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Aurora Institute

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Homework Tips for Parents

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Courtney Belolan

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

Pencil ShavingsThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on October 26, 2015. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

This week… a special request: specifics on appropriate parental involvement in homework.

In The Art and Science of Teaching, Marzano lays out some action steps around using homework as a strategy for helping students to practice and deepen knowledge. One of the listed strategies is to give homework that involves participation from the home. This can be a tricky.

Every student’s home life is different, and we have no control over that. While we can’t ensure that every student’s time outside of school is conducive to continued learning, we can give tips and suggestions to parents for how to be supportive and involved to whatever extent they can. Here are some thoughts to share with parents:

  1. Create a Homework Spot: Establishing a spot for homework sends a subtle signal that spending time on homework is an expectation in the home. Where that spot is can depend on age and ability. Generally speaking, the homework spot should be in a common area of the home until the student develops the skills and ability to schedule and complete homework on their own.
  2. Schedule Homework: Most students need help with planning and scheduling. Set up a regular time for homework, and have it recorded somewhere. Younger students, and those in need of more supports, may have a poster somewhere. Older students might use their phone to remind them. A busy schedule might mean that homework has to be scheduled around activities, and might not happen at the same time every day.
  3. Ask Open Ended Questions: Asking students about what they were practicing or doing for homework helps you know how they are doing with it, not just if they did it. Try a question like this at the end of homework time:
  • What were you practicing for homework?
  • What are you learning by doing that work?
  • What parts did you find hard, or confusing?
  • What parts did you find easy?
  • What comes next in your learning?
  1. Facilitate The Process, Not the Product: If you are finding that your student is struggling with the homework, support him or her by helping them to identify the problem and take steps to solve it. For example, help them plan to talk to the teacher about something they don’t understand or need help with. Prompt them to reread directions, or use whatever resources they have to help with the homework. Focusing on the skills around the process of doing homework will serve them far better than helping them get it done.
  2. Communicate: Nobody wants homework to cause undue stress for anybody. There is always room for you to reach out to a teacher and talk about it if it is causing too much stress at home.

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Courtney Belolan works at RSU 2 in Maine where she supports K-12 teachers with performance-based, individualized learning. Courtney works closely with teams and teachers as a coach, and with the school and district leadership teams as an instructional strategist. Courtney has worked as a 6-12 literacy and instructional coach, a middle level ELA teacher, an environmental educator, and a digital literacy coach. Her core beliefs include the idea that the best education is one centered on student passions and rooted in interdisciplinary applications, and that enjoying learning is just as important as the learning itself.