Professor Offers Top Homework Tips for Parents, Students, and Teachers

Amy Broemmel knows about effective homework strategies.

Amy Broemmel, associate professor of theory and practice in teacher education in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

As a mom, former teacher, and current associate professor of theory and practice in teacher education in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, Broemmel has collected a wealth of helpful tips for parents, students, and teachers.

 Q: What are your top homework tips for parents?

  • Find what works for each child. Do they need to take a break before digging into homework, or is it better to jump right in? Do they work better with quiet or a bit of background noise? Do they like to work alone or around others? Consider what works best for your child and make it a habit.
  • Put away the devices. Despite what we like to think, humans (adults and children) aren’t good at multitasking. Stay focused by turning off the TV and putting aside phones, tablets, etc.
  • Build up to success. If you have a child who struggles with homework, start with the easiest task and build momentum toward tackling the harder stuff.
  • Be a homework advisor, not a homework doer. The bottom line is that it’s the child’s homework, not yours. Look over it, talk to them about it, but don’t just give them the answers.
  • Communicate with the teacher. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher about them. Sometimes children misinterpret teachers’ intent or directions—and teachers can’t know what homework struggles might be happening unless you tell them.  
  • Don’t stop reading. Most parents stop reading aloud when the kids learn to read on their own—around the age of six. However, there are benefits to reading aloud to and with kids of all ages, especially through the elementary years.

Q: What are your top homework tips for students? (Note: These tips are for middle school and up.)

  • Use a planner or calendar. Record your assignments in the same spot all the time, whether it’s in a paper planner or an app on your electronic device. Make sure you note when they’re assigned and when they’re due.
  • Use a specific app. It is easy to overlook assignments you put in your calendar along with everything else. Using an app like Todoist, Anydo, EduManager, or another homework/schedule tracking app can help you keep from missing anything.
  • Know yourself. When do you do your best work—early morning, right after school, or later in the evening? Figure out when you are most efficient and do your work then.
  • Put away your phone. Any task takes longer when you’re Snapchatting, Instagramming, or FaceTiming with friends. You’ll be more efficient if you focus on homework.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know how to do something, don’t just skip it. Ask a friend, a parent, or your teacher. Most teachers would rather get an email asking questions about the assignment than have to give a zero on it when it’s not turned in.

Q: What are your top homework tips for teachers?

  • Communicate openly with parents. Enlist students’ and parents’ help in tracking how much time your homework assignments actually take to complete. Keep the directions simple and encourage parents and students to contact you if they encounter issues.
  • Be flexible and understanding. If a student misses a homework assignment, you don’t have to automatically give a zero. If the student has established a pattern of missing homework, talk to them about why; you might be surprised what you learn. Being fair to your students doesn’t always mean everything has to be equal.
  • Be picky about homework. Assign only things that students should be able to do without much support, since many may not have help at home. Also, think about why you’re assigning something; if it doesn’t serve a clear purpose, think twice about requiring it. Once kids reach middle school they’re typically getting homework from more than one teacher.
  • Allow time for reading. Kids who read for 15­ to 20 minutes a day will end up reading between 1 million and 2 million words over the course of a year. Kids who read for only five minutes barely break the 300,000 mark. Reading comprehension is essential to understanding and success in all subject areas.
  • Give feedback. If it’s important enough for a student to spend out-of-school time working on it, it should be important enough for you to provide constructive feedback.

Q: What are your top tips for kids to get back into a school and homework routine?

  • Ease back in. Start moving bedtimes and morning wake-up calls a little earlier in the days leading up to the first week of school. If they’re not getting enough sleep, they’re not going to have the energy needed to sustain focus throughout the entire school day, let alone tackle additional homework in the evening effectively.
  • When they do homework, sit down with them and do yours. Whether it’s household tasks like bill paying, meal planning, or your own after-hours work-related tasks, set an example by putting away your own devices and modeling how to focus attention on the task.
  • Talk to your kids about how they’re doing. Chat with them about their friends, classes, and teachers. Ask them how they feel, what they like, what they don’t like. Look for opportunities to have a meaningful conversation. Regardless of age, children often provide a lot more insight than you might think.

CONTACT:

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)