When students get home after a long day at school, homework is usually the last thing they want to do. For parents, getting their children to complete homework can be an exhausting and stressful task. So what’s a teacher to do? Homework can’t be eliminated entirely.
But, there are ways to make it more fun and exciting for both parents and their children. To take a fresh approach to homework and energize your students, follow these 10 easy tips for making homework more engaging.
One of the reasons students become disengaged with homework is because they find it to be pointless. Providing students with an emotional or personal connection to homework can boost engagement.
Education consultant and speaker Rick Wormeli suggests that teachers provide more choices when assigning homework. For example, have students choose which problems to do (odd or even) or provide a choice of several prompts. Another idea is to have students choose to work with partners, or on their own. When students have choice, they become more connected to what’s at stake and homework becomes more engaging.
The things we think inside of our heads tends to differ from what we say out loud. This is also true for learning and doing homework. Spending too much time on work that’s simply completed and graded can feel monotonous. Instead, help students find real world context in their work by encouraging them to share aloud.
The Educator, a resource for teachers, adds that reading and discussing homework with an audience helps a student understand the work in a different way. It also provides parents and other family members with an opportunity to engage in what the student is learning. This opens up room for dialogue and debate that can make someone dig deeper into the ideas that their homework is presenting.
Switch Things Up
There are varying perspectives on how to assign homework. However, one truth about homework remains true: it should never introduce new ideas.
Educational scientist and teacher Helen Silvester says that homework is meant to reinforce ideas learned in class. New concepts can cause confusion and frustration, and make it harder for students to learn at a rate equal to their peers. To make homework engaging, even when it is a reiteration of daily lessons, teachers can select work that’s relevant to student interests and values. Therefore, students have an opportunity to explore the same common theme through fresh new pathways that excite and inspire.
Altering the Homework Concept
Many students consider homework to be a burden. But what if we changed the concept of homework all together? This is exactly what’s proposed by education writer Darci Maxwell. She explains that homework is full of negative connotations. These ideas begin at an early age and tend to continue throughout college.
Teachers can transform these thought patterns by using other terms to describe homework. Terms like home learning, brain exercises and study time are all better ways to talk about homework. In the classroom, you can try replacing the word homework with these terms.
Most students enjoy engaging in creative thinking. Help make homework more fun and relaxing by adding art-focused assignments to the mix.
One idea is to give students options to draw, write a song, or play an instrument in response to a certain book. Chris Cotter, director at Alpros, a language school in Japan, adds that students can also prepare a short role play to perform in class. This would require students to research the characters and places they’re assigned. In addition to making it more personal, this project encourages kids to step outside of their comfort zones.
Sitting at the kitchen table doing homework isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, doing homework in the same location every day can cause disinterest and boredom. Switch it up by encouraging kids and parents to take homework on an adventure.
The Talented Ladies Club, an inspirational resource for working moms, says one idea is to pop into a local coffee shop. Working outside in the garden or on the porch can also make homework more interesting. Parents can stay involved by bringing a craft or work of their own outside. Teachers can inspire and encourage students by setting challenges in the classroom. Students can then share their homework adventure stories in class to generate excitement for learning amongst peers.
Engage the Senses
Another way to mix up the same old, same old is to engage new senses in the at-home learning process. Parenting writer Erica Loop says that engaging a child’s sense of touch, smell or taste in a different way can actually help them focus better.
For example, sending students home with a recipe for scented play dough can boost learning directly and indirectly. The dough can be incorporated into lessons, like math and spatial visual concepts, plus the citrus scent (in this case) helps keep children alert while they work. It also allows them to associate the odor with something they learned, boosting memory and recall.
Stress balls are another element that teachers can send students home with. Using a stress ball before, during or after assignments can help a student think more creatively and reduce anxiety in a healthy way.
Create Breaks and Intervals
Some students may be able to complete all of their homework in one sitting. For those students who can’t sit still, consider incorporating breaks into the homework process.
Peg Dawson, a psychologist at Seacoast Mental Health Center, explains that breaks can be incorporated into weekly learning schedules. Breaks can include getting a snack, playing one level on a video game, or chatting with a friend. Teachers can discuss these ideas with parents and students to help set the tone for when and how homework breaks are taken.
This works in two key ways. First, it gives students a reward for completing their homework. Second, it offers a mental break so that they can return to their work feeling refreshed and engaged.
Offering incentives in the classroom is nothing new. However, these techniques aren’t often brought to the concept of homework. And while some parents may create their own rewards (as mentioned above), teachers aren’t always informed about what’s being offered and whether or not it’s working. Creating in-classroom incentives is a smart alternative.
Beth Frueh, creator of the blog Adventures of a Schoolmarm, offers a unique way to incentivize students. She suggests providing coupons, which students earn by completing their homework. These coupons include rewards like sitting next to a friend in class, time on the computer and free time in the classroom. When students associate homework completion with positive, in-classroom experiences, it’ll boost their engagement both inside and outside the classroom.
Quality over Quantity
Teachers become accustomed to assigning a certain amount of homework each day, week and month. In turn, students get used to this cadence and sometimes focus too much on getting things done in a sloppy manner. Instead of encouraging a quantity over quality approach, focusing on longer, higher quality assignments can boost engagement.
For example, you might switch over to less daily homework assignments and one long term project due on a weekly or monthly basis. Learning service provider Angela Stockman explains that more time allows room for deeper revision work, which is better for overall learning. She also says that hobbies are as important as learning, whether in the classroom or at home, and less daily homework can allow children to develop important skills in music, sports or the arts.
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