1 Julmaran

Teachers Motivating Students To Do Homework Songs

17 Ways to Get Your Students to Actually Do Their Work

Ask a teacher what their biggest frustration is and you’ll hear a lot of answers, but there’s one frustration that is all too common: students who don’t do their work.

Now we all know students are going to miss an assignment here and there. Things happen. But when a student consistently doesn’t do their work, it produces big problems.

And when you have class where the majority of students don’t do most of their work – yikes! I’ve had a few classes like that and can totally commiserate about how frustrating it is to try to go over an assignment that only 5 of the 25 kids actually did.

A classroom culture that says “work doesn’t really need to get done” is not only frustration for us teachers – it’s devastating for the students. They can’t learn if they’re not engaged and active. And for those who are struggling, they’re only going to get farther and farther behind without practice.

But we’re not here to commiserate. We’re here to find some ideas – to try something new. And, yes, I know you might’ve already tried some of these ideas. But I’m encouraging you – don’t give up. Choose a few that resonate with you and try again. Our students need us to figure out what will work for them.

Oh and by the way, these ideas are not all mine – many of them came from a fascinating conversation in our Christian Teachers’ Lounge Facebook group. Thanks to all those who gave such great suggestions.

How to Get Kids to Actually Do Their Work           

  1. Require the student to complete the assignment in your room during lunch. I know it’s tough to give up lunch, but let’s think about this: If you required students who didn’t finish their assignment to finish it in your room during lunch, do you think you’d have many missing assignments? You can also co-op with another teacher or two and take turns watching each others’ students. – Catelyn M.
  2. Use class dojo. Class Dojo is a fantastic behavior tracking system. Assign positive points for completed work and negative points for missing work. You can even set it up to notify parents of missing work. – Carlon P.
  3. Grade & return assignments quickly. If you’re just walking around & glancing at the work to see if it’s done, students get the impression that it doesn’t really matter – so why should they do it? Instead, collect homework/classwork and assign a quick grade. (I explain how to do this quickly & fairly in this article here.) Turn it back to them within a day or two so that they get quick feedback and can see how doing (or not doing) assignments is affecting their grade. – Angie A.
      (By the way, this doesn’t mean you have to grade every single assignment. But students should know that any given assignment could be taken for a grade and that many of them are.)
  4. Over communicate. Post assignments clearly – in more than one place if possible (in the classroom and on your class website). Email parents to keep them in the loop. – Laurie O.
  5. Reduce or eliminate homework. If your students work well in the classroom but just don’t do their homework, this radical-sounding idea might be just the solution you’ve been seeking. The truth is that lots of homework is just busywork & there are normally ways to get everything done during class if you’re smart about your time management. There are lots options: you can turn some or all of it into classwork, replace assigned homework with pop quizzes, or flip your classroom. (I share a lot more thoughts about this idea in my article Why You Should Give Less Homework.)
  6. Talk about a growth mindset & goal setting. We can cajole, threaten, and nag. But ultimately it’s the students’ responsibility to do their work. So invest time in discussing growth mindset & helping them create their own goals for your class.
  7. Absolutely require major projects to be completed. Make the completion of major projects (such as papers, science projects, etc.) a requirement for passing the course. They don’t complete the project, they don’t pass the course & must attend summer school or retake it. A hard line like this puts the ball back in the student’s court & makes the choice pretty obvious. – Laurie O.
  8. Deduct points for late assignments. Deduct points every day an assignment is late.
  9. Offer a help session. Consider offering a help session before school, during lunch, after school, or during a study hall. This makes help available for students who needs it while also putting the responsibility on them to take advantage of this resource. If parents complain last minute about poor grades, it’s a clear answer: “Your student declined the extra help I offered.” – Lena K.
  10. Print out students’ grade reports & highlight zeros for missing assignments. Every few weeks, print out your students’ grade reports and for those with multiple missing assignments, highlight the zeros from missing work. Sometimes kids don’t realize how much those zeros are affecting their grade. – Angie A.(p.s. Just because students can see their grades online doesn’t mean they look at them. The good students – yes. But the ones who aren’t doing their homework might have no idea….)
  11. Post a missing work list. Require missing work to be finished & post a list of all missing assignments somewhere in your classroom. An alternate idea is to keep a computer document of all missing assignments & print copies to post/hand out.
  12. Encourage a strong work ethic. It’s doubtful this will change anything overnight, but use every chance you get to encourage a strong work ethic and to remind kids that the habits they’re creating now will translate into real life. This isn’t a time to lecture, but it is a time to inspire them and help them understand that their life will be a result of their choices and their hard work (or lack thereof).
  13. Offer creative incentives. Brittany D. suggested this fun idea: “When I taught middle school I used to offer each class bucks for doing different things. If I wanted their test scores to go up, I’d offer bucks to the class with the highest test average. If I wanted homework back, I’d offer bucks for that. At the end of each unit the class with the most bucks got to pick (within school appropriateness) the music that they listened to during independent work time. The top earning class also got to pick the music for the class with the least amount of bucks and they’d pick things like toddler tunes, opera, etc. I don’t know if that would work with high school, but my middle schoolers loved it.”
  14. Offer choices for assignment topics. Whenever possible, offer choices so the students are more invested in their decision. This can be as simple as offering two different options for the writing topic or as complex as a full assignment schedule. Giselle P. suggests, “Set up a schedule and assignment options in different categories. They have to earn a certain number of points in each category to earn their grade for the unit. Giving them power helps them to be more invested and then you are guiding and inspiring rather than punishing.”
  15. Use Remind101. Remind 101 allows you to text students through the system without exchanging any phone numbers. Texting your students early evening to remind them of assignments takes away the “I forgot” excuse. Reynolds B. said that her grades went from D’s to B’s when she implemented this system.
  16. Create the right atmosphere. As the teacher, you set the tone for your classroom. Don’t coddle your students, but teach them that if they do their work, they will succeed. If they don’t, they won’t. – Reynolds B.
  17. Develop a school-wide plan. If assignment completion is a problem throughout your school, discuss this with your administration and see if you can come up with some school-wide solutions. If the culture of the school is “we don’t really have to do our work,” then having all the teachers on the same page & making big changes together might be the fastest & most effective way to change that culture.

Thanks to everyone who shared an idea! What else would you add to the list?

April 11, 2016 in Academics (Teaching) , Classroom Management , for New Teachers , Teaching


Put an End to
Homework Horror

If your students are showing a lack of interest in your homework assignments, it may not be your students -- it may be the assignments! Author Nancy Paulu has some advice for teachers who want to make the most out of schoolwork done at home! Included: Three educators share their best ideas for keeping students informed, interested, and on task! Plus links to a handful of school homework policies!

"Homework remains one of the biggest challenges and concerns facing teachers today," author Nancy Paulu told Education World. "Many teachers say they have a hard time creating meaningful and appropriate homework assignments and getting students to complete the assignments successfully."

More About It!

Read these homework-related stories from the Education World archives:

Homework Takes a Hit
An Education World e-interview with John Buell, co-author of the controversial book The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning.

Help for Homework Hassles
How can teachers motivate students to do their homework? How would teachers handle kids who just don't care? More advice as Education World explores ways to ease homework hassles.

The Homework Dilemma: How Much Should Parents Get Involved?
What can teachers do to help parents help their children with homework?

As a researcher, writer, and editor for the U.S. Department of Education since 1986, Paulu has written many books on education reform. They include Helping Your Child With Homework and Helping Your Student With Homework: A Guide for Teachers. Paulu has a clear view of the teacher's perspective on homework. As a mother of two children, a daughter who is nine and a son who is five, Paulu has firsthand knowledge of the parent's perspective too!

"The challenges are tied partly to the world in which students live," Paulu explained. "Students have more activities and options that compete for their time, such as jobs, sports, and television. Many parents have less time and less energy to monitor assignments. Some teachers report that there's less of a stigma today for students who fail to complete assignments.

"More children today have personal difficulties that are associated with a host of problems in school, including the ability to complete homework successfully," added Paulu. "Those difficulties include troubled or unstable home lives, lack of positive adult role models, and a high rate of mobility found among families who move their children from school to school."



Fortunately, Paulu suggests, teachers can take positive steps to lessen the impact of these influences from outside the school. The first step is to create good assignments that are well matched to the students. She says that this is the best way to increase the likelihood that the assignments will be completed successfully.

Paulu shared with Education World a list of homework tips from her book Helping Your Students With Homework: A Guide for Teachers. (See Homework Tips for Teachers sidebar.) "If teachers regularly follow as many of the homework tips as possible, the assignments will seem more appealing to students," said Paulu.

"Teachers might want to remember too that no one assignment is apt to appeal to every single student in a large class of heterogeneous students," said Paulu. "However, most teachers can provide assignments that vary in style, format, and content. This assures that all students have some assignments that suit and interest them."

Paulu continued, "Teachers can also provide choices. Students may all need to master the same material, but they can do so in different ways. For example, one student might write an essay about the subject; another can create a video. Providing choices helps students feel they control parts of their learning, which enables some to enjoy an assignment more than they would otherwise."



Homework Tips
For Teachers

Author Nancy Paulu recommends these tips for teachers who give homework:
* Lay out homework expectations early in the school year.
* Create assignments with a purpose, and make sure students understand that purpose.
* Make assignments clear and focused.
* Create assignments that challenge students to think and integrate.
* Vary assignments. (Students get bored with the "same-old-same-old.")
* Give homework that makes learning personal (for example, assignments that allow students to draw upon their family, cultural, and community experiences).
* Tie assignments to the present. (Students often complain that they can't relate to assignments involving events that took place in the distant past.)
* Match assignments to the skills, interests, and needs of students.
* Use school and community resources.
* Match assignments to your style of teaching.
* Assign an appropriate amount of homework, and keep alert to how long students take to complete assignments.
* Encourage and teach good study habits.
* Provide constructive feedback.
* Give praise, and motivate.

Lyman Goding, principal of Plymouth (Massachusetts) Community Intermediate School, described a homework policy that his school has used for three years: "The Tuesday Sheet is one to two pages of information about projects, assignments, and field trips. Every student receives it once a week, on Tuesday. The parents know to expect this because the school puts out the word at every opportunity."

The school's large size -- 1,235 students in grades five through eight -- adds to the challenge of making students and parents aware of upcoming assignments. The students and teachers belong to "teams." Each team of teachers assembles on Monday to prepare the week's Tuesday Sheet. The sheet often provides tips on how parents can assist their children with schoolwork, such as things to do to help students prepare for a test or ways to start or plan for a long-term assignment. The primary goal of the Tuesday Sheet is to serve as a conversation starter among families, a means to avoid the standard "Nothing" answer to the question "What did you do today?"

According to Goding, staff members love the policy. "The original idea came from some staff members," he said. "They value the sheets highly as a communication tool with parents and families. The sheets help parents really participate in their child's education. For many [staff members], the Tuesday Sheet means not having to rewrite assignments or projects when a student is absent."

The only negative comment Goding has heard came from one student. When asked what he thought about Tuesday Sheets, he said, "I'm not so sure I like them. Now my mother knows too much!"



Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia, gives its students even more advanced notice of assignments and tests to come. Instead of preparing a weekly handout, the school distributes six-week calendars.

"We send home a calendar at the beginning of the six-week grading period with all major tests and projects listed for all academic subjects," said Sharon Lynch, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at the school. "Parents love this and often express their appreciation. The calendar clearly states due dates and test dates for reference."

Because of the calendar, students know what they will be tested on and when, when projects will be due, and when the six-week grading period begins and ends. Lynch suggests that they are better able to plan extracurricular activities and can never say, "I didn't study because I didn't know we were having a test!"

With the calendar in place, Lynch has adopted a "no exceptions, no excuses" policy. Students are given a 100-point homework grade for the six-week grading period. She checks homework for completion as students are performing a warm-up for the day. If a student does not have a homework assignment, she pencils in an "H" in her grade book. At the end of the grading period, she counts the "H's," deducts five points each, and gets her students' homework grades.

"This system is easy to maintain, allows for the occasional 'busy night at home' for the student, and avoids the never ending excuses for homework not completed," Lynch stated. "Students do not need to explain to me why their homework is not done; they simply have a five-point deduction. I do not allow make-up homework, since the policy is already so lenient. Chronic offenders are easily spotted, and their grades are affected by the low score at the end of term. I have found this to be a hassle-free way to keep a check on homework and allow for extra practice, without stressing everyone out!"



Indifference to the assignment and to the possibility of receiving a failing grade, lack of help at home, apathy toward completing assignments, and laziness -- those are just some of the problems eighth-grade teacher Cindy Shields deals with at Jefferson Middle School, in Columbia, Missouri. She has a unique method of fighting the challenges of student homework.

In her classroom, when students do not have a completed assignment, they must fill out a "task analysis sheet" (TAS). Shields devised her own sheet from one given to her by Victoria Cato at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. Students must answer the following questions about the assignment:

  1. Was there anything that you did not understand about this assignment?
  2. Did you have trouble getting the necessary books or materials?
  3. How could this assignment be changed to make it more interesting?
  4. What must you do to change your attitude about schoolwork?
  5. What did you do instead of doing this assignment?

The students must write their answers in complete sentences, and Shields reads and discusses their responses with them. She feels that this means of dealing with incomplete assignments helps the students become more responsible for their learning. As they fill out the TAS, the students analyze their work habits and consider ways to improve.

"I am able to keep better records on the students' progress," she said. "If the work is not completed due to poor time management, I usually work with the student on improving work habits. If I receive more than two sheets from a student, I contact the parents. If the student is not doing the assignment from a lack of understanding or poor skills, I can use that opportunity to help the student on an individual basis."

One surprising outcome Shields reports is that several students have improved their work habits, solely because they do not like having to complete the questions on the TAS!


Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Last updated 02/24/2009

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