Helping Students with Homework in Science and Math
Teachers assign homework for a variety of reasons: to help students review, apply, and integrate what has been learned in class; to help them prepare for the next class session; to extend student exploration of topics more fully than class time permits; or to help students gain skills in self-directed learning and using resources such as libraries and reference materials. Homework can also help students:
Homework can also bring parents and teachers closer together; parents who supervise homework and assist their children with assignments learn more about their children's education and about the school [Adapted from "Helping Your Child with Homework," (Paulu, 1995), available on-line from the U.S. Department of Education at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/Homework/index.html.
Homework is intended to be a positive experience that encourages children to learn; assignments should not be viewed as punishment. According to Paulu (1995), children who spend more time on homework, on average, do better academically than children who don't, and the academic benefits of homework increase in the upper grades. Research on homework during the last decade began to focus on the relationship between homework and student achievement, and has greatly strengthened the case for assigning homework. Although there are mixed findings about whether homework actually increases students' academic achievement, many teachers and parents agree that homework develops students' initiative and responsibility, and fulfills the expectations of students, parents, and the public. "Studies generally have found homework assignments to be most helpful if they are carefully planned by the teachers and have direct meaning to students" (Paulu, 1995).
HOW MUCH HOMEWORK IS REASONABLE?
The National Parent-Teacher Association and the National Education Association recommend the following amounts of homework :
It will take some students longer than others to complete assignments. Research studies have shown that students with low test scores who spend substantial time on homework get grades as good as higher ability students who spend less time. However, teachers and parents need to be aware that if assignments generally take too long, this may be a may sign that a student needs more instruction to complete them successfully. While some homework is a good thing, too much can frustrate students and cause stress. It's also important that kids have time to exercise, play, socialize, and pursue their own personal interests.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD WITH HOMEWORK?
First, avoid doing the homework yourself! Doing homework for a child sends a message that he or she is incapable of doing the work and that perfection is the main objective. It also denies your child the opportunity to develop skills and gain understanding from the experience. Remember, doing homework should help children plan, manage, and complete work on their own, Parents should be familiar with the school's homework policy and help their children get the most out of homework by:
Planning homework schedules and routines that allow some free time when assignments are completed. Make sure your child is well rested, not hungry, and has had time to wind down after school (Herold, 1999). Also, avoid scheduling homework right before bedtime when children will be too tired or feel pressured to finish by bedtime. For long-term projects, mark plans and deadlines on a calendar.
Monitoring television and radio use. If there is a favorite show that comes on during scheduled study time, arrange to record the show if possible.
Doing some assignments or questions together with a child when he or she asks for help. Sometimes children need help in learning how to break large assignments down into manageable pieces.
The computer has become a common and essential tool in learning many school subjects, particularly mathematics and science. You and your children can use a computer to:
For more information about helping your child with homework, see "How Parents Can Help With Homework" by Judith Lips and "Homework Helpers For Parents" by Kenneth Shore, both available online at http://family.go.com/Features/family_1999_02/nwfm/nwfm29homework/. Parents should also provide feedback to the teacher, a counselor, or a school administrator if there are ongoing problems with time requirements for homework, difficulty in understanding or completing assignments, a consistently negative attitude toward homework assignments, or lack of progress in learning. Homework is an essential component of the total educational program for students and should enhance the intellectual development of a child while creating greater interest and success in learning and studying.
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