Help with homework

My daughter will start first grade soon and I’ve heard she’ll be getting homework regularly. I’d like to get off to a good start with this and set the tone for years to come, but this is all new to me, too. How do I create the right ‘working relationship’ with my daughter?
Hold a family meeting to discuss homework and to have a general “pep” session about the possibilities of home learning. Plan a scheduled homework time and plan and organize the study center. Talk about roles and responsibilities. Most important, set a positive tone and be prepared to provide support and encouragement.

My son’s teacher requires him to do homework, but she never grades it. For example, every week he has to look up 15 words in a dictionary and copy the definitions. But as far as I can tell, the teacher just puts a check in her grade book that my son did the homework, but doesn’t grade it at all. Is this sound educational practice?
Research indicates that homework is most effective when teachers grade it and give students feedback about it. If homework is just busywork, it serves no real purpose. Talk to your son’s teacher. Perhaps she reviews homework with the students in class. Or maybe she doesn’t grade specific assignments but monitors her students’ performance on homework in another way. If neither seems to be the case in your son’s class, ask the teacher how your son (and you) can get more feedback on the work he does at home.

My daughter usually understands her homework, but she works through it too quickly and makes a lot of mistakes.
Check your daughter’s homework after she completes it and have her make the necessary corrections. Limit your help to general suggestions for improvement. (Examples: “You’ve forgotten two periods in this paragraph. Find where they belong.” Or “Five of your math problems seem to be wrong. Check your answers.”) Another alternative is to block off a specific amount of time each day as a homework period. If your daughter finishes her homework before the end of the period, let her spend the rest of the time on schoolwork-related activities you give to her. If she doesn’t finish her homework in the allotted time, make an assessment of what is left to be done and how well she used her time; then make a decision to go forward or to stop. Finally, you might consider starting a “reward system” for neat and accurate work.

My son is in the fifth grade. His school decided to ‘departmentalize’ this year. In other words, he now has different teachers for math, language arts, science and social studies. The idea behind this change is to help get the children ready for middle school, but from my point of view, it’s a disaster! My son can’t keep track of his homework assignments from class to class, and he never seems to know when he’s going to have a test. All of this switching around is very confusing to him – and to me!
Set up a meeting with your son’s teachers right away – don’t delay. Request that all four teachers be present (perhaps you can schedule a meeting on a teacher planning day). Explain the situation and suggest that you all put your heads together on an action plan. Work with the teachers to develop a system for monitoring the plan and making certain that your son is keeping up with homework and is prepared for tests. (Perhaps your son can keep one assignment sheet for all classes.) Once you decide on a plan with the teachers, let your son know what it is. Be patient; it may take some time before the plan becomes routine and all of the bugs are worked out.

If I have questions about homework, can’t I just email my daughter’s teacher?
Like most people, individual teachers have different opinions about email. Some teachers are online constantly and like frequent email communication with parents. Others rarely check their email. Obviously, it takes time to respond to each parent’s emails, which reduces the time teachers have for lesson planning. Ask your daughter’s teacher about email preferences. If the teacher encourages email communication, use the follwing guidelines:

  • Reserve emails for essentials – be prudent.
  • Write messages that are direct and short – be concise.
  • Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to the teacher’s face – be respectful.
  • If the teacher doesn’t respond, call or make an appointment to see the teacher – be flexible.
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