Organizing Homework Assignments
Requiring the same assignment book for everyone in the class, teaching students how to use them, and checking them on a regular basis will create a significant improvement in the efficiency, timeliness, and quality of homework. There are a number of companies that sell various styles of assignment books and agenda mates. Often these companies market directly to schools and some will even print your school's logo and school rules at the beginning of the books. The large chain stores for office supplies also carry a variety of student assignment books, particularly at the start of the school year. Many of these products have been designed quite well and their distribution to everyone in the school reinforces consistent use of assignment books. You may find, however, that your teaching team or school would prefer to design their own assignment book that is tailored to the needs of the students. A local printer can print and bind them, and perhaps the local business community would be willing to contribute to their cost and printing. Either way, be sure the assignment book you use include the following essential ingredients:
Three holes so it can be kept in a daily school notebook
A sturdy cover and binding to last for the school year
Plenty of room to write detailed homework descriptions for each subject (preferably one page per day).
A space for a daily, parent/teacher comment or signature.
In addition, consider the following optional ingredients:
A column to note the time it takes to complete each assignment, both estimated and actual.
A check box to be marked when an assignment is completed.
A "long-term" column to plan for assignments which are not necessarily due the next day.
Provide time during class for students to copy homework assignments into their books. It is tempting when you are running out of class time to call out an assignment as students are getting up to leave, but this makes it difficult for those students who have weak organization or direction following abilities to be successful. Assign homework early in the class period for students to record it accurately and ask questions. Include the purpose of the assignment, the due date, the steps and guidelines for completing the assignment, what should go home (e.g., textbook), and a rough estimate of how long it must be, or how much time it might take to complete. Choose one area of a blackboard where homework will always be written. An alternative is to use a large newsprint pad on a flip chart. Each page can be flipped over for the next day's assignment, and you or a student can easily flip through previous pages to check on back homework assignments. This is helpful when students miss class.
Homework should be for practicing what students have learned in class. Be careful not to assign homework on new skills or materials that have not already been introduced in class. Some students do not do homework even when they have written it clearly in the assignment book and are capable of the work. In these cases, if parents are supportive, work out a system by which they check work and sign the bottom of the assignment book. If the directions are detailed and specific, it will be easier for parents to determine if the assignment has been completed.
Students often find it difficult to determine how long an assignment or several assignments will take to complete. They start their homework by taking out the first book they find and keep on working until they are too tired, their favorite TV show comes on, or their parents tell them it is time to go to bed. They often stop before their work is completed and then scramble to finish homework the next day between classes or during lunch. Some students waste time because they do not know where to begin or are overwhelmed by having several assignments at once. Homework is more manageable and less threatening if students learn to micro unit the work. In class, have students estimate how much time they should spend on each assignment, and then have them note how much time it actually took to complete them. Remind them not to include the time they may spend taking bathroom or snack breaks, sharpening pencils, etc.
You can also suggest that students organize their homework by planning the order in which they will complete subjects. Doing the more difficult assignments first, before they become tired, is usually the best approach. If students have a study hall or other time during the school day that they can work on homework, show them how to pick one or two short assignments that they know they can complete in that time.
Choose or design your assignment book to include a space to note long term assignments (such as book reports). Help students determine what they should be doing on a daily basis to be sure they do not wait until the last night to complete these projects. Also encourage students to note on the assignment page any special tasks (such as stopping by the library to pick up a book) or personal commitments so they can make connections between school and personal time.
Where to Get Assignment Books
You can print out assignment pages and make your own assignment books for your students to use by clicking here. Or can choose to order them from the following sources:
•Highly recommended: "Hello Friend What's Up" Academic Year Planner by Carolyn Olivier, Education Director, Hello Friends/Ennis William Cosby Foundation.
•Elan Publishing Company
•School Date Books
•Success by Design
Joan Sedita, M.Ed. is the director of Sedita Learning Strategies in Boxford, Massachusetts, a private consulting and teacher training service. Joan is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 30 years in the education field and has presented to thousands of teachers, parents, and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional organizations throughout the United States. Joan specializes in developing curriculum, teaching materials, and professional development in the following areas: reading, language arts, writing, study skills, and learning disabilities.
This article is posted on ldworldwide.org by permission from Joan Sedita, www.seditalearning.com.