Q/A – My students don’t bring back their homework. Should I keep assigning it?

First ask yourself some questions: Why are you giving homework? Is there a school policy, or is it up to the teacher? In many places it is a timeworn tradition that students have homework, or it may be that parents demand it or have banned it.

What is the purpose served by homework? Is it a real opportunity for students to review or practice a skill? Is it meant to let families know what is going on in class? Or is it just “busy work?” What happens to the work that students bring back? Who looks at it? How is it used, or not used?

These questions are just the beginning.

If you really want your students to take homework seriously, spend time on it and return it, then the content has to be meaningful and connected to their lives, the class- room, or both. Homework has to be thought through and planned like any other part of the curriculum. Involve students in the development and use of the information in their homework. Let them know that you and they will need the data they collected, or the words of the person they interviewed, to continue the work in the classroom over the next days.

Homework can be an opportunity to learn about the lives and perspectives of students and their families. It can be a chance to give kids practice in collecting data, to experiment with materials and ideas, to gain expertise in conducting surveys and inter- views. Asking for knowledge, ideas, and perspectives from students and their families will give you and your students the rich beginnings of many classroom conversations.

You also have to be sensitive to the circumstances students face outside of school. Is there a place for the student to do work at home? Will there be another person available to help with the work, or to see that it’s done? What resources does your student have outside of school? Does the
family have access to computers or other technology, for example? Don’t assume that all your students do or don’t have resources. Find out. Ask.

If you have students who can’t or don’t do homework, you can also find ways for them to complete the work at school.

Some examples of homework assignments that invite students’ lives into the classroom.

  • Interview someone in your family about:
  • An upcoming holiday
  • A current event
  • Experiences that they may have had
  • What is peace?
  • What is justice?
  • What is your best advice to me?
  • What do you know about?