When Homework Is Not Being Done at Home
Whenever I present on effective interventions, one of the most common questions I receive is: “Too many of our students just won’t try . . . how do we motivate them to do their homework?” While there are certainly students at every school that lack the self-responsibility to get their work done, it is misleading and often inaccurate to assume student desire is the primary cause of missing homework. Before jumping to this conclusion, I recommend a school staff consider the following questions . . .
- Are you sure our students have learned the skills required to complete the homework? Homework is to reinforce what a child has learned, not to teach the concept. Students cannot complete what they do not know how to do. If we have not checked to make sure our students have learned the skills needed to complete their homework, then it is unreasonable and unfair to hold students accountable to do the work.
- Is the homework truly essential work . . . or busy work? Let’s be honest, there is a lot of homework that really is not tied to essential standards.
- Does the homework require extra supplies at home? Some students can’t go to the craft store to get supplies.
- Are there factors outside of school that interfere with a student’s ability to complete their homework? Some students work after school to help their family make ends meet. Others may go home and serve as the primary caregiver to younger siblings. Imagine how a student must feel who cooks, cleans, and cares for younger brothers/sisters after school, just to be told by their teacher the next day that they must learn how to work harder and be responsible because they did not do their homework.
- Are you catching the problem early? When too many assignments are missed before we help, students can dig a hole so deep, it becomes their grave.
- Finally, have you asked struggling students why the work is not getting done? If students feel you care, more often than not they will honestly tell you why.
In the end, it comes down to this—very few kids want to fail. If we would start by making sure that our assignments are meaningful work tied to essential standards, and that every student has the skills and materials necessary to do the work, then most kids will do the work. When they don’t, we must remember that missing assignments are not the problem, but a symptom. We must ask the question, “Why is the student not getting the work done?” The answer to this question is the key to solving the problem of missing homework.