Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reducing Homework Stress

(Listen to this post as an mp3 file.)

In 7 Stress Reducing Strategies for Dealing with Homework, Erin King gives some great suggestions for parents to follow in order to help their child become successful with homework. This had me thinking about what teachers could do to help their students reduce stress. Sometimes as a teacher, I take things for granted. I assume that all students have a support system at home but that isn’t always true. Many students come from homes where parents are working more than one job to support the family. These adults do not have the time or the energy to help their children with homework. Though I may feel that school is a priority, I can not control the situations that the students live in. In fact, I can only control my own behavior so if I truly want my students to be successful, I need to think about what I can do to be supportive of my students.

Write it down – Don’t just tell the students what the assignment is but have it written down on the board or the handout. If it is on the board, ask that each student write it down.

Check for Understanding - Explain the homework and have students repeat the directions back in their own words.

Make sure it is legible – if you give a worksheet or written assignment for homework; make sure it can be read easily. I have seen some teachers give sheets with the print so small that you would need a magnifying glass to read it. Others are so hard to read, that you could not make any sense of the sheet. Have students look at the sheet and ask questions if necessary before they leave.

Give Examples – make students have some examples to copy down to refer to when they get home. Parents will appreciate this too so they can see what answer the teacher is expecting.

Have a Rationale – don’t give homework just for busy work. Make sure there is a valid reason for the students to be doing this assignment.

Assess it – there are many different ways to assess this homework. Some may choose to just check that it was done. Others may want to correct it and give an actual grade. It really doesn’t matter how you assess it but most important of all is that you do assess it. If the students see that it isn’t important enough for you to assess, they will not bother to do it or do it correctly.

Give Sincere Praise – when the students turn in homework on time, give plenty of praise. It may not seem like much but for the ones who took the time to do it, they will appreciate it. It always seemed to me that the ones who didn’t do the homework got most of the attention. So. to get the attention, it would make sense not to do the homework. Instead of perpetuating this attitude, reward the hard working students with praise. Hopefully the others will want this attention and actually do the homework.

Can you think of other ways that teachers can relieve homework stress? Please feel free to share!

Original image: 'Stress' http://www.flickr.com/photos/92163630@N00/95509221by: David Friel


Shirley Smith said...

Pat, you hit the nail on the head with "have a rationale." If you ask teachers why they give homework, most will say that it teaches responsibility and reinforces learning. NO research proves either rationale. The check for understanding should be for the learning that was supposed to happen. I have sat in many classrooms where homework was being "reviewed" because so many students either did not do it because they did not know how or they did it incorrectly. Usually such classes took the entire time for students to "unlearn" with little to no time left for new learning. I am with Alfie Kohn when it comes to homework--better to eliminate it all together. See http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/hm.htm. (I am getting SO radical in my old age! :))

Justine said...

Hi Pat, I'd love to see the word HomeWORK eliminated and replaced with HomeLEARNING. Work is something you do for other people Learning is something we do for ourselves.

I have seen this terminology successfully used, replacing Homework for Homelearning and with students taking responsiblity more with their homelearning. Parents also picked up on the term and the "image" of homework was seen as more postive when you are putting the responsibility on the student that they are Learners.

Of course I must agree there needs to be a rationale "why am I doing this?" along with "what will it achieve?". Work habits to prepare students for later study is important and by giving HomeLearning a more positive connotation is a great way of starting this I believe.

Travis said...

Rationale is crucial and you have stated it as so. Nice. Another blogger has also posted on homework this month and I see much in the way of similar thinking between you two. I am pleased that thoughtful teachers like you two exist.


And Shirley, I love Kohn. I agree, better to eliminate unless it is an activity that extends the knowledge. Work for work sake just at home, lame.

loonyhiker said...

Shirley Smith: Thanks for the link! I will have to check that out. I am the person that thinks it teaches responsibility but only if the students know how to do the work and it is good practice, not for the sake of just giving them something to do. I like the idea of giving lectures for them to listen to at home so work can be done with the teacher instead of the other way around.

loonyhiker said...

Justine: I like that new terminology. I think I will start using that too!

loonyhiker said...

Travis: Thanks for the link to the homework post. I enjoyed reading it especially since I agreed with it! :) Thanks for reading my blog too!