A Simple, Effective Homework Plan For Teachers: Part 2

In part one of this two-part series on homework, we covered four strategies:

1. Assign what students already know.

2. Don’t involve parents.

3. Review before the end of the day.

4. Confront students who don’t have completed homework.

This week, we’ll finish the series with the final four strategies. At the end of the article, I’m going to issue a challenge—including a way to earn a free book.

Homework Strategies 5-8

5. Don’t collect it.

Most teachers collect homework.

Why? What are you going to do with it? Grade it and return it? Correct it so your students can analyze it later? Slap a sticker on it?

Collecting homework is a waste of time. Here’s why:

  • Upon return, nearly all students will stuff it in their desk or backpack and not give it another thought.
  • Returning it the next day–after you’ve moved on to the next lesson–is too late to be any benefit to students.
  • Homework is practice only and therefore shouldn’t be graded beyond a simple credit/no credit.

6. Partner check.

Instead of collecting it, have your students pair up and cross check their answers. Why? Because it adds ownership, motivation, and accountability to homework. It also deepens comprehension and is done before the next lesson–when it really matters.

If there is a discrepancy in answers, the students must work out who is right and why.

During this time, if there is a student whose homework is incomplete (rare, see strategies 1-4), he or she must begin work on it immediately and may not participate in the partner activity.

When your students are finished, allow for questions and be ready to provide further explanation.

7. Throw it away.

It’s done. You squeezed all the learning you needed from it. Now it’s time to throw the homework away. There is no reason to keep it, and pitching it in the trash underscores the importance of practice—which is an often-overlooked key to academic success.

It’s also an opportunity to have some fun. So grab a wastepaper basket and place it on a chair or desk in front of the room. Ask your students to crumble up their homework, and on your signal, shoot it at the basket.

Afterward, draw a crumbled ball or two from the basket and give out a simple prize—a sticker, first to line up, 15 seconds early for recess, whatever. This isn’t done as an incentive, mind you.

It’s done because it makes your classroom more fun, which is critical to effective classroom management.

8. Double it.

Any student who comes to school without homework completed, and doesn’t get it finished during partner check, must do it at home that evening along with the homework assigned for the day.

It is homework. And, sorry, but we’re busy learning today.

So the only time he or she can do it is at home. In the morning both homework assignments are due.

If a student comes to you and asks if it can be done during recess, it’s up to you. However, I’m not in favor of sending students to recess time-out.

If you decide to give your students the option of doing it during recess, I recommend you supervise them yourself in class and that you don’t accept the homework until the next morning.

A Challenge!

I challenge you to try this homework plan to begin the new school year.

If it doesn’t make your life easier, and you’re not thrilled with the improved learning and motivation in your students, email me and I’ll send you a free copy of any of my books.

Although, having seen this homework plan in action, I probably won’t believe you.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

, , , , ,

27 Responses to A Simple, Effective Homework Plan For Teachers: Part 2

  1. Lisa August 7, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I was wondering have you had safe and civil schools CHAMPS training by Randy Sprick? I just completed a 2 day training, and I feel everything I was ever taught to do is now obsolete. I was just curious what your thought on this were!

    • Michael Linsin August 7, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      Sorry, I haven’t heard of it.

      Michael

  2. Shauna Whitney August 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I have a question regarding strategy #8: Double it. What do you do if the student doesn’t return/complete both homework assignments the next day?

    • Michael Linsin August 8, 2010 at 7:24 am #

      Hi Shauna,

      If you follow the first four strategies, and I encourage you to go back and read them, it shouldn’t happen. Done correctly, they provide irresistible motivation for students to complete homework. However, if it happens, then three assignments are due. If you follow the strategies, Shauna, you’ve done your part. At some point it’s up to the students and out of your hands. Coddling, encouraging, pep-talks, etc. won’t work.

      If you lose a student, and he or she is refusing to do homework, then that is a different problem altogether. He or she cannot be a welcome member of your class any longer. Read the series on handling difficult students (right sidebar, near the bottom) for how to do this.

      Michael

  3. Bobbi Whitlow March 18, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    I am eager to try all 8 strategies tomorrow. I am skeptical, though. My students are inner-city minority kids who rarely manage to get their homework out the door. If they do there’s a good chance they have no space/tools/atmosphere in there home to do their homework. Is there any advice you can give me to remove those excuses from the list of excuses in the morning? I know they would be thrilled to trash it in the end.

    • Michael Linsin March 18, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Bobbi,

      Like all strategies on this website, the homework plan was developed and proven effective with disadvantaged students. One of the core philosophies of Smart Classroom Management is that there are no excuses, from the teacher managing the classroom to the students who we know can do the work. This attitude must permeate everything you do in the classroom. It is indeed possible to get homework back from all of your students every morning, but you have to believe it and know that it’s true before you can expect it from your students. It must become just the way things are done in your classroom.

      Michael

  4. Jeri Scheve May 20, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    This year In my first grade classroom I did weekly homework packets instead of nightly homework. Students were given packets of review work on Monday and they were due on Friday. The majority of the class turned them in but there was the same 2 or 3 who rarely had it done. I was wondering what you thought of weekly packets instead of nightly and I was wanting your comments on whether you feel homework is effective/necessary at first grade?

    • Michael Linsin May 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Hi Jeri,

      I’m not a fan of weekly homework packets. I think it’s something that needs to be checked daily. I’ll be sure to write about this topic in the future. As for your second question, I think homework can be beneficial (to a degree) for first grade as long as it’s review and doesn’t take long to complete.

      :)Michael

  5. Mike June 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Hello Mr. Linsin.
    I work in an experimental school where all work is done through email. We use little to no paper. The problem is that students have a built-in excuse: they can simply say they lost their internet connection or had other technology issues. Sometimes the files get corrupted on their USB drives. My question is, should I force a student who “lost” his or her data to re-do the homework during step 6?

    • Michael Linsin June 9, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Hi Mike,

      If a student doesn’t have his or her homework, whatever the reason, it still must get done. So, yes, absolutely. Part of the learning with homework is in the responsibility. You may, however, want to require students who claim to have lost their data or have other tech issues to bring a note from parents. My guess is that this would be an exceedingly rare occurrence.

      Michael

  6. Melanie August 15, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    My school year starts next week, and I just found your articles on homework. I plan to implement these eight steps in my high school classroom. My question is, when a student turns the assignment in late, do you recommend still giving them full credit on a credit/no credit grade?

    • Michael Linsin August 15, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Melanie,

      No, I don’t recommend giving full credit for late homework. Depending on your students and their grade level, however, you may want to consider 1/2 credit for late homework.

      Michael

  7. fazal October 5, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    its nice to go through the tips regarding home work need a long discussion and debate to improve it

  8. Mendy January 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I recently began asking my students to get their tests signed by their parents. Quite a number of boys don’t bring it the next day; a few don’t bring it all.
    I think the main cause is a lack of responsibility (something I’ve seen come up quite often). Maybe 1 or 2 students are embarrassed to show their parents.
    The only strategies which seem relevant to this are 3 and 4. Is there anything else you’d suggest?
    Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin January 28, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Hi Mendy,

      It comes down to how much they have respect for you. The better rapport, and the more trusting relationship, and the more they admire, respect, and look up to you, the fewer problems like the one you describe. As you get better in this one area, you’ll have greater leverage–and then everything becomes much easier.

      Michael

  9. Bethany May 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Michael,

    I love your website! One question about homework: isn’t one of the main purposes of homework assessment for learning? If it is not collected, how else do you suggest teachers getting hard data on student progress (other than summative assessment scores)?

    • Michael Linsin May 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Hi Bethany,

      I believe homework should be used for practice. It grooves and solidifies learning that has already taken place. Although it can give teachers feedback, I don’t think it should be used as an assessment–for many reasons. Your data should come from a controlled environment (teacher speak for your classroom) to make sure it’s an accurate assessment of what your students can do. There is a lot more to this, and if it fits, I’ll write an article about it in the future.

      Michael

  10. CJ July 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Hi ya…
    Is this geared toward elementary students?
    Wondering how it would work in middle school?
    THanks!

    • Michael Linsin July 9, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      Hi CJ,

      Smart Classroom Management is for all K-8 grade teachers. However, on the upper and lower ends of that spectrum, expect to make some small but mostly obvious modifications.

      :)Michael

  11. Christina July 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    I am a middle school math teacher. I have a question about throwing homework away. It sounds like so much fun and I really would like my kids to do it. However, we are using an online program, Zangle, to enter their assignments (homework, assessments, etc) that the students can see and check. I sometimes make mistakes on entering in grades and would like to have them keep their homework to make sure I entered it correctly. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin July 27, 2013 at 7:21 am #

      Hi Christina,

      If you follow the series guidelines on how to check homework, then you don’t have to ask your students to keep it (because you’ll check it right in front of them).

      :)Michael

  12. Surf January 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Personally, I think these tips are great, but I wouldn’t mind having that free book either because, hey, free book.

    And who doesn’t love free books?

  13. Heng June 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    I am a new teacher just getting my ABCTE certification. How do you handle students who are absent for legitimate reasons? Do you require them make up all the homework they miss? How do you help them catching up? Thanks a ton!

    I will certainly use your hw policy. Do you have a deadline for late hw after which no credit is given?

    • Michael Linsin June 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

      Hi Heng,

      I’ll put your questions related to absences on the list of possible future topics. As for your final question, students either have it or they don’t. The deadline is first thing in the morning.

      Michael

  14. Dan September 4, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Throw homework away?? Think I would get into some serious trouble if I couldn’t prove to leadership that homework was being done.

    Also self or peer marking that often? again would get me into some serious hot water, with SLT saying I wasn’t doing my job correctly.