Question Detail

Getting students to do homework.

May 5, 2013 11:12pm

Often, the success, or lack thereof, of any given day's lesson is contingent upon the students' coming to class prepared with their homework done and minds ready to participate. Do you have any ideas on motivating students to do their best work and to come to class prepared?

  • English Language Arts
  • 9-12
  • Behavior


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    • May 7, 2013 6:41pm


      I find the most helpful thing is to think about why you are assigning each homework assignment and then explain to the students why they need to do it. If you don't have a good reason why they have to complete the assignment, or if it doesn't align to standards, then don't assign it. Once students have shown proficiency on certain standards, repeating problems may not be important, so as Eric said, having a frank discussion with the students about why the assignments are important is super helpful. Then, when you assign the work, they will be more likely to do it.

      Good luck!

      • Jan 5, 2014 2:10am

        I've been teaching English/Reading for some twenty years now. I understand many kids I teach have major issues which prevent them from working at home... jobs, care for siblings or their own children, homes which do not value education, non-native English speakers, ADHD, ADD, being several years below your current enrollment, dyslexic, ED, a partridge in a pear tree, etc...

        I have tried to be understanding to my Freshmen as the change from middle to high school is often fraught with soooo many changes for the kids.

        Here's my 'beef'.

        I give additional time for work.

        I give timelines for when assignments are do...way in advance of the scheduled due dates/

        I offer Open Book assignments and tests.

        I extend deadlines. I have extra copies of assignments for when papers may be lost or misplaced.

        I offer additional time before and after school to work either with me or with technology needed for an assignment. (access to computers.)

        I give extra credit for work done before deadlines.

        I offer choices so few students feel constricted to 'have to do' one kind of essay prompt or paper.

        I modify work for my students and often the homework I give can be completed in class if a student applies themselves to the task.

        I send email reminders of due dates and post signs in the halls and my classroom.

        Anywho, I think you get the idea here... I am trying every way I can to meet my pupils at least halfway when it comes to homework in the classroom. (including studying for a test)

        I am still experiencing a lack of comprehension from the majority of my students on the importance of doing their work.

        The value and importance of a good education for one's future is more of a "yeah, maybe I'll do that one of these days" versus the "I get it and now I want to make something of/for myself".

        I am very tired(exhausted actually) of the stack of papers to correct right before progress reports and report cards and often feel that I am being punished for my students lack of motivation and work ethic. I do my work. I plan, I prepare. I try to make lack luster CC and curriculum musts as spoonful-of-sugary with the medicine as I can.

        Yet, to let the grades "fall where they lie" makes me look like a poor or uncaring educator when/if the majority of my students are failing. I document, I call home, I do the parent/teacher/conference dealios...

        Many of the assignments we work upon are available to students via their computers, laptops, phones, and other tech gadgetry. As many schools are asking for more rigor and preparing our kids for higher education and/or the work force I feel as if I am banging my head against the wall.

        My administration is very understanding and supportive. I am blessed to have excellent people working with me. So I have made them aware of this issue and know that I am not alone in experiencing this kind of student.

        "It's a while new generation out there."

        I realize many kids will be kids and some will never do their work, but honestly, I am extremely concerned for this upcoming generation. If there are no consequences, then how can they learn to do the 'right thing'?

        I can see why the work force/major industries are having to do more and more pre-vocational training and why so many young people do not make it in the 'real world'. There seems to be no more (I dunno) shame? or downcast eyes when a student realizes they have not done their work.

        It's almost a badge of honor to admit you didn't do your work or there are bragging sessions about how low their averages are.

        "Ha, I got a 37 on my report card."

        "Ah man that's nothing, I've got you beat, I have a 9 in this class."

        I only want the best for my students and I refuse to give up the concept of homework but don't want to become an 'Uber-Nazi' kind of teacher where you lose many students because you don't give any wiggle room for those kids who will try if they see you want them to succeed especially when your subject is their Achilles' heel.

        I've spoken to other teachers locally and have heard the viewpoints from the "Don't EVER accept late work ever' parties to the "I don't give homework anymore because I am burned out from trying to accomplish anything outside of the classroom" set.

        How do you deal with those times when you ask yourself "Why do I care more about my students' grades and getting a diploma than they do?"

        How can I make my classroom one where I am not doing all the work and the kids are holding their end of the student teacher dynamic? Especially when working in Intensive classes where students don't wish to be present to begin with...

        Don't get me wrong, I will work hard and not expect a perfect classroom, but I am sooooo far behind in what I need to accomplish and having to make up for what wasn't done is starting to get to me....a tad. lololol (Play Lotto anyone? Dream of marrying a millionaire?)

        Is there/are there ways to change this seemingly non-caring attitude about work and deadlines?

        How can we get kids in this country to want to shine again?

        Are other educators experiencing this outside of my corner of the universe?

        What has or has not worked for some of you out there?

        Okay, I've written a book. I hope you can see the care and genuine frustration behind my mini-novella about this subject.

        I am very interested to see what others think about this phenomena.

        Most sincerely yours,
        The teacher with the little birdies dancing around her head.

        • May 6, 2013 6:22pm

          For number 4, you could do one of two things: 1) tell them that since they have done so much work already, you will only give them a few questions or just one day instead of the usual amount, or 2) you could tell them how much they have achieved and accomplished and tell them that you are ahead of schedule, though you may not be, and do not give them any homework, until you feel that they would be able to handle it again.

          I usually don't give out much homework, as we do almost all of the work in class.

          • May 7, 2013 7:33am

            Great ideas Eric. I think that aiming for quality and not quantity is helpful. Try to lessen the load by assigning only a few questions/tasks that really focus on the most important aspects of the lesson you are trying to teach. That way students are not overwhelmed but they are still practicing and learning the "big ideas". Good luck Tina, it's a hard thing to manage and a little trial and error to find good assignments and the right level of work might be necessary.

            • May 11, 2013 10:09am

              You could also have 2 post-assessment activities: one would have the students show what they have mastered from that day, then compare that to what they need to know for the next day's instruction. Homework then is targeted for each student based on mastery and preparation, rather than an arbitrary 'get through the curriculum'.

              • May 13, 2013 2:26am

                Gary, "getting through the curriculum" is not necessarily arbitrary. Eric, mentioned that he has his students do much of their work in class, but to get through the rigorous curriculum, I require the students to do some of the work before they come to class. It doesn't mean that the assignments are not purposeful or engaging simply because I cannot spare an extra 20 minutes of class time while I wait for the students to work at their seats.

                I recognize that some activities are better done in class, particularly if the students are going to need individual instruction, but there are a lot of activities that can be done outside class. If my lesson hinges on the completion of those prerequisite activities, I need to give students motivation, whether positive or negative, to actually do the work.

                I'm not sure that I understand how post-assessment activities fill that need. Maybe you can give me some concrete examples.

                • Jun 2, 2013 9:41pm

                  Tina, I'm in the same situation. I have given up on assigning any substantial assignments for homework because it doesn't come back completed, regardless of the incentive. While I disagree with all the hoopla about the ineffectiveness of homework, I submit to it. The students are fully aware of the studies on homework, and they will refer to them as a defense against homework. Now, naturally this affects the pace of the class; I have to really figure out what skills I need to emphasize rather than how much content I want to cover. It seems to work out better this way because I don't get bogged down in who did the homework, who didn't do the homework, how to get the incomplete homework done, etc. I spend more time focusing on developing reading, writing, and thinking skills. With something like a novel, I ask the students to read only select chapters and highlight particular themes, literary terms, or archetypes. Then we build in vocabulary and grammar based on those chapters.

                  • Feb 20, 2016 3:51pm

                    Hi Haley,
                    I'm so sorry you're having such a rough time. Teaching can be all encompassing and I completely relate to how you're feeling. It can seem like all your efforts produce so little results, but know that your students are lucky to have a teacher that cares so much. I'm sure that you are making a big impact whether you can see it or not.

                    Teaching can feel like such an unsustainable job and it can be hard to avoid burnout. It's tremendously important that you take care of yourself and find some time to step away from the stress of the classroom.

                    One of the Teaching Channel laureates, Crystal Morey, has been running a challenge to help teachers kick stress called #TchStressAway. You can find out more here and follow on Twitter:


                    Might be a good place to start? Let me know if you need more resources. We're here to help!

                    With much appreciation & respect,

                    • May 6, 2013 8:57am

                      Thank you for such a thoughtful answer, Eric. Would you mind explaining #4 in a little more detail.

                      • May 6, 2013 11:26pm

                        Thank you. I'm not a big fan of homework, but I have the pressure of getting through a curriculum.

                        • May 8, 2013 12:13pm

                          Thank you for taking the time to help, Laura and Katie. I appreciate it!

                          • Feb 19, 2016 12:26am

                            Yvette Scholl, I'm in you're exact same the song killing me softly; everything you said perfectly summed up the tearful nights and frantic mornings I spend stressing about my students and why I can't get them to work. Our student population is the same, their lack of motivation and disinterest and excuses are the same. I'm pulling my hair out trying to convince them why this matters, but I can't motivate the ones who weren't motivated to begin with it seems. Some have parents working night shifts that tell them "Look at me. Look how hard I'm working just to get us by. Is this what you want for yourself? You need to work hard to have a good life," and even that doesn't work. I cry once a week at least over this job and I'm burning myself out but how can anyone sleep at night when you feel like you're spinning your wheels and going nowhere with them? God, someone please help.