9 Effective Ways to Motivate Your Students to Do Homework
In this post, we will address the problems of assigning homework and suggest nine solutions for each one.
HERE ARE SOME CHALLENGES TEACHERS FACE CONCERNING HOMEWORK:
- Students don’t do it, so why assign it? It becomes too much of a headache to keep harassing the kids to do it.
- Students cheat, so they’re not learning anyway. They copy from someone else the first few minutes of class.
- Research shows homework doesn’t aid in language acquisition.
- When students don’t do homework, it lowers their grade disproportionately.
- Students don’t understand the homework, so they don’t do it.
- Students find the homework boring.
- Students don’t understand why they must do homework.
- Students don’t feel it’s worth it to do the homework.
- Students do homework but they lose it.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOUR STUDENTS TO DO HOMEWORK?
If you keep assigning homework, but no one does it, it seems pointless to keep assigning it. Why not make life easier on yourself and just not assign it? Besides, it feels like I’m working WAY harder than the students to motivate them to perform. What’s the point?
Here’s the point: It’s the students’ job to figure out how far to push past the boundaries. It’s MY job to show them exactly where those boundaries are and just how firm they are, i.e., IN CONCRETE.
For example: If I say, “You must raise your hand to speak unless I give the cue to answer in chorus,” that means I completely ignore any comments made with hands in laps. Or, I give a previously agreed upon consequence if it is too obvious. Students soon learn that, to be heard, they must raise their hands.
Likewise, if I say, “You must do the homework,” and the students don’t do it, that means they come in at lunch to do it. Either way, they do it. They decide when and where they do it. I call it “tutorial.” Some students prefer this because they would rather be with me than with fellow students and/or they like the support.
“Wait!!! I have to give up my lunch period? I’m already stretched to the limit!”
That’s what I said when I asked an exemplary teacher at my school how he got students to do the homework. He said, “Any time you help students, it comes out of your hide.”
STUDENTS CHEAT, SO THEY’RE NOT LEARNING ANYWAY
It’s true. SOME students cheat. They copy, word-for-word the homework of their friends. Cell phones make that even easier these days. Or, they rush into class, grab a peer’s work, and copy it before class begins. How do you deal with that? What’s the point of assigning homework if students don’t benefit from the process?
I have two ways of handling this dilemma. First, I have a homework basket right by the entry door. Students are required to put their homework in the basket on their way into class. I give them 30 seconds leeway after the bell rings. I make a huge show of clicking the timer and counting the seconds. If the homework doesn’t make it into the basket on time, I return it to the student. And I’m consistent. No exceptions.
If a student comes in late, he hands me his homework then.
GRADING FOR COMPLETION VS. FOR QUALITY
As students are doing the bell work, my T.A. or I quickly scan the homework for completion only. If it is complete, I give it a check. If it is half complete, I write, “1/2.” If it looks like they did it on the way to school in the car, (two sentences) I hand it back.
My solution for the home cheaters is the following: I have a pizza party for my T.A.s during which I train them how to correct tests and homework. I show them how to look for papers that are word-for-word the same. If they find them, they alert me, and I give the students zeros. Then I call home and inform the parent of the academic fraud. A hassle, for sure, but, after a while, it becomes less frequent.
You don’t have T.As.? You don’t have QUALITY T.A.s? If you’d like to know how to get quality assistants, click on the following link: End of the School Tip that will Make Next Year Better If your school doesn’t allow T.A.s to correct homework, grade for completion only or grade for completion and accuracy, checking for copycats while you are scanning (not too effective but better than nothing.)
Of course, I have to deal with the denials of academic fraud, but that is another issue. If you’d like to read about how I deal with that, click on the following link: How to Keep Students from Using Google Translate
RESEARCH SHOWS HOMEWORK DOESN’T AID IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Very suspect research. It does not match my empirical results. I doubt it takes into account the TYPE of homework assigned or the accountability once it is assigned. Of course, homework will not aid in acquisition if it is boring drill work or if students aren’t held accountable to do it.
When assigning homework, I make sure students are reading and writing language in context and have visuals or comprehensible input frequently. That doesn’t mean I NEVER assign a repetitive, boring task, but I do try to assign homework that leads students to proficiency. In the examples below, students write the Spanish word for each item and change the ridiculous sentences to logical ones.
Lastly, if students are held accountable for the QUALITY of their work, they will enjoy the benefits of their labors. How does a busy teacher accomplish that?
I’ll explain my convoluted solution with a caveat; I don’t recommend it for everyone. It requires trained assistants and it’s a bit complicated. It worked for me, though.
After students turned their homework into the basket and I (or my T.A.) corrected it for completion, my student volunteer handed it back to the owners.
Then, students traded with their homework partners (assigned the third week of school), and the partners corrected the homework. The correctors must not only circle incorrect answers, they must also write in the correct answers. I model and practice with students how to do this.
I tell students they will be graded in two areas: how well they did the homework, and how well they corrected their partner’s paper.
Students turn in the homework and my well-trained assistants grade it twice, first for quality, then, for accurate correcting. If the corrector missed too many errors, he/she receives only 17 points.
So, the homework is graded once for completion, and once for accuracy.
My experience contradicts the above-mentioned research. Students who did the homework became proficient. Students who didn’t, didn’t.
WHEN STUDENTS DON’T DO HOMEWORK, IT LOWERS THEIR GRADE DISPROPORTIONATELY
If students are discouraged, particularly students who lack motivation to begin with, they will unplug completely. I don’t want that to happen. Three missed homework assignments converts to three zeros in the grade book. My department’s homework category is valued at 20%. Now the students have Ds or Fs.
I deal with this issue by giving students 50 out of 100 instead of zeros. They still get an F for not turning in homework, but it doesn’t dramatically affect their grade.
STUDENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND THE HOMEWORK SO THEY DON’T DO IT
It’s hard to motivate students to do homework they feel incapable of doing. If they don’t understand it, they won’t do it, of course. Here is my solution:
- I never assign a task until we have thoroughly practiced the concept in class first. I have changed the homework many times when I realized students had not had sufficient time to master a concept or to hear enough language in context.
- I always leave five or ten minutes at the end of class to explain the homework and MODEL it for students. By modeling it, I mean doing one or two questions together. Sometimes I even let students begin in class and I walk around to help them. This kick-starts them so the task doesn’t seem so intimidating. Reserving that time fights against my desire to cover the material since I’m always behind, but it is necessary.
HOW TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS TO DO HOMEWORK
If homework is boring, students will be less motivated to do it. One way to solve that issue is to give choices of tasks that accomplish the same goal. Sometimes I say, “Do this… or do that.” Some teachers have choice boards. For example, here’s a Homework Choice List created by Musicuentos.
When students have a choice of what to do, they are more inclined to do it. Also, this way, they can do the task that works their strengths. For example, an artistic kid may choose to draw the vocabulary items rather than labeling pictures.
STUDENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY HAVE TO DO HOMEWORK
If students regard homework as busy-work, they will not want to do it. At the beginning of the year, I tell students I highly value homework and, therefore, it is worth 20% of their grade.
I also tell them, “There is not enough time during class to give you the amount of language in context you need for you to acquire the language. Research has shown you need TONS of language input and almost daily exposure to the language before you can become proficient.”
WHAT TO DO WHEN A STUDENT REFUSES TO DO HOMEWORK
Some students won’t do homework because they feel it’s not worth it. They work for 20-30 minutes a night, and the teacher doesn’t even review the homework the following day.
Students need feedback for two reasons:
- They need to know the mistakes they made so they can improve.
- They need to feel recognized for their efforts.
I always go over the homework and I always grade the homework.
In addition, students will not be motivated to work on a task that will not affect their grade. When my homework category was worth 10%, many students didn’t bother doing it, and they told me why. That’s why I value it at 20% or more.
STUDENTS LOSE THEIR HOMEWORK
Disorganization is a constant struggle for many students. (And for ME! My DNA is missing the organization gene.) I help students stay organized by requiring they keep a binder with a special section for their homework. This is part of their notebook which is checked periodically for the required pages. If you would like to know more about how to keep students organized and accountable, read the following post: Interactive Notebooks in the World Language Classroom
And this post: Why You Should Use Interactive Notebooks in World Language
Don’t want to spend time creating and grading your own homework or tests? I have homework handouts, worksheets, and quizzes for every concept for Spanish One, Two, and Three with tons of autocorrecting Google Forms activities, too. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Here are the links:
How do you motivate your students to do homework? Should world language teachers assign homework? Does it help students become proficient? I believe we should assign it and it does benefit the students when they are held accountable for the quality of their work, when they understand why they should do it, and when they are set up to succeed.
I hope some of these ideas will work for your students and will help you solve the homework dilemma.
Want to learn more about how to motivate your students to do homework? Read this post by Success by Design Inc.
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