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Creative Homework Solutions

Involving parents in their children’s homework is a great way to build parent participation in both their children’s lives, but also in the school, especially when they are unable to come during scheduled events. However, there are some serious considerations you need to think about before assigning homework that involves family members. In this post I jump into some of the problems, and solutions I have seen work for those problems, that may arise with giving homework to ELL’s as well as students who are low SES.

Disclaimer –  I am firmly against homework, so my honest solution to all of these problems is not to assign any. However, there are times when even I find it necessary to have the students study and practice at home.

Problem: Parents Schedules

Do the parents work overnights and sleep most of the day? Are your students spending more time home alone than with their parents? This comes down to knowing your students and their family schedules. It also means finding alternative options to students who face some of these issues. This is especially a problem when you are trying to get a child to be motivated enough to do homework when parents aren’t home. 
  • Make it fun! 
    • Ask the student to play a game with a friend and write about it. 
    • Have the student make up a game that involves math
    • Have the student have a competition with friends using whatever material you are using.
  • Assign differentiated homework that is easily accomplished by the student. 

Problem: No electronics at home (bigger than a phone)

This is encountered more and more with the advent of smartphones. A lot of people living in poverty don’t own a laptop or full size computer. So when you ask students to write a paper, it comes at the cost of doing it at school, if at all. 
  • Print materials like ebooks and pdfs for the student to read
  • Allow for handwritten assignments
  • Give the student time during class to type a paper (Don’t make them stay late or come early; don’t punish them for not having access)

Problem: Language barrier

More and more I am seeing second and third generation language learners who are unable to speak their parents native tongue. This becomes a much larger problem when the parents don’t speak or read English. 
  • Translate. There are many dual language materials out there. Epic has books in many languages as well as various other sites. 
  • Google Translate works okay for minor translations of instructions and word problems
  • Use the school’s resource translator or translator services
  • If you have access to dual language copies of books, give the home language copy to parents with the English edition to the students. 

Problem: Transient students

Sometimes our students move: a lot. When I say this, I think most people will think about students moving from school to school; however, many teachers don’t think about students who move from home to home. We have students who live with two sets of families, students who live with grandparents for times, and students who live out of vehicles and homeless shelters.
  • Ensure you know where the student will be for that particular timeframe. Give a location appropriate assignment. (that is, don’t tell a student to do a mothers day project while they are at the opposites home.) 
  • Make sure both parents are aware of the weekly assignments and that they both are informed when something is late. 

Problem: Space and privacy

Many lower SES students share living spaces with one or more people. These students are not going to complete homework like writing long essays, reading lengthy texts, or building models that involve many supplies.
  • Like earlier, make it fun! Competitions, games, and even videos are great ways to engage students.
  • Give students time to complete during class. (again don’t punish them for their circumstances)
Each of these solutions I have seen used with success. Most of them are interchangeable and just involve us teachers thinking outside of our comfort zones, putting ourselves in our student’s shoes (and their families), and thinking about what we really need them to get out of the homework. If you have something else that you have used with your students, leave a comment below. 

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