Homework can enhance the work of the classroom or bring the problems of the classroom home.
The Value of Homework
Thoughtful and well-constructed homework can:
- Help students recall and review classroom work
- Extend understanding of classroom work
- Provide individualized material not shared by the entire class, whether for extension or review
- Move students towards independence
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the “NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress” report, 17-year-olds who spent 2 or more hours on homework the previous day scored higher than teens who had 1-2 hours of homework; and they, in turn, scored higher than teens who did no homework the previous day.
The Pitfalls of Homework
Poorly-conceived and poorly-regulated homework can:
- be tedious and boring, while offering the student little for his/her efforts
- interfere with leisure/home activities
- be frustrating if not geared for the child’s abilities and developmental level
- be insufficient to help the student toward mastery
Types of Homework
The United States Department of Education’s (USDE) guide “Homework Tips for Parents” categorizes four types of homework:
- practice, in which students review and reinforce what they’ve already learned
- preparation, in which students meet material that will be developed more fully in the future
- extension, in which skills or strategies or knowledge are applied in new situations
- integration, in which diverse skills, strategies, and/or knowledge are combined in new ways
Types of Homework Assistance
Parents may be called upon, or see the need, to provide various kinds of support in assisting their teen without completing work on the teen’s behalf. Examples include:
- Providing a comfortable, quiet, well-lit location in which homework can be done
- Providing materials and supplies as necessary – from a calculator to poster board
- Modeling a particular approach, skill, strategy
- Identifying a useful resource to employ in a particular situation
- Checking work or proofreading
- Being interviewed for assignments
- Taking the teen to a library or other location for research purposes
- Helping make an acceptable family choice if the teen is asked to, for example, watch a news show on television or some other program.
- Making time-management suggestions, for daily work as well as for long-term projects, including the use of a daily assignment book or calendar
- Explaining material that is not clear to the teen either from class or from a textbook
- Check computer sites for appropriateness and reliability as information sources.
- Homework Supplies
Pens, pencils, paper – lined, plain, and graphing – a calculator, a stapler, a protractor and ruler – these are some of the traditional items that often are needed by teens doing their homework. They may also need a place to type or word process.
- Homework References
Particularly in situations involving extension and integration, a student’s access to references and other resources may be crucial to accomplishing the homework assignment. This may be as simple as having access to an age-appropriate dictionary, or require searching for and evaluating a variety of sources available in different locales. Access to a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia – whether accesses as books, on a CD-Rom, or on-line – is appropriate, and likely necessary, for every teen.
- Library Access
Most libraries have many valuable resources:
- a wide array of reference books for different levels and purposes
- a wide variety of approved sources – books, periodicals, and journals – for research
- Interlibrary loan, through which any book available in a public library anywhere in the U.S. may be borrowed (this may take some time, but is very useful)
- access to computers on which teens can conduct on-line research
- Computer References
Whether accessed at home or at a library, web references can be useful and/or problematic, depending on what they are.
- Assignments may indicate the number and nature of acceptable Internetsources allowable for a research project. Often students are required to use a combination of Internet and published sources.
- Teens should be aware that not every posting on the Internet has valid, true information. They should use reliable sources and double-check what they find.
Internet sites to avoid include the following:
- Web paper mills – whether they claim they are models or for instructional purposes or not – sell or trade papers with students, supplying work that is not theirs for them to turn
- Free note/book summary sites provide information so that students can write term or research papers or essays for literature classes and others without actually having read the assigned material and done the work.
Using work that is not one’s own is plagiarism.
The USDE provides several pages of support materials for parents helping with homework:
Homework Help Sources:
- ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/homework/part.html pdf (homework tips for parents)