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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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20 Replies 8791 Views
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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Danielle OHaren's picture
Danielle OHaren
7th Grade Math Teacher, Pennsylvania

Nicole,

It was great to read your post,as I am also a math teacher who finds it difficult for students to turn their homework in after it is late. Because I give homework nearly every night, it's also difficult for me to keep up with students who don't complete the homework, whether from absences or simply lack of effort. Our grade level team has a missing work day during our "study hall/activity" period about once a week, but this is definitely not as intensive or effective as the system you described in your school.

The interesting thing with students this age is, like you said, they are more interested in the social aspects of school than the academic. By taking away their time to be social, they are getting the picture, and therefore learning to be more responsible. This is definitely a system that I will keep in mind and try to bring up in discussion with my colleagues and administrators! Thanks for sharing.

theal8r's picture

Does your school allow the students to eat while they are doing the missing work or do they eat first?

Susan Mulcaire's picture
Susan Mulcaire
Author, The Middle School Student's Guide to Ruling the World!

I am all for holding students accountable for homework. I teach work habits, time management and organizational skills and maybe this lunch time study hall also presents an opportunity to spend 5-10 minutes talking to students about these issues. Homework is important because it helps master content, but it is also important because it encourages students to develop consistent and productive work habits, time management and organizational skills -- which are so important for high school and college readiness. Since you have a captive audience anyway, maybe there's a chance to ask them to reflect on what got them there in the first place and suggest some strategies for solving the problem?

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

I have a purple heart on this one- my seventh grader was taking algebra this year but was having a hard time keeping up with all the homework. While he has a 504 for his ADHD and dysgraphia and we were trying to work through the issues, he was not keeping up and making up assignments when he was absent after being sick. We dropped him down to the lower class, and while this scenario is playing out still, some of the problem is that as a young twelve year old, he still doesn't have the frontal lobes or judgment to always do what is expected.
While he was very distraught at going down a level, I think it was the best decision we could have made for him- he is accountable for his action and inactions, and there are real consequences you cannot avoid. That may be the main tough lesson kids need to learn in middle school.

That said, sometimes missing homework is an organizational or material management problem. Kids are doing it, but aren't organized enough to put it in the right folder and hand it in. Then they forget and it's over to them- Kids this age only have two time periods in their mind- NOW and NOT NOW. They are no masters of planning ahead, and that is some of the tough lesson stuff they need to learn.

If it's a paper-based issue- could kids submit their work by email? Then by the date stamp you know exactly when they got it done and submitted- and no chance for anyone to lose the paperwork. Do the kids understand why the homework is important, or is it busywork? Is it (or can it be) meaningful enough to motivate them to do it?

I think we have to look at all these issues including looking at compliance as not so much a defiance issue, but whether or not there's some underlying issue that's contributing to the chronic problem with some students.

(For us on a home perspective, lots of problems were solved by making the place and time homework is done consistent, and that there's a "homework box" with all their supplies, so no one gets lost for 30 minutes looking for a pencil or highlighter.)

Hope that helps.

Nancy Jacobs's picture
Nancy Jacobs
ELL teacher for grades 7-12 at Norfolk, NE.

Our Middle School also held lunchtime study hall for students falling behind. It does work.

This year I'm at the junior high, and on Fridays we have early dismissals so the teachers can work on PLCs. Meanwhile, paras work with students who have work to make up, armed with the list of assignments they must do. The students get the list early on in the week so they can make it up before Friday, if they choose.

Works well. I don't know what happens to the habitual late turner-inners, but the kids certainly don't want to have to stay after school on Friday when everyone else gets out early.

Tralee Johnson Counselor's picture

Edutopia,
Although I work in California, I found this information sheet online from teachers in Nevada about missing homework. I'm posting it to supplement this discussion.
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Homework Club

Homework Club is assigned to students who do not bring their completed math homework to class. The Math Department believes that in order for students to succeed in mathematics and to be prepared for higher-level mathematics classes, students need to practice the topics we are learning in class. Thoughtfully completing assigned homework is an important part of that practice. Students who do not take the initiative to complete their homework before class starts will be expected to attend Homework Club so that the assignment can be successfully completed.

Homework Club will take place daily during lunch. Students not planning on completing homework should bring a sack lunch as they will not have time to stand in a lunch line to get lunch.

Homework Club will be held from 11:40 am to 12:00 pm. The specific classroom will be noted on the Homework Club pass.

During Homework Club, students will complete the assignment that was not turned in that day. Students should bring their notebook, pencil, and textbook to complete their work. If students complete the assignment prior to lunch, they may see their math teacher to be excused from Homework Club. Students with lunch detention will be assigned Homework Club the next day. Students who finish their homework during detention can bring their teacher the assignment and be excused from Homework Club.

Student who wish extra help may come to Homework Club without a pass from their math teacher.

What's the best way to avoid Homework Club? The best way to avoid Homework Club is to complete your assigned homework before class. Students may also complete homework before their assigned Homework Club and show it to their math teacher. Standards of integrity apply! Homework copied from another student will be considered cheating and the students involved will be referred to the Discipline Office.

What happens to students who skip Homework Club? Students who miss Homework Club will be assigned two days of Homework Club to make up for the missed day. Continued absences from Homework Club will result in After School or Lunch Detentions and contact with parents.

Fran Lo's picture
Fran Lo
Teach grades 6 to 12 and teachers of these students

Love the idea! It's very hard to keep kids after school due to logistics (notify parents re: transportation), but at lunch they're already here. And boy do they hate missing lunch!

Jessica Piper's picture

I don't assign homework...students were failing because of time management issues or bad family/home life (no place to do homework or constant fighting at home). I just do what I can during class, and it seems to be just as effective.

My concern has always been that there is too much homework--how much is really necessary to practice the skill? Can they practice the skill in class? Show mastery in class and have no homework? Just a few suggestions...in high-poverty areas, homework is too much of a fight; I'll pick my battles and this is not one I choose to fight.

http://msjessicareeves.edublogs.org

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

I think homework is useful when it's meaningful- can it help put classwork into context? Can students make the classwork demonstrably real for themselves? Or is it drill and kill? Practice is important- people retain more when they use information- but application of learning is just as, if not more, important to making those long term connections as meaning as another page of math problems.

Ryan Birch Birch's picture

Personally, I hate giving homework. What is the purpose of assigning homework? What skill is it teaching our students that they will need later in life? I also disagree with missing homework affecting a student's grade. The grade is supposed to reflect a student's comprehension of the material, not if they can complete their homework or not. Therefore, I try to avoid assigning homework. This also gives me an opportunity to check the comprhension of students while they are in class. For those students who have difficulty keeping up with their homework, my school has an exploratory class called Stressbusters. Students must be recommended by a teacher to enter this class. In it, students are provided an opportunity ti complete missing or late work. A teacher works with them to complete these assignments and to try to remain on track. It has been very effective.

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