Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When is Homework "Finished?"

As a teacher, homework completion is a big topic. Students say they are done or parents believe their child is done. But when is homework "finished?" I like the suggestions Stowell Learning Center comes up with to guide families on homework completion.

Do you ever get into an argument over whether or not homework has been completed?

This seems like an easy question to answer..."Is your homework done?"
In reality, there are lots of ways this question can be misunderstood, mis-answered, or otherwise misinterpreted.
It's even worse when a teacher calls a parent and lets them know that homework hasn't been done for several days (or maybe even several weeks).  It's especially frustrating when parents have made sure to ask if homework is done.
There are only two ways this can happen:
  1. The homework wasn't actually completed
  2. The homework was completed but never found it's way to the teacher
This week we'll deal with the first one of these.  And it brings up an important question:
When is homework done?
Below is a strategy that will help you better define "finished" so that both you and your child have the same understanding.
What Does "Finished" Mean?
It happens everyday.  Your child gets an assignment, does that assignment only to find that what the student thought was "finished," wasn't.
Students may start assignments and then "drift into the ozone" because they do not have a clear picture of what "finished" looks like.   They are busy working, but they aren't too clear as to what they are supposed to accomplish.
You can help your child to understand "what finished looks like" by examining each assignment, then explaining, "You will know you are finished when..." and list the criteria.
For example:  You will know you are finished when...
  • You have completed all 10 math problems and checked them
  • Your name, date, and class period are at the top of your page
When your child is not working, point to the list of criteria you jotted down and simply ask, "I wonder if you completed this assignment based on these criteria." 
I heard about a teacher who used this technique to help students know what a clean desk should look like. 
She took a photograph  of a clean desk and posted it with a caption that said, "You will know your desk is clean if it looks like this." 
Help your child understand what "finished" really means for each assignment, jot it down on a paper or 3x5 card, and then make sure they meet all the criteria for "finished." 

In the long run it will save you lots of frustration. 
I would also add that students should be writing down their homework daily and using the list as a checklist for work completion. Too many students tell me "I forgot" when I check that their agenda is filled in everyday. These students need to go home and open their agenda up to use as a checklist for completion.  

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