March 21, 2019
“I’ve yet to see a kid jump for joy when homework is mentioned,” says Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC program director in Plainfield, NJ. “But providing the right help at the right time can make a positive difference.” Here are some tips on becoming a good “homework mechanic” so studying runs smoothly.
Design a comfortable, supportive homework space. Spence says, “Our student-designed homework help space provides Chromebooks, bean bags, study center tables, carpet centers, manipulatives and supplies so that students feel comfortable, supported and engaged. They enjoy the stress-free environment, and most work in study groups, talk out loud, and solve problems together while eating a snack or meal.” Christen Peterson, Indiana’s 21st CCLC grant specialist, suggests, “You can create stations for specific subjects, like a math station with calculators and graph paper, or an English station with a dictionary and thesaurus. Make sure there’s a quiet work space available, especially for students who have sensory issues. We have one program that uses a pop-up tent and noise-canceling headphones.”
Consider grouping students during homework time. Possible groupings include assignment type, subject or grade level. Or you might use a “buddy system” so that students can use their strengths to help their peers.
Check students’ understanding of their homework assignments. If students misinterpret an assignment, or don’t understand what they’re supposed to do, they can waste time and effort — and become discouraged.
Check with individual students every few minutes. Some may need help staying on track. Others may want and need help but feel self-conscious about drawing attention to themselves. Consistent check-ins with all students make everyone feel more comfortable about seeking help. Peterson suggests designating staff as experts for certain topics if you don’t have certified teachers to help. “For example, if you have a college student who’s a biology major working or volunteering in your program, he or she could be the official science tutor during homework time.”
Teach and reinforce good study habits and organization skills. Teach students how to use outlining, note taking, memory tricks, and peer discussion to help them learn and remember new content. Teach them how to keep track of their progress on assignments. Raquel Gwynn, 21st CCLC education specialist in Oregon, says, “Having students track what’s due when, and prompting them to look at their homework binder, gets them thinking about planning ahead. As they master basic organizational skills, you can scaffold toward higher-level skills.”
Communicate with students’ school-day teachers. Spence says, “In Plainfield, we use a homework log, which we call a homework sharing tool. It’s updated weekly and placed in grade-level binders in the main office so school-day teachers can follow up on students’ afterschool homework patterns. This practice has enhanced communications between the 21st CCLC afterschool program and the school day.”
Looking for more homework tune-up tips? See the Homework section of the Afterschool Training Toolkit.