Assigning “homework” is one of the best things a clinician or teacher can do for their students.
Controversial? Maybe. Frustrating to (especially middle school) students? Sometimes. Straight forward? Definitely not.
As clinicians or teachers, we are often limited by time; whether it’s the number of minutes per session, number of sessions per week, or number of hours in a day. Our time limitations make the whole idea of “practice makes perfect” incredibly difficult to accomplish.
Although perfect isn’t the goal, learning material so well that one can successfully complete a task in multiple different environments is. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve learned that assigning “homework” is a valuable asset in helping students make strides towards independence, generalization, and carryover. And, it’s a great way to add extra practice when time isn’t on your side.
Now, when I say “homework” the quotations are intentional. It is quite literally work one does at home, so “homework” is the best way to describe it. But the “homework” I applaud is work that is meaningful, accessible, intentional, and proven to help students make the strides they need.
Moreover, when possible, worthwhile “homework” can include a parent or caregiver so they can understand what their child is working on and help them translate the skills to activities at home.
Let me give you an example:
As a language & literacy specialist, many of my students are learning how to read. One of the first things we work on together is letter sounds. Meaning, I teach them how to automatically produce the sound that goes with a letter. Additionally, they learn to write the letter that goes with the target sound.
While working through letter sounds, I often send home practice cards for parents to work on daily with their students. Practicing their sounds takes no more than two minutes, allows for continuous practice, and helps parents become involved in their child’s learning process.
But, these sounds should not be sent home unless:
Children have come close to mastering them in intervention. We want good practice at home; not practice that will cause them to develop bad habits or lead to frustration.
Parents have a clear understanding of what their child should be doing. A. wonderful technique is to send home a how-to video so parents have a direct example.
Children have an active role in deciding what “homework” to bring home. Be the child expert you are and help shape it as a fun activity and a way they can show off their skills to their family.
Now, this idea of assigning letter sounds may seem straightforward, but I have witnessed far too many students be assigned books to read at home before they have mastered their letter sounds. While it’s tempting to send home a more complicated task that parents may be excited about (Hey, everyone wants to listen to their kiddo read a book!), it does a child a disservice to assign “homework” that exceeds their current skill level. They will get to the book with time.
Ask your provider for activities you can do at home.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Share honest feedback about how the at-home activities are going.
Ask for resources, ideas, and activities. Don’t hesitate to recreate the suggested activities for extra practice.
Make “homework” fun! Create ways to make it a special time. Perhaps that means your child gets a special drink or snack, gets to sit in a special seat, or gets to show off their skills to a special family member.
If “homework” starts to create stress or frustration, stop. Let your clinician know so they can adjust the activities.
Keep it simple! Create “homework” activities that are straightforward, engaging, and accessible.
When possible, create activities that are easily reproducible. For example, create a game that can be played with a variety of different targets. That way, the activity can be recreated with various stimuli items.
Ask your student, their parents, and/or their caregivers for feedback! Adjust activities as needed.
Make sure the directions are clear and easy to follow. Better yet, send simple videos to help eliminate any confusion around directions.
Give your student an active role in creating the “homework” activities. Listen to their input on what activities they would like to do at home.
Keep an open line of communication with your student’s parents and caregivers. Give them an active role in their child’s treatment, and be sure to listen to their feedback on how their child is doing at home.
When beneficial, give your student a “homework” chart to bring home. This will help them keep track of the assignment, track their progress, and feel a sense of pride when they turn it in completed.
Don’t underestimate the power of incentives! If a student requires extra motivation to do their “homework”, create a reward system to hold them accountable. Many of my students love earning an extra game of Uno when they turn in a completed chart.
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