Establishing a Homework Policy

Gisele Glosser

When establishing a homework policy. it is important to create one that is fair and consistent for the students, and, at the same time, realistic for the busy teacher. Student lateness and absence can make it difficult to enforce a homework policy, especially in a class period of 35 to 40 minutes.

I use a homework and preparedness policy that works very well.  I never penalize a student for being absent. However, I will deduct points if a student fails to make up missed assignments.

Each marking period, all students start out with a test score of 100 for homework and preparedness. Points are deducted as follows:

  checkmark-blue.gif  -5 for each missed assignment

  checkmark-blue.gif  -3 for each late assignment

  checkmark-blue.gif  -2 each time the student is unprepared

I use a clipboard with a copy of the class list to track students' scores. Absent students are given back a full 5 points once assignments have been made up. If a student does not have the assignment in class when it is due, 5 points are deducted; 2 points are given back when the student shows me the assignment (at lunch or after school). Points for being unprepared are deducted when a student fails to bring his/her pencils, notebook, and textbook to class. As a general rule, students may not show me missed or late assignments during class. There simply is not enough time.  I have them come after school or at lunch to show me the assignments.

This policy may seem elaborate, but it is actually quite effective. Students are motivated to make up missed work in order to get points back. It teaches them to be responsible. There is only one drawback: If you do not give many tests during the marking period, the homework score may have too heavy a weight on the student's grade. In most cases, this will inflate the student's grade.

Going over homework assignments is just as important as having a system for grading it.  If you don't go over the assignment at all, students will think homework is unimportant, regardless of your policy. As a math teacher, I like to emphasize that some mistakes on homework are okay, as long as you learn from them. Each day, I go around the room checking that homework was completed, marking missed assignments on my clipboard. Next, I go over the answers with the class in one of the following ways depending on the assignment. (Each student is responsible for checking and correcting his/her own homework paper.)

  checkmark-blue.gif  Aloud in a round-robin fashion

  checkmark-blue.gif  Aloud through teacher dictation

  checkmark-blue.gif  By distribution of a small answer sheet to each student

  checkmark-blue.gif  At the chalkboard, with students' oral participation

  checkmark-blue.gif  At the chalkboard, with students writing out the solutions

  checkmark-blue.gif  In cooperative learning groups

  checkmark-blue.gif  On the overhead projector, with students' participation

  checkmark-blue.gif  By collecting and grading students' assignments

The important thing here is to go over the assignment somehow. By the second marking period, I am able to check the assignment for completion AND go over the answers in 5 to 7 minutes. (Of course, there are exceptions to this.) To demonstrate the importance of homework, from time to time I place a homework problem on a quiz or a test.

Generally, I assign homework every day. Some states forbid the assignment of homework on certain religious holidays. Check with your school administrator for more information.

Whatever homework policy you devise, remember to create something that is realistic and enforceable. Also keep in mind that your time in and out of the classroom is valuable. Take the time to spell out your policy to students at the beginning of the school year. You may even want to send your policy home to parents in a letter -but have a colleague or administrator review it first.

This article is by Gisele Glosser. You can find me on Google.