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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Missing homework solutions?

Missing homework solutions?

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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For pretty much the entirety of my career, I have been of the opinion that it was important to hold students accountable for missing homework. By that, I mean if they missed an assignment, it was their responsibility to make it up and hand it in. Once I began teaching 8th grade, this mindset was enforced by the idea that we had to prepare them for the responsibilities of high school. We had to keep from holding their hands and doing the work for them. This summer our administration and several staff members attended a Professional Learning Community conference. They returned invigorated. One of the results of their collaborations was that we were no longer going to 'let' our students not do their missing work. We were going to create a lunchtime study hall where they would make up any missing work from the week before until it was finished. I was skeptical, but I have to admit, it works. Leaving it up to the students never really worked, especially for the ones with an unenthusiastic work ethic. Why didn't it? Because there weren't enough tangible, immediate, and measurable consequences for not completing their work. Students in the middle school need that. Telling them that it will affect their grade or their comprehension of the concept doesn't make enough of an impression. Now I see students taking the initiative to get their late work in to me by Friday so that they don't appear on Monday's list of missing work. More than that, I have seen an improvement in their learning. Students are not falling behind to the degree they once were. Some students who frequently didn't do their homework have even begun to get it in on time, over and over again. I was wrong. By giving them some structure and consequences that matter to them, they are improving. More importantly, I believe my students are developing better habits and becoming more responsible. I am very grateful that my administration and my team were willing to do the work necessary to put this plan into action. I am also glad that I have once again been taught the lesson that a fixed mindset is not always the best one. What are your experiences/thoughts?

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Jessie Soder's picture

I teach a multi-age 3rd-5th grade class. Their homework includes math that is not finished in class (usually around 10 problems/4 days a week) and a weekly writing assignment that is due on Fridays. If they do not turn it in on time they have to stay in at recess to work on it until it is done. Additionally, they have to pay a "fine" of $10--we have a classroom economy where they earn money each week. Staying in at recess and the fine has worked. Until recently. I have a student who hasn't been out to recess in a couple of weeks, but when he is inside he just stares at the wall and doesn't get his work done then either. According to his dad, it is the same way at home. I am kinda stuck, because my homework policy has worked until now.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Have you thought about asking the child what's going on? Is the homework meaningful? Does he understand the purpose of the work or is he lost and needing more support? Try to see if you can get to the root of the problem

Daniel Kuczynski's picture

I believe homework is important. The high schools our students will be attending expect their students to complete the homework. And, due to the stress of standards and the State 8th Grade Social Studies Test, I have SO MUCH I am expected to teach my students.....about three years worth of good teaching crammed into one school year. The homework I assign includes learning content area vocabulary, demonstrations of comprehension (such as 6+6 - six pictures with data about each, 4x - a list of important facts with three pictures of the important facts and data about it), organizing packets of their work, and reviewing and reading over current materials.

Students who do not complete their homework and have it ready to turn in when it is due may turn it in later for less credit, if they bring a note from a parent. Their daily planners also get marked if they fail to turn in an assignment. We do have teleparent, to notify the occupants of the listed telephone number that something is going on (like your child did not turn in homework, is failing, etc.) I try to keep them afterschool at least one day a week to make up missing assignments; maybe 20% will show up for this.

Our school administration does nothing to help with this; no study hall, no lunch detention (but we only get 30 minutes for lunch), we have no counselors to talk to our students, administration will not support teacher referrals for students who have refused multiple times to come afterschool to make up missing work. We teachers are held accountable for "giving too many failing or low grades." Our students are not, with the exception of 8th graders who fail cannot go through the promotion ceremony (they get sent to H.S. anyhow). LOTS of pressure on grade 8 teachers who have failing students towards end of the school year.....Not too much parent support; like many places, the parents we really need to talk to and advise don't show up to meet with teachers. Oh, and we are in about year seven of being a "failing school," according to NCLB.

Mr. Page's picture

Great question. I rarely have problems with having my students finish their homework.

#1 - Homework needs to be purposeful: Any work I give to my students is designed to hone in on a skill such as summarizing, organizing ideas, or reading for information. I let the students know what the homework is, why they are doing it, and explain the goal of the homework.

#2 - I call home: At the beginning of the year I print off my student roster and their phone numbers. I let the students know my policy: if you do not finish your homework, I will call home to remind your parents to remind you every single time. And I do it. At the beginning of the year I do have to stay 10-15 minutes later making phone calls, but I tell you, I rarely have to make phone calls now. My policy is clear, it is simple, and it is also a great way for me to get to know parents. Parents want to know when their kid is not doing what they need to do, and it is always good for you to learn more about the students' home life. I essentially start off with, "Hello Mr./Mrs. _____, this is Mr. Page, ______'s Social Studies teacher. I just wanted to give a quick call to let you know ____ did not finish a homework assignment, (explain assignment quickly), I was hoping you could remind ____ to finish it tonight and bring it to class tomorrow."

I also like to let the parent know, "I wanted to call you to let you know because it can be frustrating if you're never in the loop..."

Shelley Geisreiter's picture
Shelley Geisreiter
Sixth Grade Classroom Teacher

I am currently wrapping up a year of teaching 5th grade, but will be moving back to 6th grade in the fall. There are pros and cons to teaching "middle school" students in an elementary environment. One positive is that we still have recess as an "incentive" to get homework turned in on time. This year's class has been especially challenging as I have many students with organizational and attention deficit issues that make establishing homework routines difficult. Hopefully, since I will be moving to 6th grade with many of my current students, they will mature by leaps and bounds over the summer and be ready to be more accountable for their homework...it has been exhausting tracking their work/missing work this year.

R. Grunduski's picture
R. Grunduski
Eighth grade teacher, GA

We too had a problem with students not turning in work. We met as professional learning committees to come up with solutions to the problem. At our school we also use working lunch to allow students to make up missing work and yes we have had success with it. I was not fully sold on the idea of a working lunch, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. I saw an increase of students turning in assignments and also saw an increase in some student achievement. A similar plan that we also implemented was Saturday school. Students with a number of missing assignments are assigned school on Saturday from 8-12 to make up work. This too has had a positive impact. The number of missing assignments has decreased and taken the pressure off teachers from having to "hunt down the missing work." These two plans have also lead to a decrease in the number of failing students. It is amazing to see that kids and teachers from across the country are dealing with a lot of the same issues.

Ana's picture
Middle School English and Spanish Teacher

My school does something very similar to yours. We call it "working lunch". Teachers have a shared excel spreadsheet we fill at each day for students who have missing assignments. They attending working lunch for as long as it takes until their homework is finished. It seems the main difference is that we send kids daily and don't wait until Friday to make the list. Your way seems to be less work for the teacher. My biggest problem is remembering to keep track of who is missing what assignment each day. I often let kids slide because of my lack of organization. This year, I'm trying something new. Children will have to fill out an "Oops, I forgot my homework" form and turn it in in place of their assignment so that I can immediately see and keep track of who is missing what. When the assignment comes in, I cut and attach the bottom portion of the form to their late homework. It will also serve as a great tool for parent-teacher conferences and end of marking period deadlines. A downloadable instant digital copy of the sheet can be found here:


Cheers and my best to everyone this next school year!

Let'sLearn's picture
middle school language arts

I love the missing assignment list idea. I am constantly looking for ways to encourage accountability.

Webcutter's picture

What are the academic consequences for the "working lunch?" Many of my assignments are woven into the class discussion, homework questions are answered, and student's at-home learning of material that will be discussed/taught that day in class is built upon during class discussion. If they don't do the assignment how does the "working lunch" hold students to the same level as the rest of the class?
Also, who is monitoring the "working lunch?"

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