In my last post, I talked about one of the main reasons kids dislike homework: unclear expectations about assignments. In this post, I'll dig into another big reason for homework struggles- not knowing what to do.
No student likes being behind or constantly being nagged about missing work, so most will do what is expected, with varying levels of effort. With my private clients, I help students overcome barriers to school success, and a lot of time is spent on missing assignments. Given that they don't like being behind, why aren't they keeping up?
I'll say, "Okay, what's for homework?"
"I think it's an online web quest thing..."
"I have to finish a worksheet from class ."
"I need to do my slides for a group project."
"It's some big assignment, but she will explain it more tomorrow, so ..."
"I have a test tomorrow."
These answers show the student doesn't know exactly what to do to complete the assignment or be prepared for class. The reasons are many: not paying attention to directions, not asking for clarification, unclear rules, multiple-step directions, no notes to study, and not knowing what to study.
When I see the lack of clarity, I then will ask the student to show me the assignment: pull up the WebQuest thing, show me the group slide show, what worksheet, do you have a study guide?
By looking at each assignment specifically together, we can untangle the confusion so that what is expected is clear. Sometimes, this takes explaining directions, helping them through technology questions, and breaking down the steps into sizable chunks. Once students know what needs to be done, they do it (remember, they don't like being behind, being nagged, failing)
As for teachers, having several students reiterate the homework directions/assignment can help ensure clarity. Simply asking if everyone understands does not work. Most students will nod yes. Who wants to say they don't understand in front of a classroom of peers? So, asking different students to rephrase can help clarify things for all the students- no embarrassment is needed. You can also make it part of the homework practice that at least three students must ask one question about the directions before class ends. These simple steps can alleviate a lot of the confusion when it comes time to work at home.
But still, a student might resist, even when they know there's homework and what the assignment is, which leads us to reason 3- they don't know how to do it. More on that next time.