What do you do if students do not complete their homework on time, or if a student never completes his/her homework assignments?

What do you do if students do not complete their homework on time, or if a student never completes his/her homework assignments?  When should you contact the parents and make them aware of the situation?

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Thank you for your help.  I actually am not a teacher yet.  I am finishing up my junior year in college, studying childhood and special education.  I will be student teaching next spring, and this has been one of my major concerns.  What ways do you "punish" students if they do not complete their assignments?  I remember when I was in elementary school we had to stay in during recess if we did not complete our homework on time, but I am not sure if that is still an appropriate punishment for students.

Since I teach a computer class, I can walk around and see the kids working every day.  Sometimes, when something is due, students will lose their work, claimed it got deleted, claim it is saved at home, etc.


I have always given my students a %50 on an assignement they "lost."  I know they worked on it, cause I can see them working on it every day.  However, that doesn't mean they finished it, and they couldn't turn it in when it was due. 


If the project is worth 20 points, they get a 10.  That way, the missed assignment doesn't destroy their grade, and they can recover from it. 


As for trying to get students to turn in their homework who do not?  If you can figure that out, please share with me. 


Thank you for your help!

You really have to take into consideration all of the variables.

  • Is this a problem that other teachers have with this student or is it only in your class?
  • Are there personal or emotional problems that the student is dealing with?
  • Are they losing it or forgetting because of a lack of organizational skills or are they just choosing not to do it?
  • Do they perform well in all other assessments and projects within your course?
    • You may need to address the fact that they do not value or find meaning in the homework. They may just see it as a waste of time. In many cases they are not wrong. 
    • You may want to try new strategies for homework. Take a look at the "flip the classroom" model. I wrote about it on this blog posting. It is an idea that has been researched by written about by many educators. It works really well.
I always recommend maintaining an open line of communication with parents at all grade levels. You may have the luxury of an online parent portal that publishes your gradebook. I still recommend calling  parents to keep them in the loop. The first person to speak to is of course the student.
Thanks for the help!

I've worked at several different elementary and middle schools in my career. At most of them, there were always one or two students who almost NEVER completed homework. No matter what was done -- calls home, punishment, reflection journals, etc. -- they didn't do it.


Then, I worked at a KIPP middle school. The demographics of the school were similar to the others where I worked -- low-income, minority students. But one of the mottos of the school was "No shortcuts, no excuses." As a school, we set up a culture of high expectations and academic success. Students learned that homework was a large part of their success.


Because the staff knew how important homework was to the structure of the next day's lesson, we agreed on a zero-tolerance policy for homework. Every morning, homeroom teachers checked every student's homework for every subject (thus eliminating the time used for this in content classes). If anything wasn't finished -- even if they just didn't write their name at the top of the page -- it was considered 'incomplete.' If any single assignment was missing (or only half done), homework was considered 'missing.'


Incomplete homework meant a mandatory lunch detention, where students ate in silence but could NOT work on their homework. Missing meant a mandatory after-school detention, where students completed reflection packets, answering questions about why they were there, how that behavior impacted them and their teammates, and how they could fix it.


Incomplete or missing homework was then due the following day. Within a few weeks, we went from 50% of kids not finishing homework to one single student who was consistently missing an assignment. This in a school where kids were in class from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and had an average of 2 hours of homework per night.


Here's why I think it worked:

  • there was consistency in every classroom, with every teacher in every grade level
  • there was a zero-tolerance culture (one day of detention for finishing 19/20 problems, and you're homework will be complete every day thereafter)
  • the school culture valued homework as an important part of learning; we communicated to students that, as teachers, we wanted our kids to learn and, by not completing homework, they weren't learning -- that was unacceptable
  • students weren't allowed to make up homework during their punishment, but they were still held accountable for it. That meant they had to do the missing homework, plus the new homework, and they had an hour less time to do it because of detention
Thank you this was very helpful!

I agree with Doug "They may just see it as a waste of time. In many cases they are not wrong", and had a similar discussion with my mom yesterday. We were talking about me trying to take a tour of the elementary school my son will go to in the fall of 12 (he's 3 now). I asserted that I would be evaluating how instruction is handled as well as homework, and technology. I have never really put too much stake in repetitive homework that's just there for the sake of doing it. After watching Race to Nowhere I am ready to fight if need be to reduce the homework of my children, as long as they can show they understand the material.


I am also making changes to how I address homework in my classes. I will have certain assignments that are for skill building and not evaluated, and some evaluation assignments. For the assignments that are evaluated I am going to use scales to assess the completeness of the work as well as the learning objectives (Blog post).  I am still working on how I will include all of this into and end of the semester grade, I have a felling almost the entire grade will be from an expanded portfolio and practical exams at the end.


I really believe that repetitive homework that is force to be done after the student understands material is detrimental. It just make them loose interest in the subject, with adversely affects how well they learn future material. I believe that is why I dislike math as much as I do.The things I understand I can do well, but doing something I didn't understand 50 times didn't help me learn it any better, and made me resent the entire subject.

Thank you for your help!

As far as homework credit, I put as much grade emphasis on completing assignments as I do on completing them well.  Of course you want both, but struggling students won't get buried with low scores.  Not completing an assignment on time for me would depend if it happened continuously.  I normally give a grace period of one day.  If this happened all the time or if a student never completed assignments, then you need to try to find out why.  It may be that the parent is part of the problem by having the kid work after school or scheduled too many extracurricular activities.  You'll be able to tell a lot from how the student reacts (i.e. oops, I don't care, embarrassment, etc.)

Keep a record of your notifications to parents or administrators on the issue.  Using email is an easy way to accomplish this.  You don't want anybody saying they weren't informed in the future or end up in a heated parent-teacher conference.

You should talk to the student and find out what the problem might be. They could be experiencing problems at home. They may not understand the material. There are many different issues that could be going on, so I think the best thing to do would be to talk to the student and try to understand what the source of the problem is and go from there.

This is such a hard situation because each teacher has his or her own way of dealing with their students.  I think that it really depends on the student.  If the student usually has their homework completed and turned in, then they should be given a chance to turn it in later with points deducted, but if this is a common occurence, I feel that the parents need to be contacted because you don't want the kid to fail and the parents have no idea what's going on.  Sometimes all the student needs is the parent getting involved to help them stay caught up.



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