While the admonition to study the day’s lesson may work with high school or college students, it will be largely ignored by young teens unless a quiz is threatened for the next day. Written homework is much preferred, since it gives you a way to know if it was done. Even if you only want them to study, you should include some written component. For example, if they are to study spelling words, you might have them write each word four times and turn in their list. Or, in the case of a reading assignment, you could have them list the important points, words and definitions, dates and events, characters and relationships, etc.
Worksheets covering reading in a text, classroom activities or lecture notes are very useful, since they are directive. The student knows exactly what has to be done. The questions can simply require that they ferret out information from various resources. Or, they could require higher level skills as well as creative and imaginative thinking. However, new information should not be presented in homework assignments unless you intend to review it before testing. Also, the probable level of independent success should be high, since students will have no way of dealing with confusion or misinterpretation.
As with tests and other activities, the feedback should be as immediate as possible. If students can score each other’s papers the next day, all the better. If you put off returning homework assignments, your students’ level of motivation will be low.
Many teachers have kids put their completed homework in a box as they enter the room. While it may be the most expeditious way to collect it, students who have not done it can slip by unnoticed, at least until you have graded the papers. Also, some who have not done it may later protest that they really did put it in the box but that you must have lost it. It is much better to go around the room picking up the papers from each student. This gives you a chance to exchange comments. Even before you have actually read a paper, it might be appropriate to comment when there is evidence of exceptionally good work or effort. Or, in the case of an incomplete or missing assignment, you can ask for an explanation. Finally, since it is uncomfortable for students to have to admit not doing the work, knowing that you will be picking up papers individually will be an incentive for them to do their homework.
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