Homework is still considered an integral part of the learning process in schools. After all, it has benefits for both teachers and pupils. Students – while they may not always enjoy working outside of the classroom – always learn a valuable lesson about managing heavy workloads independently. Meanwhile, homework allows teachers to further assess their pupils based on their understanding of the subject, skills to succeed, and attitude towards education. If you are currently teaching in the UK, you can enjoy these benefits just by making sure that you have the right approach to setting and managing homework. Here are seven top tips that will help you get started.
1. Establish a firm routine
Homework shouldn’t be sporadic or random. Instead, your pupils should quickly learn that it’s part of their routine. This means that you should set it with some sort of consistency and work to establish a pattern. A great way to start would be to decide how many hours should be completed each week (a figure that will vary depending on the age group you’re teaching). In addition, the work should be spread across both evenings and weekends. Don’t forget, lack of a routine might cause pupils to struggle with managing their homework and lead to it remaining incomplete.
2. Gather parents’ support
Parents must be clued up when it comes to homework. You can accomplish this by letting mums and dads know – perhaps with a letter or an email – that you’ll be setting regular out-of-hours work and that you expect it to be completed to a high standard. The best way to gain parents’ support is by proposing an amount that everyone will deem reasonable. From this point onwards, you should keep mums and dads in the loop when their children are failing to complete the agreed amount of homework and let them know how they can help.
3. Avoid overnight homework
It’s best to steer clear of setting homework to be completed overnight. For starters, it doesn’t give pupils a chance to approach you for help in between if they are unsure about how to tackle the project. Secondly, you’ll be making a somewhat unrealistic assumption that your students have spare time during that night to devote to homework. Some pupils may have other commitments – such as a family occasion to attend or a dance lesson that’s already been paid for – that would mean they’re too stretched to complete the work in the space of just one evening.
4. Don’t dawdle with marking
Homework is a two-way street and the rules are quite clear: pupils complete it and teachers mark it. This is why it can be problematic if you dawdle on the marking and subsequently create the illusion that you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. Of course, teachers often find themselves pressed for time and forced with juggling different tasks. However, you should make every effort to ensure that homework doesn’t remain unmarked for days on end or else you could send the message that it doesn’t really matter.
5. Collect homework in the morning
You should try to collect homework promptly at the first opportunity you get. If you don’t, you could find that some of your pupils are completing it throughout the day – including at break time, during lunch hour and when you’re teaching at the front of the class. This won’t just mean that the students could fall behind with the syllabus, it can also be demoralising for others who have sacrificed their free time to complete the work and they could begin to ponder whether it’s worth holding off on their own homework in future.
6. Reward effort
Pupils who have clearly put in a lot of effort with their homework should be rewarded regularly. The individual doesn’t necessarily have to have done an amazing job as long as it’s clear that they have tried to work independently and devoted time to the project. Whichever avenue you go down – whether it’s giving out gold stars or sending letters of praise to parents – the reward should always encourage pupils to continue devoting the same amount of effort to their homework.
7. Consequences for lack of effort
There should be consequences for those students who have failed to complete their homework or have clearly rushed through it. The best punishment is usually to issue an after-school detention in which the individual will be made to have a second attempt at the project. The best form of discipline will always make pupils think twice about whether it’s worth skipping their homework in future and instil in them that there are consequences for those who don’t try hard.