September 22, 2022
How to encourage students to do their homework.
Homework is one of those things you do because it needs to be done. But what happens when students struggle to complete assignments? Researchers have discovered that children who have difficulty completing homework tasks often lack executive function skills. Executive function refers to a set of abilities that allow people to plan, organize, prioritize, problem solve, and pay attention.
The good news is that there are ways to teach students the skills necessary to complete homework effectively. In this article, we explore the various factors that keep students from completing their homework, and how these factors can be dealt with.
What can you do if a student refuses to do work?
Most teachers have been in a situation where students refuse to do the work they are assigned. Whether it is because they don't understand the assignment or because they feel like they can’t do it, there are several things that teachers can do to help them learn to overcome obstacles.
For example, you can ask the student to explain the reasoning behind his or her refusing to do the work. If he or she is struggling because of personal reasons, you can allow the student to hand in the work later, or even assign an extra credit for the completed assignment. You can also provide additional instructions if needed.
How to get homework done quickly
What are the reasons why students don't do their homework?
There are different reasons why a student might not complete his homework but this problem is generally attributed to two primary factors:
Lack of understanding: Sometimes students don’t understand their homework assignments so they ignore them instead of reviewing what they learned in class.
Lack of motivation: Some students may not want to do the work because they are bored with the subject matter. Others may believe that they are incapable of completing the task. They may also dislike the way you teach the material. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that every person learns differently so it’s important to find ways to motivate each student.
Tips to encourage students to do their homework
Getting kids to do their homework, after going through an entire school day, can be complicated. However, there are things that you can do to encourage students to complete their homework and elevate their learning experience .
Use a digital student planner
It can be difficult to get student learning practices right. However, there are things you can do to help your students optimize time management. A digital student planner makes it easier for today's Internet-savvy students to stay on top of their work.
With so much homework being assigned every day, it’s easy for students to get overwhelmed. Thankfully, with a planner, they can easily see what they have to do, by day and by week, and therefore dedicate time to each homework assignment. This helps improve grade levels and prevents late assignments.
Why are planners helpful for students?
Create a clear homework policy
With a clear homework policy, you communicate expectations consistently. This helps students understand what they must do to meet these expectations. You might say something like "I expect my students to turn in homework on Monday" or "I expect my students' homework to resolve math practice questions every night".
Break down tasks
One thing that works really well is breaking down large assignments into smaller ones . Instead of tackling a huge project all at once, try breaking it up into smaller pieces. For example, say you want to write a paper for English class. Instead of writing the whole thing at once, start by writing a rough draft of the introductory paragraph. Once you've finished that, move on to the body paragraphs. When you finish those, go back and add the conclusion.
Talk through problems
Students are often frustrated when they hit a roadblock while completing assignments so it’s important to find a way to help them overcome those challenges. The best way to do this is to simply talk to them about the issues they are facing and provide help when needed.
Provide adequate support
If you want your students to succeed, make sure that they have access to sufficient resources. For example, provide ample time for students to complete their homework. If you've got limited time, consider providing additional materials, such as worksheets or study guides. You can also leverage online tools to help them keep track of their progress. You might even want to consider integrating team-based learning into your homework policy to allow students to collaborate on project ideas. This will also encourage the development of listening skills and social skills .
The best digital student planner
A planner can help students manage their time better and develop good study habits. Studyo developed a digital student planner that allows students to easily stay on top of the work they have to do. Whether it is a quick math paper, or a long-term project, they will know exactly what they need to do and by what date.
Our planner automatically syncs to Google Classroom. This means that assignments are instantly uploaded to it and ensures that students don’t miss assignments. Our student planner is personalized to your school and allows students to track their progress.
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Strategies for Getting Students to Complete Work
You're not alone if you're looking for ways to motivate your students to do their homework. Getting students to do their homework regularly can be a source of frustration for teachers. We know students who consistently complete homework will achieve more academically, particularly in high school, and students who don't do their homework will falter.
As a teacher, you want your students to benefit from good work habits — for success in the classroom and in life. After all, effective homework strategies teach responsibility and self-discipline while instilling confidence and motivation. The good news is you have plenty of options to make an impact.
We've put together this guide to help teachers make the most out of homework time and motivate their students. Here, we discuss some reasons students don't do their homework, what to do when students don't do their homework, how to create engaging assignments and the best approaches to take with your students in the classroom. We also offer tips for organizing your students and developing effective work habits.
Reasons Why Students Don't Do Their Homework
When a student leaves school for the day, you hope you have done enough to set them up for homework time, but many factors are beyond your control. If a student frequently fails to complete assignments, consider what may be going on at home. Understanding the root of the problem can help you get a better handle on the situation.
You may want to connect with the student in a different way, reach out to the parents or offer additional support. Once you're able to identify why students don't do homework, you can begin implementing strategies to encourage and enable your pupils to complete their assignments in the future. Here are some common reasons why students may not complete homework.
Issues in School
Although you try your best to deliver quality instruction and create meaningful habits, students sometimes face other school issues that inhibit their learning abilities. Thankfully, many of these problems have easy fixes, even if it takes time to craft a working routine that benefits the student. Here are common problems student face in school that can affect their homework performance:
- Lack of understanding: Lack of understanding is one of the primary reasons students don't do their homework. When children don't receive enough instruction, they lack the basic skills they need to complete an assignment. It's essential that your homework instructions are as clear and specific as possible so that students can fully comprehend the task at hand.
- No feedback: Many students feel motivated by feedback, which is why they may not complete their homework when they don't receive any praise or constructive criticism. Try incorporating homework feedback into your lesson plan by writing comments on completed assignments or building time into the day to address homework patterns with the class.
- Being overwhelmed by the task: Hefty, time-consuming tasks can be mentally draining for students. If a student feels that an assignment will take a large portion of time and they don't know how to break it down, they may decide the work isn't worth the effort. For large tasks and projects, consider assigning one portion at a time. For example, you can easily break down a large research project. Have students craft source lists for the first few days and find valuable information. After this, ask them to create an outline. Then assign the paper due date. This way, the students have all the information they need to complete the assignment.
Problems at Home
Not every student has a supportive and welcoming home environment that enables them to do their best work. Although there may not be a surefire way to combat these issues, there are steps you can take to make homework completion more accessible and easier:
- Parents are unavailable: A reason students may not complete homework is their parents are unavailable to offer help with at-home assignments. You can provide extra assistance to these students in the classroom . Set them up with a tutor or encourage them to reach out if they have any questions.
- Lack of consistency: If a student's family moves around a lot, they may lack the consistency they need to sit down and work on their assignments at home. This is another instance where you can talk to the student and suggest a common workplace they can utilize to work on homework — like the library or an after-school study room — to give them a more stable place to focus.
- A troubled home life: When kids have a chaotic or troubling home life, they may feel unmotivated to do their homework. You can handle sensitive situations like these by forming a positive relationship with the student, listening to their problems and making them feel valued and encouraged in the classroom.
- Too much time watching TV or engaging in social media: Some students spend hours of their free time consuming social media and watching television, neglecting to do their homework. Unfortunately, you can't control how your students use their free time, but you can conduct parent conferences to discuss ways to help students focus at home.
Your students may have issues that span beyond school and home. Exterior challenges arise all the time, and although it can be difficult to pinpoint them, taking the extra steps to connect with your student will be worth it in the long run. Check out these exterior challenges to determine the best way to communicate with your students and help them overcome barriers:
- Extracurricular activities or after - school jobs: Students who participate in after - school activities or jobs often have difficulty completing homework on top of their busy schedules. Activities such as these are enriching and shouldn't disable students from doing their homework. To accommodate, consider assigning homework ahead of time rather than the day before it's due so that students have enough time to manage their workload throughout the week.
- No positive role models: Some students don't have access to positive role models who value education and encourage them to complete their homework. In these cases, you should try to work with the student, inspire them to succeed and teach them the importance of school.
- Loud, distracting or cramped work environment: Another reason why students don't do their homework is that they may not have a work environment that is conducive to concentration and learning. Try having a one-on-one with your student to discuss what they can do to eliminate distractions, like staying after school to complete their assignments or spending time in the library.
- Teenage pregnancies or parenting at a young age: If your student is pregnant or has recently given birth, they may be struggling to find time to do their homework. You can offer advice on how they can balance their homework and manage their time, or offer them resources for doing so.
- Drug or alcohol use: This is another sensitive subject that can be difficult to navigate. If your student shows signs of drug use, you can talk to them privately and offer resources, contact the school counselor or have a conversation with their parents.
How to Motivate Kids to Do Homework
Communicating information effectively can set students up for success at home. On the first day of school, take a confident, upbeat approach with your students regarding homework. What you say and do in the classroom can help get students on track during homework time.
Below are eight homework strategies for teachers you can use to help your students complete homework . For the greatest impact, put these strategies into practice early in the school year.
1. Explain the Purpose of Homework
Students need to understand why it’s important to do their homework. Homework is intended to be a positive experience that furthers learning, and your students should never view it as a punishment. Make it clear every assignment has a purpose, and mastery only occurs when students work independently, without the safety net of the classroom. Let students know you will always explain how a given assignment will fit into the big picture.
Emphasize how homework is a way to solidify the concepts students learn in the classroom, and the best way to accomplish this is through consistency and repetition. With this practice, students will feel confident in their skills and transition well into the next day’s lesson. When students do their homework well, more learning can take place in the classroom every day.
2. Set Expectations on the First Day
Research shows students are more successful when teachers set high standards , so make your expectations clear. Explain students who complete their homework assignments will be successful in your class. For those who don't, it will be a tough road ahead.
Keep your tone positive and let students know what to expect regarding workload. Clarify how you will grade homework and the consequences of missed assignments. Spell everything out in a homework contract and have students sign it. Just make sure to explain it, too, so the information sinks in.
3. Give Homework Daily
Assign each evening's homework in manageable chunks. If you send students home with a weekly packet of information, they may become overwhelmed. Some students may procrastinate and leave the entire packet until the last minute, which defeats the purpose of daily practice. Over time, daily assignments become part of a student's routine and part of life, not a chore.
4. Provide Clear Instructions
Make sure to provide clear instructions and post homework in multiple locations, such as in your classroom and on your website. Ensure your students always have the ability to find further explanations or assistance. For younger students, you can provide instructions and handouts to parents, so they can assist if their child gets stuck when working at home.
5. Set Aside Classroom Time for Independent Learning
Teachers often make the mistake of creating an environment of dependency in the classroom. Some students may overly rely on teachers and peers for guidance and information. To truly master the day’s material, students need the opportunity to work independently through the learning process before they leave for the day. If this piece is missing, students may become frustrated when they sit down to do their homework.
6. Earn Respect
You need to gain a student’s respect before you can expect to influence their homework habits. To gain respect, be likable, build rapport with your students and always follow through. When students respect you, they will start to trust what you tell them, and through your influence, you can inspire a strong work ethic.
7. Take a Personal Interest in the Lives of Your Students
Get to know your students. Try relating to students by engaging them in conversations about topics that interest them. Once you've established a personal connection, they are more likely to listen to you, and it will mean more when you tell them to complete their homework.
Additionally, you'll be better equipped to handle student barriers if you understand and connect with your students. Your students may find it easier to speak with you to craft solutions if they believe you genuinely care about their well-being and accomplishments.
8. Foster a Growth Mindset
Students who foster a growth mindset can make immense strides in their education and lives. This kind of mindset involves accepting and seeking challenges for the sake of learning and growing. When people adopt this way of thinking, they view mistakes and failure as a natural part of the learning process rather than becoming upset or frustrated.
You can help foster this mindset in your students by explaining the importance of practice, learning and failures. Providing meaningful feedback can help this process, as students learn the difference between judgment and helpful tips that enable them to grow.
Organizing Homework and Tips for Turning in Homework
As students move into middle school, organization skills can become an issue. They have multiple teachers, multiple assignments to juggle, supplies galore and about eight or nine different classes they need to show up on time for each day. All this can be a bit overwhelming.
Organization skills are key to homework success. A student with crumpled-up papers in their backpack may get by temporarily, but, eventually, things are going to fall apart. To head off homework nightmares, help your students get organized from the start.
Use the following organizational strategies early in the school year.
- Set up a homework file: Students need a simple, fail-safe system to stay organized. Advise students to keep all their homework in a central location, such as a pocket folder . Designate one place, and one place only, for all subjects. If students start filing information in separate notebooks, or corners of their lockers, assignments will get lost.
- Incorporate planning time: Set aside time each week for students to plan their homework schedules. Have students use daily planners to map out after-school activities and schedule in blocks of time to complete homework. They can even schedule in downtime if they choose.
- Offer encouragement: Organizing and planning homework can be tricky for many students. Offer encouragement and praise for any amount of progress. Your feedback goes a long way.
8 Ways to Create Engaging Homework Assignments
Even though you may have exemplary communication skills and the best-laid plans for organization, you still need to keep homework interesting. Homework needs to have a purpose and be engaging. If students don’t see the point or understand the benefits, they will be less likely to complete assignments.
Here are eight ways to create engaging assignments that will aid in motivating students to do homework .
1. Create Quality Assignments
If you’re going to give an assignment, make it worthwhile. Give clear and concise instructions and offer relevant resources. Try to narrow down the focus of the task. If you try to reinforce too many concepts at once, students may miss the point or feel overwhelmed. Never give busywork. If you get a reputation for giving busywork, students will not engage consistently and may miss assignments that really matter.
2. Give Homework as a Review or Practice
Homework is an opportunity for students to review and practice what they learned that day. It is not a time for teachers to introduce new material. Independent work solidifies skills learned in the classroom and boosts confidence and motivation. When students realize they can achieve success on their own, they feel good about themselves. When they feel good about themselves, they want to learn more. With the right tools in place, students will be motivated to complete homework assignments on a regular basis.
3. Make Students Think
Give students the opportunity to have an “a-ha moment” during homework time. Allow them to think independently and extract information from other resources outside of the classroom. Challenge students to think for themselves and explore new ideas. Thinking outside the box can be exciting and motivating for students.
4. Offer Choices
Give students options whenever possible. For example, have a few topics to choose from when you give a writing assignment. When students get to make decisions about homework, they become more invested and enjoy the process more. Meaningful choices can encourage students to capitalize on their strengths and become more engaged with learning material .
5. Keep Assignments Interesting
Mix things up. If your students recognize you have a formulaic approach to homework, it can begin to feel like a repetitive chore. You may not know whether your students are learning from the material or memorizing the basic steps to find the answers. Additionally, students will tire of similar subjects and formats, so aim for a varied approach. One great way to pique a student’s interest is to assign a long-term project. Encourage students to seek new and unique research and bring interesting conversations to the classroom.
6. Align Assignments With Skill Levels
Although you likely can't individualize every assignment, you can tailor homework to homogeneous groups within your classroom. For example, at-risk or gifted students may have different assignments than the rest of the class. In high school, students in advanced placement or honors classes typically receive assignments that require more abstract thinking.
7. Assign a Manageable Workload
Be sure to schedule the right amount of homework. You want homework time to be effective and productive, not exhausting and overwhelming. Many educators follow the 10-minutes-per-grade-level rule. A first-grader would do 10 minutes of homework a night, a second-grader would do 20 minutes and so on, maxing out at about two hours for high school students. Coordinate homework with the other teachers on your team to keep the total amount of time consistent each night.
8. Make the Connection Between the Material and Life
If the subject matter is relatable, students are more apt to complete homework assignments. Hands-on assignments that make sense in the real world can spark a student's interest and really sink in. Be entertaining or share information through a story, then send students home with a related assignment.
For example, let’s say you are working on persuasive arguments in your language arts class. You could set up a classroom trial where students are lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, defendants or part of a jury. After the lesson and some classroom discussion, you could have students write a few persuasive paragraphs from their perspective for homework.
Teach Effective Homework Motivation Strategies
Good homework habits are key to getting the most out of an assignment and completing it on time, and it’s never too early to start. If you’re a kindergarten or first-grade teacher, consider sending age-appropriate homework home so students can begin to establish a routine. This can be as simple as having a parent read a few pages of a book to the student.
Regardless of grade level, encourage students to practice good homework strategies. Teach these strategies to the group or individually for students who are struggling.
Encourage students to:
- Take notes during the school day.
- Use an effective planner to keep track of assignments and due dates .
- Set up a quiet place at home to study.
- Assess assignment difficulty to determine how much time they will need to dedicate to completing it.
- Gather and organize homework supplies such as pencils, erasers, calculators, paper, etc.
- Use school resources during study halls and independent learning times.
- Pick a time to do homework that works with the family schedule.
- Practice time management strategies and learn to stay on routine.
- Turn off cell phones, television or any other distractions during homework time.
- Download education apps that can help them focus or set timers during homework time.
- Prepare for a test or long-term assignments in chunks, instead of cramming.
- Determine personal rewards for achieving their learning goals.
- Work with other students who have similar questions or challenges.
- Identify and understand their learning style.
Reinforce Effective Homework Habits
Being a great teacher means reinforcing effective homework habits is a critical part of the process. When students complete their homework, be sure to acknowledge it, or the pattern probably won’t continue. And, if students don’t complete assignments, make sure you have consequences in place.
Here are seven things you can do to reinforce good homework habits:
- Always check homework: Only assign homework you plan to review and score. Hold students accountable by checking their homework in front of them each day. Taking time to get this system in place during the first month of the school year can really pay off. Once students realize you are the type of teacher who always checks homework, they'll be more likely to complete it. On the other hand, if you’re too casual about homework, students won’t think it’s important and probably won't complete it consistently. Make sure to grade for effort, as this encourages students of all ability levels.
- Provide prompt feedback: The sooner a student receives feedback, the more it will resonate. Who can remember the details of an assignment from a week ago? Immediate feedback has a greater impact on student performance than long turnaround times. If a student knows they did well on an assignment, they will feel confident and motivated to move on. If they didn’t do well, you can evaluate why and remediate the situation. But, if too much time goes by, things can start to slip.
- Praise students for both performance and effort: Everybody responds well to praise, so find something positive to say about a student’s performance or effort. Make sure your praise is genuine because students know when it’s not.
- Use a points system with incentives: Assign points to completed assignments and take away points for missed assignments. Offer age-appropriate incentives for students with the highest number of points. You can also modify this system to incentivize the class as a group. Keep in mind, points systems with incentives are best suited for elementary and middle school students.
- Allow make-up work with point deductions: To reinforce the importance of each assignment, give students the opportunity to make up missed work. Enforce consequences for missed assignments, or you will continue to see a pattern. Since every point counts toward a final grade, make sure students understand partial credit is better than no credit at all.
- Give students a visual to manage missed assignments: When a student does not turn in homework repeatedly, print out a list of everything that goes into their grade. Highlight each missing assignment and the points associated with it. Some kids may not realize how many assignments they've missed, or how much this impacts their overall grade. Sometimes a visual can help drive the message home.
- Offer help when needed: Some students have limited resources, and need to know they can ask you for help or guidance. You can set up help sessions before or after school, during lunch or even over the phone. Also, check with your school district to see what they offer. Some schools have peer tutoring programs, homework hotlines and study centers. You can also set up a study-buddy system in your classroom.
Connecting With Parents
Parents need to understand homework policies and expectations. At the beginning of the school year, let parents know they can contact you anytime to discuss homework or anything else. Make them feel like they are part of the team, and that they can make a difference. A good time to do this is at a parent back-to-school night. If parents don’t show up, you can send them an email or give them a call the next day. Let them know when you are available and the best way to reach you.
If a student is struggling with homework during the school year, reach out to their parents. Although some parents are more responsive than others, it’s a good first step. Some parents may just be unaware of the situation and need to begin reinforcing the importance of completing assignments at home.
When you put all the right pieces in place, you can motivate and inspire students to learn and enjoy the homework process . Encouraging your students to do their homework routinely promotes a love of learning and boosts their confidence . Students typically want to succeed, and giving them the proper tools to do their best work will positively affect them for many years to come.
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At Success By Design, Inc., we help students plan and organize their homework and other activities. We know that, as a teacher, you want to give your students every opportunity to succeed academically and for the rest of their lives. Check out our student planners to get students on the right track at the beginning of the next school year and view our online special for reduced price assignment notebooks . It will be here before you know it.
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Behavior • Classroom
7 Best Ways to Get Your Students to Do Their Assignments
March 17, 2022
One of the main things that frustrate teachers is setting assignments which are ignored or done in a shoddy way. Many teachers would love to find ways to get students to do assignments and actually put a little effort into it. It is normal for an average student to miss one or two assignments here and there, but the problem comes in when specific students don’t do the assignments on a regular basis as this interferes with the entire learning experience. So here, we look at 7 ways to get students to do assignments.
Ways to Get Students to Do Their Assignments
1. enforce completion of assignments.
If you have students that consistently fail to do their assignments, you could require them to be in your class during lunch, a free period or after school so that they can complete the work. You can perhaps enlist the help of other teachers that are having a similar problem so that you can share the time spent making sure students complete the work.
2. Get the parents involved
This works especially well in junior high school, where the parents are able to assist with homework and assignments. Get the parents to sign off against the required work as the student completes it so that parents can also help motivate the students to get the assignments completed and perhaps also see where they are struggling.
3. Offer incentives
For elementary students, you can offer incentives in the form of stickers or stars on a chart for completed work, and a cross through blocks for incomplete work or assignments not turned in. There can also be a reward for achieving a certain amount of stars/stickers and extra work to cancel out the crosses on the chart. For older students, incentives can be in the form of outings, a movie day or something else that students may enjoy. Those who do not complete the assignments are left out of the fun activities which their peers then get to enjoy and discuss afterward.
4. Make sure they know it is important
Explain the purpose of the assignments and make sure that you grade and return the completed assignments promptly. If they can see it matters to you, it may also begin to matter more to them. Offer feedback and suggestions on the assignments to improve their work in the future.
Where you pick up significant problems, make an appointment to discuss the issues with the student and try and resolve the problems. Make sure that the assignments are explained in detail and that students have enough time to complete them, but not too much that everything is left to the night before the assignment is due.
5. Help them set goals and self-motivate
Spend some time with the students discussing goals and the reasons why work should be completed to the best of their abilities. Help them set their own goals and assist them in learning how to motivate themselves to get the work done. After all, it is for their own growth and education that the work needs to be done well.
Ensure that they are aware that not completing assignments could result in failing the class so that they are further motivated to complete the work in order to pass. You can also enforce deadlines by deducting points for work delivered late or refusing to take work that is not handed in by the deadline. You can decide how flexible to be on this aspect, but you need to stick to what you have told the students once you have decided on your rules.
6. Offer them assistance
If a student is not handing in assignments due to struggling with the work, you can offer to make yourself available by appointment to meet with the student during breaks, before or after school, or during a free period to go over the work as well as offer extra resources. The students need to approach you for this extra help, putting the ball in their court and ensuring your time is not wasted on trying to force students to work who refuse to do so.
7. Make a list
Have a list up in the class with the names of the students, check off all completed work and put a cross through all incomplete assignments. You can then offer extra credit assignments to those students that want to make up for the missed assignments. This, again, requires the student to approach you, showing they are motivated to improve their performance.
When looking at ways to get students to do assignments, you may also come up with other creative ideas to motivate and stimulate. Perhaps offering choices of assignments might allow students to do assignments that appeal to their strengths and passions more, which could also improve engagement. However you do it, the key is to get students to motivate themselves to do the work and do it well.
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column | Teaching and Learning
How to motivate students to actually do homework and reading, by bonni stachowiak (columnist) jan 7, 2022.
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This article is part of the guide: Toward Better Teaching: Office Hours With Bonni Stachowiak.
The following is the latest installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column . You can pose a question for a future column here .
Dear Bonni, What ideas do you have for student accountability? How do we get students to do pre-class work without giving a grade to everything? —Looking for change
Dave, my husband, was in the driveway a few days ago, about to head somewhere with our two kids. I had just finished my elliptical workout and he asked, “Are you glad you did it?” I was glad, but it didn’t start that way. The moves came prior to the motivation.
For 429 days straight, I have exercised for at least thirty minutes, a routine that gets reinforced by the sense of accomplishment and my overall better health. I was indeed happy to have taken that next step toward continuing my commitment. But I don’t rely on a feeling to get me moving most days. Instead, I lean on the power of habits to draw me into action, even when the way I’m feeling doesn’t necessarily prompt me. Often, students experience the same mindset around out of class preparation and we wind up needing to help them establish good habits beyond what they may naturally exhibit on their own.
James Clear describes the four components of our established patterns in “ Atomic Habits: An Easy, Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones .” Cues are the triggers that we humans associate with some type of a reward. Cravings are the drives that motivate us to act. Responses are the behaviors or thoughts we in turn produce, assuming that there isn’t too much friction preventing them—and ample reasons to produce them. Rewards are what we get when we take the intended action or think the desired thought.
Building up a habit like the one I have done for exercise involves both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for most people. It actually requires some unlearning, and some changes in approach, to create an environment that better encourages students to complete assigned activities. Instructors first need to consider how we use grades in our teaching—and then explore what kinds of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations exist and persist for our students.
Much of our students’ educational experiences have taught them to search out the rewards for a transactional gauge of their actions in the form of points or grades. In Susan Blum’s “ Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (And What to Do, Instead) ,” we discover that when it comes to concerns about grade inflation:
“The trouble isn’t that too many students are getting As but that too many students have been led to believe the primary purpose of schooling is to get As,” she writes.
Part of the reason why students don’t complete the pre-work for classes is because they have been conditioned to focus on extrinsic rewards in their education. All too often, collecting as many points as possible becomes the game, perfectly designed to squeeze out any intrinsic motivations that might have otherwise surfaced along the way.
So how do you get students to complete the tasks that will help them better engage in a class session? Here are some approaches that have worked well for me specific to the context you inquired about.
Two common concerns that I’ve come across are that:
- Grading takes up too much time for instructors, and that
- Instructors wish students did the work before class without needing to be awarded points for their effort.
First of all, there are approaches that can help reduce grading time while still giving useful feedback to students. For instance, instructors can strategically assign tasks that can be auto-graded, or spot-checked. When vocabulary is an important aspect of a class I’m teaching, I will sometimes assign an auto-graded quiz that presents ten questions from a large bank of terms and allow for the quiz to be repeated by students until they earn their desired score. In other assignments, students are instructed to record a screencast of themselves playing a matching game that reinforces the vocabulary.
Michelle Miller encourages us in “ Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology ” to not feel like instructors have to evaluate each and every thing that a student submits to one of our classes. In my case, I tend to watch every screencast video that is submitted, or otherwise how would I ever learn the names of each student’s pet? But I do watch the videos at double speed, and I’m able to get through them relatively quickly. And I sometimes delegate some portion of the work to a teaching assistant.
The most common homework given to students in most classes is reading. To incentivize that, I typically assign reading exercises and quizzes. First, I ask students to submit analog or digital notes related to what they read. A common format I use is a 5-3-1 structure: where they identify five main points that stood out to them, three ways they might apply what they read and one question they have as a discussion prompt for others who read the same passages. Second, I frequently have fewer than ten auto-graded questions to test for understanding of the assigned reading. Finally, I have around five reflection and application questions as part of the reading quiz.
As for the complaint that students should want to do reading or other pre-work purely from intrinsic motivation, I have this advice. In the book “ Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us ,” Daniel Pink notes that: “Goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy. But goals imposed by others—sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores, and so on—can sometimes have dangerous side effects.” It’s worth reflecting on ways we can let students be more self-directed to foster intrinsic motivation in their studies.
When I spoke with James Lang for the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, he shared the way his thinking has evolved regarding motivation. He stressed that the research shows that:
“We need to have those intrinsic motivators, and a lot of school-based motivation is extrinsic in the form of grades and degrees and all that other stuff. We do need to pull up those intrinsic motivators in any way that you can. I have to say though, over the past few years, as I’ve continued to look at that research and think more and more about this question, I’ve come to believe that actually we need both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in order to be successful.”
Lang continued to describe how in endeavors such as exercise, ideally we would be intrinsically motivated, but people often aren’t. Instead, they use social connections and external reminders of their achievements to bridge the gap between the actions (actually going for the run) and the rewards (recognizing how great it feels after we exercise). In this way, the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations can spur each other on.
Another overall recommendation on how to get students to not require as much external motivation is to consider the alternatives to traditional grades. In addition to Susan Blum’s ‘Ungrading,’ I recommend:
Grading for Growth : This collection of posts via the Substack newsletter engine by Robert Talbert and David Clark explores the challenges with the ways we tend to approach grades in higher education and how to use alternative grading practices that focus on growth.
Ungrading Twitter Thread : Curated by Jesse Stommel, this thread has the links to much of Jesse’s writing and speaking on the topic. Instead of adopting “best practices,” he implores us to adopt what he called “necessary practices.”
How have I been able to keep up a 429-day streak of exercise? Partially, it is because I want to live longer and be able to be more present for those I love. The intrinsic factors motivating me are strong over the long haul and they build upon one another. However, when it comes to the daily discipline to keep going, it does help when I get these buzzes on my wrist via an Apple Watch, telling me that I can still achieve my fitness goals for the day. When I look at the app that reports out my streaks, yet taunts me with what is left to accomplish today to keep the momentum going, I wind up doing the thing I don’t feel like doing in the moment for the bigger picture rewards.
Bonni Stachowiak is the host of the long-running podcast, Teaching in Higher Ed . She is also dean of teaching and learning at Vanguard University of Southern California.
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9 Effective Ways to Motivate Your Students to Do Homework
In this post, we will address the problems of assigning homework and suggest nine solutions for each one.
HERE ARE SOME CHALLENGES TEACHERS FACE CONCERNING HOMEWORK:
- Students don’t do it, so why assign it? It becomes too much of a headache to keep harassing the kids to do it.
- Students cheat, so they’re not learning anyway. They copy from someone else the first few minutes of class.
- Research shows homework doesn’t aid in language acquisition.
- When students don’t do homework, it lowers their grade disproportionately.
- Students don’t understand the homework, so they don’t do it.
- Students find the homework boring.
- Students don’t understand why they must do homework.
- Students don’t feel it’s worth it to do the homework.
- Students do homework but they lose it.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOUR STUDENTS TO DO HOMEWORK?
If you keep assigning homework, but no one does it, it seems pointless to keep assigning it. Why not make life easier on yourself and just not assign it? Besides, it feels like I’m working WAY harder than the students to motivate them to perform. What’s the point?
Here’s the point: It’s the students’ job to figure out how far to push past the boundaries. It’s MY job to show them exactly where those boundaries are and just how firm they are, i.e., IN CONCRETE.
For example: If I say, “You must raise your hand to speak unless I give the cue to answer in chorus,” that means I completely ignore any comments made with hands in laps. Or, I give a previously agreed upon consequence if it is too obvious. Students soon learn that, to be heard, they must raise their hands.
Likewise, if I say, “You must do the homework,” and the students don’t do it, that means they come in at lunch to do it. Either way, they do it. They decide when and where they do it. I call it “tutorial.” Some students prefer this because they would rather be with me than with fellow students and/or they like the support.
“Wait!!! I have to give up my lunch period? I’m already stretched to the limit!”
That’s what I said when I asked an exemplary teacher at my school how he got students to do the homework. He said, “Any time you help students, it comes out of your hide.”
STUDENTS CHEAT, SO THEY’RE NOT LEARNING ANYWAY
It’s true. SOME students cheat. They copy, word-for-word the homework of their friends. Cell phones make that even easier these days. Or, they rush into class, grab a peer’s work, and copy it before class begins. How do you deal with that? What’s the point of assigning homework if students don’t benefit from the process?
I have two ways of handling this dilemma. First, I have a homework basket right by the entry door. Students are required to put their homework in the basket on their way into class. I give them 30 seconds leeway after the bell rings. I make a huge show of clicking the timer and counting the seconds. If the homework doesn’t make it into the basket on time, I return it to the student. And I’m consistent. No exceptions.
If a student comes in late, he hands me his homework then.
GRADING FOR COMPLETION VS. FOR QUALITY
As students are doing the bell work, my T.A. or I quickly scan the homework for completion only. If it is complete, I give it a check. If it is half complete, I write, “1/2.” If it looks like they did it on the way to school in the car, (two sentences) I hand it back.
My solution for the home cheaters is the following: I have a pizza party for my T.A.s during which I train them how to correct tests and homework. I show them how to look for papers that are word-for-word the same. If they find them, they alert me, and I give the students zeros. Then I call home and inform the parent of the academic fraud. A hassle, for sure, but, after a while, it becomes less frequent.
You don’t have T.As.? You don’t have QUALITY T.A.s? If you’d like to know how to get quality assistants, click on the following link: End of the School Tip that will Make Next Year Better If your school doesn’t allow T.A.s to correct homework, grade for completion only or grade for completion and accuracy, checking for copycats while you are scanning (not too effective but better than nothing.)
Of course, I have to deal with the denials of academic fraud, but that is another issue. If you’d like to read about how I deal with that, click on the following link: How to Keep Students from Using Google Translate
RESEARCH SHOWS HOMEWORK DOESN’T AID IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Very suspect research. It does not match my empirical results. I doubt it takes into account the TYPE of homework assigned or the accountability once it is assigned. Of course, homework will not aid in acquisition if it is boring drill work or if students aren’t held accountable to do it.
When assigning homework, I make sure students are reading and writing language in context and have visuals or comprehensible input frequently. That doesn’t mean I NEVER assign a repetitive, boring task, but I do try to assign homework that leads students to proficiency. In the examples below, students write the Spanish word for each item and change the ridiculous sentences to logical ones.
Lastly, if students are held accountable for the QUALITY of their work, they will enjoy the benefits of their labors. How does a busy teacher accomplish that?
I’ll explain my convoluted solution with a caveat; I don’t recommend it for everyone. It requires trained assistants and it’s a bit complicated. It worked for me, though.
After students turned their homework into the basket and I (or my T.A.) corrected it for completion, my student volunteer handed it back to the owners.
Then, students traded with their homework partners (assigned the third week of school), and the partners corrected the homework. The correctors must not only circle incorrect answers, they must also write in the correct answers. I model and practice with students how to do this.
I tell students they will be graded in two areas: how well they did the homework, and how well they corrected their partner’s paper.
Students turn in the homework and my well-trained assistants grade it twice, first for quality, then, for accurate correcting. If the corrector missed too many errors, he/she receives only 17 points.
So, the homework is graded once for completion, and once for accuracy.
My experience contradicts the above-mentioned research. Students who did the homework became proficient. Students who didn’t, didn’t.
WHEN STUDENTS DON’T DO HOMEWORK, IT LOWERS THEIR GRADE DISPROPORTIONATELY
If students are discouraged, particularly students who lack motivation to begin with, they will unplug completely. I don’t want that to happen. Three missed homework assignments converts to three zeros in the grade book. My department’s homework category is valued at 20%. Now the students have Ds or Fs.
I deal with this issue by giving students 50 out of 100 instead of zeros. They still get an F for not turning in homework, but it doesn’t dramatically affect their grade.
STUDENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND THE HOMEWORK SO THEY DON’T DO IT
It’s hard to motivate students to do homework they feel incapable of doing. If they don’t understand it, they won’t do it, of course. Here is my solution:
- I never assign a task until we have thoroughly practiced the concept in class first. I have changed the homework many times when I realized students had not had sufficient time to master a concept or to hear enough language in context.
- I always leave five or ten minutes at the end of class to explain the homework and MODEL it for students. By modeling it, I mean doing one or two questions together. Sometimes I even let students begin in class and I walk around to help them. This kick-starts them so the task doesn’t seem so intimidating. Reserving that time fights against my desire to cover the material since I’m always behind, but it is necessary.
HOW TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS TO DO HOMEWORK
If homework is boring, students will be less motivated to do it. One way to solve that issue is to give choices of tasks that accomplish the same goal. Sometimes I say, “Do this… or do that.” Some teachers have choice boards. For example, here’s a Homework Choice List created by Musicuentos .
When students have a choice of what to do, they are more inclined to do it. Also, this way, they can do the task that works their strengths. For example, an artistic kid may choose to draw the vocabulary items rather than labeling pictures.
STUDENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY HAVE TO DO HOMEWORK
If students regard homework as busy-work, they will not want to do it. At the beginning of the year, I tell students I highly value homework and, therefore, it is worth 20% of their grade.
I also tell them, “There is not enough time during class to give you the amount of language in context you need for you to acquire the language. Research has shown you need TONS of language input and almost daily exposure to the language before you can become proficient.”
WHAT TO DO WHEN A STUDENT REFUSES TO DO HOMEWORK
Some students won’t do homework because they feel it’s not worth it. They work for 20-30 minutes a night, and the teacher doesn’t even review the homework the following day.
Students need feedback for two reasons:
- They need to know the mistakes they made so they can improve.
- They need to feel recognized for their efforts.
I always go over the homework and I always grade the homework.
In addition, students will not be motivated to work on a task that will not affect their grade. When my homework category was worth 10%, many students didn’t bother doing it, and they told me why. That’s why I value it at 20% or more.
STUDENTS LOSE THEIR HOMEWORK
Disorganization is a constant struggle for many students. (And for ME! My DNA is missing the organization gene.) I help students stay organized by requiring they keep a binder with a special section for their homework. This is part of their notebook which is checked periodically for the required pages. If you would like to know more about how to keep students organized and accountable, read the following post: Interactive Notebooks in the World Language Classroom
And this post: Why You Should Use Interactive Notebooks in World Language
Don’t want to spend time creating and grading your own homework or tests? I have homework handouts, worksheets, and quizzes for every concept for Spanish One, Two, and Three with tons of autocorrecting Google Forms activities, too. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Here are the links:
Spanish One Tests Quizzes Assessments Worksheets
Spanish Two Homework, Worksheets, Activities, for an Entire Year
Spanish Three Tests Activities Worksheets for an Entire Year
How do you motivate your students to do homework? Should world language teachers assign homework? Does it help students become proficient? I believe we should assign it and it does benefit the students when they are held accountable for the quality of their work, when they understand why they should do it, and when they are set up to succeed.
I hope some of these ideas will work for your students and will help you solve the homework dilemma.
Want to learn more about how to motivate your students to do homework? Read this post by Success by Design Inc.
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I taught world language for 31 years and have created countless resources for Spanish and French during that time. I am a top seller on Teachers Pay Teachers and for the past 11 years I have devoted my time and energy to helping teachers save time, avoid burn-out, and bring their students to proficiency in the target language through the use of my proven resources. During the five years that I taught AP Spanish, all but one of my students (primarily non-native speakers) passed the AP exam most with fours and fives.
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Teaching Students About Rurouni Kenshin
Teaching students about monday holidays, teaching students about song kang, teaching students about isiah thomas, teaching students about trump derangement syndrome, teaching students about camilla, teaching students about reindeer names, teaching students about librarians, teaching students about joel madden, teaching students about gary payton, 16 ways to motivate students to finish their homework.
Are you looking for ways to motivate students to finish their homework? If so, keep reading.
1. Establish a homework system for the learner (e.g., 2 days a week, work with drill flash cards; 3 days a week, work on bookwork sent home, etc.). This will add some assortment to the learner’s homework.
2. Make sure that the learner knows the relationship between unacceptable behavior and the consequences that follow (e.g., forgetting to finish homework will result in a low grade).
3. Repeat instructions to increase the learner’s likelihood of comprehension.
4. Make sure the learner has learned the ideas presented at school. Homework should be a form of practice for what has been learned at school.
5. Get the learner to create a specific time each evening to work on homework tasks .
6. Assess the degree of task difficulty to ascertain whether the learner will require additional information, time, assistance, etc., to finish a task at home.
7. Get the learner to ask a friend to call them at night or in the morning to remind them to bring tasks to school.
8. Provide instructions in an assortment of ways to enable the learner’s comprehension (e.g., if the learner fails to understand oral instructions , present them in written form).
9. Teach the learner time-management skills. Get the learner to make a daily plan and follow it. Urge the learner to avoid becoming distracted by activities, impulses, and moods.
10. Let the learner have additional time to turn in homework tasks .
11. Create a learning center at school where professional educators are available to help with homework tasks before school begins, the last hour of each school day, etc.
12. Get the learner and a peer who has the same task to do their homework together (e.g., right after school at one home or the other, during study hall, etc.).
13. Praise those students in the classroom who finish their homework tasks and return them to school.
14. Send homework tasks and learning materials home with someone other than the learner (e.g., brother, sister, neighbor, etc.).
15. Give the learner a selection of tasks , requiring them to select a minimum number from the total (e.g., present the learner with 10 academic tasks from which they must finish 6 that day).
16. Consider using an education app to help the student sharpen their organizational skills. Click here to view a list of apps that we recommend .
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5 Ways to Encourage Students to do Their Homework When They Don’t Want to
Many parents find that keeping their kids motivated to do their homework regularly is a challenging task. After all, very few kids want to spend the rest of their day in front of a pile of books after spending 6 to 7 hours in class. What’s more, there are so many distractions in this day and age, from the internet to video games. This is not even counting daily tasks such as chores and meals. Some parents try and go the extra mile and get outside help for their children. Some parents hire a private tutor while others will use an online homework helper to assist their kids in doing their homework. However, it’s not always enough to help motivate them.
If you’re a parent who is having trouble getting your kids to focus on their homework, here are some tips that you can use:
1. Give Them Some Breathing Space
When your children come home from school, they are most likely tired, hungry, and in need of some time to relax and recharge. It’s not going to be good for them if you immediately jump on their case and tell them to do their homework from the moment they step in.
Allowing your child to have a short break when they come home will give them that time to relax and recharge. What’s more, it’s important not to dictate how your child wants to spend this break. They can take a nap, get something to eat, or even browse the internet for a while before they have to buckle down and start working.
2. Provide a Structured Schedule
Giving your child a schedule when they get home can be beneficial . It not only gives them a sense of stability and security, but they also learn how to properly manage their time and allocate their hours.
Keep in mind that the schedule you first create might not be the best! It will take some time before you and your child adjust to the right schedule and you might need to tweak it along the day. It will also be important for your child to be able to have some say in making that schedule. Letting them feel that they are important and that their voice is heard will help give your child self-confidence.
3. Do as You Preach
When it comes to doing homework, the best thing for you to do is to lead by example. If you tell them to focus on their work and then go and do something that’s purely for leisure, it will send the wrong message.
Let your child know that you are working alongside them. Get a chore done around the house, or get some early work done for your office.
4. Provide Motivation
When it comes to doing homework, positive reinforcement will always work better compared to negative reinforcement. After all, doing homework is often already something negative in their mind, and if you compound that negativity by being overbearing, authoritarian, or overly strict about them doing homework, it might cause your child to become even more resistant to doing their homework.
Showing appreciation and encouragement is a great way to make your child motivated to do their homework, especially if you notice that your child is doing their homework on their own. This shows that you notice their hard work and effort and that you are acknowledging their efforts.
Motivation doesn’t always have to mean a physical or financial reward! Even something as simple as praise for homework done well and on time can motivate a student into doing their homework .
5. Let them Vent Out
Just like you, most students can experience stress, anxiety, and frustration at school. However, they don’t always know how to express it properly, and in some cases, they might even be afraid to vent out their negative emotions because they are afraid of how their parents will react.
It is important that you show them you are providing them with a safe and accepting space where they can air out their frustrations and negative emotions without fear of repercussions. Of course, you need to teach them how to properly communicate their negative emotions without them being destructive or harmful. Providing them with an avenue for open and honest communication will allow them to properly process their feelings, as well as become relaxed and less stressed.
For more great education tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics .
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