises that fewer, more focused assignments benefit students more. In Education World's Wire Side Chat, Got Questions? Ask the homework lady., she explains her views.

(Alternative link: Ask the Homework Lady.doc)  Dr. Vatterott states that good homework helps students to; practice a skill, process a skill (as in analyze it) and reflect on it.  It also helps them to learn making good choices. Student who regularly do their homework do experience more in-depth learning. The correlation between working on homework and academic achievement differs per subject area and grade level. Correlations in deminishing order; math, followed by reading, and the lowest correlation for social studies.



How much time should my child spend on homework each night?

Little is known about the “optimum” amount of time students should spend on homework. The available research indicates that the optimum amount of time for high school students is 1½ to 2½ hours per night; for middle school students, the optimum appears to be less than 1 hour per night. When students spend more time than that on homework, the positive connection with student achievement diminishes. There is less research on elementary students, but what is available suggests that smaller amounts of homework may help to develop work habits and study skills but do not directly affect student achievement. 



As a general rule of thumb, it has been suggested by the National Education Association (NEA) that you can calculate the appropriate amount of time (in minutes) that a child should take over homework by multiplying the Grade level by 10.  Thus a Grade 1 student can expect to receive 1 x 10 = 10 minutes.  A fourth grade student can expect 4 x 10 = 40 minutes.  This should not to exceed two hours per night total in high school however.


Guiding Principles about homework

  • Let the students know what you want them to accomplish
  • Tell them the purpose of the homework
  • Give them choices
  • Vary the audience.  Allow the students to present their work to someone other than you as the teacher once in a while.
  • Don't give homework that has no meaning.
  • Don't give extra homework when not necessary.  If 10 questions will do, don't give 30.


Dr. Cathy Vatterott gives additional clarification on the guiding principles for well-made homework assignments in an ASCD Express article What Is Effective Homework?:

  • Its academic purpose should be clear to the students. Homework is meant to enhance classroom learning and thus offer clear; pre-learning, checking for understanding, practice and processing (and I think analysis and evaluation).
  • It should be doable this helps self-esteem.
  • It should be personally relevant and customized to promote student ownership. A nice quote to address this “I’ve never heard of a child not doing his work; it’s our work he’s not doing.” So within the assignments, give students more control over what, and how they learn and how they show what they have learned.
  • It should be inviting to start working on, read aesthetically pleasing. This is most relevant for younger and academically challenged students.
  • It should, just like classroom instruction, also be differentiated to fit individual needs. Tasks can be differentiated by length, difficulty, or even by which concepts specific students need help understanding. Presentation of homework can also be differentiated. Learning disabled students could use communication other that writing to show their understanding.

Homework grading and support policies: Students should not fail courses due to late or incomplete homework, this holds especially true if test results would have a student pass. The focus of homework should be a check for understanding and formative feedback, not comprehensive grading.  It is wise to decriminalize grading, missing homework can have many “non-lazy” explanations. If you, as a teacher do decide to grade homework, the grades themselves should provide formative feedback. They should for example be broken down in skill categories as; observation, analysis, computation etc.  Kathy Checkley mentions some additional grading considerations. The most successful homework support programs provide mandatory early intervention, where students must attend after missing assignments, and voluntary drop-in service, for students who prefer to do their work at school or simply don’t have a suitable place to their disposal to work on it otherwise. Project ASPIRE is an example, it runs at the Dodgeland School District in Juneau, Wisc.

Consider looking at this self reflection, Does My Homework Work.doc.


For reflection, consider the following still quite wide held believes about homework.

  • The role of the school is to extend learning beyond the classroom.
  • Intellectual activity is intrinsically more valuable than non-intellectual activity, like throwing a ball.
  • Homework can instill positive values.
  • Lots of homework is a sign of a school with tough standards and rigorous curriculum.
  • Teachers can't possibly cover the entire curriculum without homework.
  • Good teachers give homework. Good students do their homework.

At first, they might not even seem that strange. They do however reflect some moralistic values, not really having the personal growth of the student in mind.  Actually, they seem much more geared towards teaching someone’s place in society. Teachers can still expect to run into values like these.

Dr. Vatterott addresses some of them in this article homework_myths.doc .



How to Motivate Students to Complete Their Homework 

While the debate rages as to how much homework is just the right amount, the fact remains that teachers assign homework and students need to complete it. While some students will do their homework simply because it is assigned, many will avoid it or even forget to do their work. Here are some simple tips for helping students get their homework completed and turned in.

Get Homework Organized

Some students may not complete their homework because they are simply too disorganized to know what they are supposed to do, complete it and turn it in the next day at school. A simple organizational tool will help these students be more successful with homework. A homework folder is the easiest way to organize a student’s homework assignments.

Each student who needs a homework folder should obtain a colored pocket folder. On the outside the teacher or student should label it as a homework folder. Inside, the left pocket is work that is assigned to be completed and the right pocket is work that is completed and needs to be turned in. This makes it easy for students to find their homework at home and find it again at school to turn it in.

For more organization tips, read about Thinking Organized. http://www.321learn.net/book-reviews/thinking-organized/


 Thinking Organized is written by Rhona M. Gordon, M.S., CCC/SLP. This program outlines six strategies for parents to help their children organize their thinking and improve their grades. The six strategies include organization of supplies, time management, learning styles, memory skills, note-taking and finally a detailed method for students to learn how to improve written language skills.


Motivating Students to Complete Homework Assignments

Many students do not complete homework simply because they do not want to. A lack of motivation is often difficult for teachers to deal with as parents may not follow through with their children to ensure that the work gets completed. Here are a few ideas for teachers to try to increase student motivation for completing homework.


  • Hold a Completed Homework Drawing – The teacher can enter the student’s name into a drawing for each homework assignment that a student turns in. The teacher can draw a name at the end of each day if necessary, or wait until the end of the week to reward students with a simple reward.
  • Assign More Creative Homework - If students find the homework more interesting, they may be more likely to complete it. For example, instead of simply asking student to complete a math worksheet, have them be the teacher and send home completed worksheets for students to correct.
  • Opt-Out Homework Assignments – Allow students the option to complete extra work in class instead of doing homework. This works best for students who are advanced in a particular subject. Students who find the work boring may not complete their homework but with an opt-out option for an extra credit assignment completed in class, they may become more involved.
  • Homework Options – Provide students two options for each homework assignment. Students can choose the assignment that seems the easiest or most fun and allows the some control over what work they must complete. Teachers can easily adapt this idea for inclusion classrooms by discretely directing the students with special needs to a particular homework option that may be more geared towards their particular needs.
  • When addressing the issue of incomplete homework, a teacher must identify the cause for the lack of student motivation. Helping disorganized students become organized and motivating those who do not care will help make homework time less of a problem.


Read more: http://newteachersupport.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_motivate_students_to_complete_homework#ixzz0WJijEeib





Comments (1)

Rod MacGregor said

at 11:16 am on Apr 14, 2009

Parents are an integral partner in student learning success and well designed homework assignments help to involve and motivate parents in the partnership. There is an interesting website from Scotland geared towards homeschooling, however, it helps to remind and inform educators on the purpose, practices and intentions of homework. Tabs direct the reader to various resources and perspectives. The link is as follows: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/parentsaspartnersinlearning/learningathome/outofschoollearning/homework/examplesfromschools.asp

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