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Lesson Plan Booster: How Can We Improve Homework?

This guide can be used in any class to help generate ideas for homework that students will not dread. The discussion is designed so that student input helps shape future assignments.

Grade level

5-12

Student learning objective

Realize that homework can be a fun extension of class. Come up with creative ideas, take a leadership role and participate in the democratic process.

Preparation

Teachers should start by thinking about how their homework assignments are designed. Most homework consists of a uniform task assigned to a group of students who, experts agree, all learn differently. It can be a challenge to develop assignments adapted to different learning styles, but it can be rewarding, too. Engage other teachers to get their ideas. A good resource is HomeworkLady.com, maintained by Dr. Cathy Vatterott, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Very few people like to be dictated to, and students are no different. For this reason, consider what kind of explanation you might be able to provide with future homework assignments—for example, why students are being given a particular assignment and how it will help with the overall lesson.

Think about feasible ways that you might give students more control over their assignments. For example, rather than have a quiz about a reading selection to see if the kids read it, ask them to summarize each section and react to the reading. Give them a choice of either writing a summary or drawing a summary. Ask them for creative ideas for learning multiplication tables, which they can then share with the class.

Introducing discussion to students

I want us to figure out together how we can make homework assignments more helpful in this class. Everyone’s opinions matter, because not everyone learns in quite the same way, and what might be a good homework assignment for you might not be great for another person. Let’s be really creative and have a good brainstorm session. I will try my best to use some of your ideas in future homework assignments.

Options for student discussion questions

  1. What is the best homework assignment you’ve had in this class, and why?
  2. In this class, from what assignment or type of assignment have you learned the least? The most? Why do you think this was the case?
  3. What makes a homework assignment useful? A waste of time? Interesting? Boring?
  4. How would you revise a “waste of time” assignment to improve it?
  5. Here is a past homework assignment from this class [teacher describes]. How could this assignment be adapted (changed) so that we would be learning the same thing, but in a different way (e.g., using listening or speaking skills rather than reading skills, using art skills along with writing skills, giving students a chance to create or perform something, etc.)?
  6. Is an assignment more useful when you receive an explanation regarding why you received it?
  7. If you were teaching this class, what kind of homework would you assign, and why?
  8. [Teacher describes an upcoming lesson.] How can we design a homework assignment that would be really helpful in terms of this topic/lesson?

Related resources

Breaking the Homework Habit
Homework Takes a Hit!

 

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World®
Copyright © 2011 Education World

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