Q. My 11-year-old son is having trouble finishing his homework on his own. Is there anything I can ask his teacher to do to help?
A. Homework can create different hurdles for different kids. I’ve seen so many different homework strategies over the years in my own classroom, in my work with hundreds of teachers, and as a parent.
Your child’s teacher is a great person to partner with to help your child succeed. Here are some strategies that you can ask your child’s teacher about if you think they could help.
Have kids start their homework at school
First, some teachers find it helpful to have kids start homework before they leave school. That way they can offer guidance and feedback that can help kids finish their work later at home. When I was teaching, I learned that sending kids home with work they were able to do earlier makes it more likely that they’ll have an “I can” attitude when they start to work at home.
Other teachers I work with have found it helpful to have kids rate both the difficulty level of a homework assignment and their ability to do it. They can use a five-point scale, with “5” being “no way!” When teachers see a “5” rating, they can work with students to get that level down before the kids leave for home.
Ask kids to create their own homework
I often advise teachers to ask kids this: “What’s the best way for you to show that you understand what we’ve learned? Come up with one or two things you can do tonight at home to show that you ‘get’ this stuff.”
Here’s another strategy teachers might use. Kids who create their own homework “assignment” are more likely to do it. The next day, the teacher might ask the kids, “How did that go? Did you like doing what you did? What did you learn by doing it? Did your parents help, and how did that work out?”
Try team assignments
Sometimes you can get kids to tackle homework if they work on virtual teams of two or three to do the task. Ideally, kids should get to pick their “homework buddy.” Then by phone or on Zoom, they can work together on the assignment.
This reduces the chance of a tantrum or meltdown. It also gives kids an opportunity for positive social interaction.
A teacher can set up these teams. Or you can connect with the parents of a few kids that your child works well with to create these “homework buddy” networks.
Strategies like these are worth talking about with your child’s teacher. Try out different things to see what works best for you and your child. And check out our parent community app Wunder for more helpful tips from other parents and experts like me.