(Compiled by Margaret Carr, Educational
Consultant, for the LDAT Conference, November, 1999)
Homework Strategies for Teachers
Teachers play a vital role in the selection, assignment,
and use of homework. Research indicates that where homework
assignments are meaningful and relevant, student
achievement increases. Teachers will maximize the effectiveness
of homework if they will:
- Communicate to parents in the first meeting
or correspondence of the year appropriate areas in which
parental involvement can help reinforce their children’s
learning rates, performance, and confidence. Include suggestions
to parents on how to provide homework assistance.
- Compare the amount of time students require
to complete homework assignments with an anticipated completion
time, and modify assignments as needed.
- Learn student feelings about homework assignments
by having them circle smiling, frowning or neutral faces
on the corner of homework papers to indicate their feelings
– too easy, too difficult, or just right. Then modify
assignments as needed.
- Plan with other teachers at your school in
terms of length and frequency of homework assignments, adoption
of similar homework practices, such as a standard style
- Assign activities such as age-appropriate games
(made in class) or other activities that will be fun.
- Assign activities which are relevant to the
child outside of the classroom. Assign homework that enriches,
reinforces, or supplements classroom instruction.
- Randomly reward homework completion –
“Everyone finished their assignments last week, so
you may have five minutes extra recess today.”
- Use a homework planner. Just as adults use
calendars or other aids to schedule activities, students
can benefit from structured notes. They can be taught to
enter assignments, note due dates, and indicate completion.
The planner can also be used to communicate with parents
by asking parents to sign when homework is completed and
to pass notes between school and home (and vice versa).
- Communicate with parents regarding the amount
of homework you plan to assign, and approximate time required
for completion. If there is a discrepancy between the child’s
performance and your expectations, treat this as diagnostic
- Suggest activities that parents can do with
their children to enhance learning.
- Review homework promptly and provide students
with feedback and additional instruction as appropriate.
- Explain the purpose of homework assignments
and ensure that the assignment is understood.
- Teach study skills such as note taking, strategies
to increase reading comprehension, and use of mnemonic memory
devices. A number of study skills programs are commercially
- Homework assigned to students with disabilities
may result in greater acquisition of independent study skills
and increase time spent on academic tasks.
Homework and Students with Learning Disabilities
Research indicates that homework accounts for about one-fifth
(20%) of all the time that students spend on academic tasks.
Fifty-six percent of students with learning disabilities have
difficulties completing homework. Students with learning disabilities
reported boredom and resistance to homework and that they
received less help and more criticism from parents.
For Parents of Students with Learning Disabilities
Parents play a very important role in helping students believe
that time spent completing homework assignments can and does
make a difference in successful learning. Parents are helping
their child with homework when they:
- Stress the importance of homework by providing
a time, a place, and supplies.
- Reinforce the belief that homework is important
by supporting, encouraging, and praising the child's efforts.
Remember, we all perform best in a supportive atmosphere
in which we are valued as individuals.
- Reassure the child that some subjects are more
difficult than others if a child is working hard but with
disappointing results. Feel free to discuss what you can
do to help the situation with both the student and the teacher.
- Say, “Tell me about your
homework” instead of asking the child if he/she has
- Provide the child with a clear surface on which
to work, good light, appropriate tools, and a comfortable
chair. (Not too comfortable — an easy chair may encourage
- Provide a homework environment that is free
from background distractions of television, loud conversation,
or pets. For some children “white noise” provided
by soft instrumental music helps mask such sounds, for others
silence is more effective.
- Intercept drop-in playmates.
- Realize that a child may be distracted by subtle
things, such as white paper against a dark desktop. If a
child is unable to focus after you have eliminated obvious
distractions, check out less obvious sources of distraction.
- Recognize that a child may become tired. Even
busy walls or buzzing light fixtures may cause the child
- Listen to or discuss the main points of a homework
- Work one or two examples together and make
sure that the child understands the assignment.
- Communicate with teachers when more information
is needed about assignments.
- Keep in touch with your child's teacher to
learn about what the class is studying.
- Look over your child's paper after the teacher
- Help the child to place finished
homework into a backpack so that it can be turned in on
- Suggest a telephone break during the time that
homework is done. Friends will need to be alerted, and the
parent can volunteer to take messages for any stray calls.
Homework Remedies and the IEP
If a child has difficulty completing homework assignments,
he/she may need modifications that coincide with modifications
required on the Individualized Education Program (IEP). The
following suggestions might be considered:
- Specify the amount of time to be spent each
evening on homework.
- Include an agreement to grade only the homework
which the child has completed.
- Determine and address the purpose of the homework.
- Consider alternatives to long-term written
Allow the child to use an audio cassette record rather
than write assignments.
Allow the child’s parent to write assignments
dictated by the child.
Provide graph paper for computation if the student
has mathematical disabilities. Numerals can be written
in the boxes to avoid failure to line them up vertically.
Allow the child to make a model and/or drawing rather
than complete a written assignment. For example, make
a paper model of a favorite scene in a book, an historical
Allow the child to do a science experiment and record
the results with a video camera (if available), photographs,
or drawings. Have the child tell about the experiment.
Provide the child with an opportunity to present
a short dramatic sketch of a character in a reading
assignment, complete with simple costumes, etc.
Allow the child to use a computer to complete written
- If the child has difficulty bringing assignments
home, specify that a copy of assignments will be given to
the child. You might suggest that the teacher copy his/her
weekly lesson plan book for the parent, blocking out personal
information or allow the child to have a classmate provide
a copy of written assignments (using carbon paper).
- Provide a set of textbooks for home use by
the student. Allow parents to highlight topic sentences
or significant facts, particularly in social studies and
- Allow the child to use taped or audio textbooks.
These are available from the Texas State Library as well
as commercial sources.
- If a student has difficulty copying from a
paper or from the board, teach the child “copy procedures”
such as those in Structures and Techniques: Remedial
References and Resources
Bryan, T. and Sullivan-Burstein, K. (1997). Homework how-to’s.
Teaching Exceptional Children, 6.
Bryan, T. and Sullivan-Burstein, K. (1995) A parent’s
guide to homework. Phoenix, AZ: Planning for Success.
Bryan, T. and Sullivan-Burstein, K. (1995) A teacher’s
guide to homework. Phoenix, AZ: Planning for Success.
Building a study environment. (1998). Education Extra, Dallas
Morning News, November 3.
Checkley, K. (1997). Homework – a new look at an age-old
practice. Education Update, Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development, 7.
Cox, A. (1980) Copying words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.
Structures and techniques: multisensory teaching of basic
language skills. Educators Publishing Service, Inc., p. 136.
Epstein, J., Simon, B. and Salinas, K. (1997) Involving
parents in homework in the middle grades. Phi Delta Kappa
Research Bulletin, 18.
Gaillard, L. (1994) Hands off homework? Commentary, Education
Week, December 14.
Rolfe, S. and Benson, N. (1988) The study skills connection:
A basic guide to study skills. Riverside Press. (Learning
Unlimited, PO Box 830121, Richardson, TX 75083).
Romain, Trevor. (1997) How to do homework without throwing
up. Free Spirit Publishing. (400 First Avenue North, Suite
616, Minneapolis, MN 55401.) www.freespirit.com
Sullivan-Burstein, K. and Bryan, T. (1995) Sequenced study
skills program. Phoenix, AZ: Planning for Success.
Vinnedge, M. (1998) The right time and place. Education
Extra, Dallas Morning News, November 3.