In many classes, teachers give homework assignments and students’ grades are reduced because they do not complete and return the assignments.
Educational research published in the book “Classroom Instruction that Works” by Robert J. Marzano (2001), indicates that homework should be directly related to skills and concepts being taught in class to be effective.
As a former math teacher, I gave homework every night to help children remember the concepts or skills taught that day. I would never assign more than 10 problems. If students wrongly work more than that, they may suffer from a hard-to-correct wrong learning imprint.
I reviewed the homework and gave feedback the next day. Ten problems let me know if the student understood either the skill or concept. Some students needed more practice to cement the skill or concept in their brain. I provided them with additional homework repeatedly until the skills or concepts became automatic.
When a student was having a problem getting the homework completed, I would have the parent and student look at the homework cycle to decide where the student was dropping the ball. They then could devise a plan to fix the problem. The steps of the homework cycle are as follows:
Step One: Write down the assignment. Each student should have an assignment book. The student needs to write down the assignment as soon as it is given.
Step Two: Get the material provided by the school to do the work at home and place it in the backpack as soon as received. The child should show the parent the assignment and the needed materials upon arriving home. Parents might consider having the following materials already purchased and available: poster board, markers, colored pencils, dictionary/thesaurus, ruler, and compass.
Step Three: Select the time and place and do the work. Parents need to talk to their children to identify the best time and place to do the work. For example, some children need to go outside as soon as they get home to work off the energy built up during the day. Homework should be done and checked by the parent (only that the assignment is done) before allowing any interaction with recreational media. Outside reading at least 30 minutes every day should be an understood additional homework assignment. Marzano states that this 30 minutes of reading is the most effective homework assignment for elementary school students. We also know that reading in middle and high school builds the vocabulary needed to score well on the SAT/ACT. Building a lifetime reading habit is the ultimate goal.
Step Four: Pack the work. The student’s binder should have a specific spot for each subject and it must be placed in the backpack for return to school. Parents should regularly watch that the child puts the homework in the backpack because it may take 30 days to form the habit.
Step Five: Turn the work in on time. This requires that the child turn the work into the teacher on the date the teacher requires. If the child does not do this, there should be consequences at home beyond those imposed by the teacher.
Anyone reading this article will see that by following this homework cycle, a child develops the trait of being detailed oriented. This trait is needed to be successful in adult life.
The actual homework is a practice of skills and concepts in any subject.
Americans were glued to their TV sets watching the 2012 Olympics as America and China were head to head acquiring medals. I liked what Gabby Douglas said when she was interviewed after winning the all-around individual gold in gymnastics, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, (Aug. 3, 2012): “I was like, ‘Yes, all the hard work’s paid off.”
CNN on Aug. 4, kept asking the question, “Why can we win so many medals but are very behind many countries educationally?”
Maybe it is because students do not put in the practice (homework) effectively. Parents need to be sure that their children can apply an effective homework cycle and build upon it in adult life.
Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin and works at Smarts & Arts on Airport Road in Destin.