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How to Assign Homework for Great Results

How to Assign Homework for Great Results

Homework? No one wants to do homework! There is a skill to assigning homework that can help your students retain and learn information. Successful homework strategies should be on their way to completion before your students ever leave the room. There are many things you can keep in mind when assigning homework to ensure your students’ success.

• Make sure the assignment length and difficulty is appropriate for the age of your students. One rule of thumb is that very young children should have no more than 15-20 minutes of homework a night (all subjects combined), students in grades 4-7 should have less than an hour (all subjects combined), and secondary students should have no more than 2 hours a night (all subjects combined). An alternative rule of thumb is that there should be no more than 10 minutes per grade level each night. For example, third grades have no more than 30 minutes, fifth graders no more than 50 minutes, etc.

• Follow your district’s homework policy, or make sure that your own policy is in line with that of other teachers in your school.

• At the start of the year, spend some class time each day for several days discussing how you want assignments completed. Practice together so that students can be confident about your expectations and their own ability to do the assignments correctly.

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• Teach study skills every day so that your students can complete their work with less anxiety.

• Have a well-structured schedule for homework so that students can anticipate assignments. If you give your students a syllabus, you can avoid many homework-related problems.

• If you teach young students, make sure they put the work in their take home folders and actually take it home with them. Older students need time to write the assignment into an agenda or assignment planner.

• Inform parents and absent students of assignments by using the technology available at your school. Update your homework voice mail and your class Web page if you have one. Use a syllabus when appropriate. If you would like an electronic template of a sample homework letter for parents, please e-mail Julia at

• Spend enough time going over the assignment and checking for understanding so that students comfortable about how to do their work. Show examples, estimate how long it will take to complete, offer suggestions, and explain your expectations so that they know how to succeed.

• Don’t wait until the last few minutes of class to assign homework. If you want students to take it seriously, it should not be a last-minute item. Instead, many teachers take a three-step approach. 1)Have it posted on the board when they arrive and go over it as they copy it. 2)Discuss it as part of the lesson. 3)Review it at the end of class.

• Use varied modalities when giving directions. It is a good idea to write the directions on the board or some other easy way for students to see them, go over those directions orally, have students record them in an assignment book, ask a student to recap the directions, and, at the end of class, go over them one more time.

Adapted from The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide

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