January 29, 2013
Homework time is often a nightmare in homes of children with ADHD and Learning Disabilities. It typically takes kids with ADHD and/or LD much more time to do their homework than the average student – even with parental supervision and direct assistance. Assignments that take 15-20 minutes for most of their classmates to complete can easily be an hour of work for these students. There are many ways teachers can be supportive and build home/school relations in the process.
- Be responsive to parents reporting great frustration surrounding homework. Be willing to make adjustments so that students with ADHD and/or Learning Disabilities spend a reasonable, not excessive, amount of time doing their homework. For example, shorten the assignment or reduce the amount of writing required.
- Realize that students with ADHD who receive medication during the school day to help them focus and stay on task are often not receiving medication benefits after school or in the evening hours. It is an unreasonable expectation that parents be able to get their child to produce at home what you weren’t able to get them to produce all day at school.
- Be willing to make homework accommodations and modifications for students with ADHD and/or LD – particularly reducing the written output required. Ask yourself: “What is the goal?” “What do I want the students to learn from the assignment?” “Can they get the concepts without having to do all the writing?” “Can they practice the skills in an easier, more motivating format?” “Can they practice the skills doing fewer?”
- Many teachers have a practice of sending home all unfinished class work. Avoid doing so when possible. Of course, some in-class assignments will need to be completed at home, but try to find alternatives for your students with ADHD and/or LD. Provide the necessary supports so that in-school work is in-school work, and homework is homework.
- Remember that homework should be a time for reviewing and practicing what students have been taught in class. Don’t give assignments involving new information that parents are expected to teach their children.
- Do not add on homework as a punishment for misbehavior at school.
- Visually post all homework assignments. In addition to explaining them, write the assignments clearly in a consistent location of the classroom (corner of the board, chart stand).
- If you have extra copies of text books to loan parents, do so for those students who are forgetful and frequently leave the books they need at home or school.
- Make sure you have explained the homework carefully and clarified any questions.
- Communicate electronically the homework and project expectations and timelines (e.g., via homework hotlines, teacher web pages or other Internet class websites, voice mail). Keep information to parents and students up-to-date.
- Communicate regularly with parents of students who are falling behind in homework. Don’t wait until the student is so far behind in completing work that it’s almost impossible to get caught up. For example, use a home/school monitoring form such as this Daily Monitoring Report - indicating missing assignments, or notify parents (e.g., via phone or email) when you notice there are a few missing or incomplete assignments.
- When you assign a long-term major project or report, consider calling the parents of some parents. Just because you have talked about it a lot in class, and provided written information, does not mean the parents know a thing about the assignment. You may call to ask parents to check the notebook for the written information about the project, or volunteer to send another copy to post at home. A few well-meaning phone calls, text messages, or emails offering your support and assistance can make a big difference.
- Communicate with other teachers in your team. Students who have several teachers are often assigned a number of tests, large projects, and reading assignments all at the same time from their different classes. Be sensitive to this. Stagger due dates, and coordinate whenever possible with other teachers to avoid the heavy stress of everything being due at the same time.
Monitoring & Support
- Supervise your students with ADHD & LD before they walk out the door at the end of the day. Make sure they have materials, books, and assignments recorded and in their backpacks.
- Assign a study buddy (or two) to your students with ADHD &/or LD – responsible and willing classmates they can contact in the evening regarding homework questions or to find out what they missed on days they were absent.
- One of the most important things you can do to help ALL students (and their parents) keep on top of homework, tests, and long-term projects is to require use of an assignment sheet, calendar, or planner. Then guide, walk-through, and monitor the recording of assignments. If this is a daily expectation and routine, it will help everyone considerably.
- With some students you will need to check and initial their assignment calendar/sheet/planner.
- Also have parents initial the assignment planner/calendar/sheet daily. There can be a place for parents and teacher to write notes to each other, as well. This makes an excellent home/school communication system.
- Establish a system for directly collecting homework from your students with ADHD and LD. Even when they have spent hours on homework assignments, it is very common for these students to forget to turn them in and credit for the work they did.
- Work with your school about the possibility of having supervised study halls, homework labs/clubs, tutorials, and other assistance available for students who need it.
- Be sure to collect homework and give some feedback. It is very frustrating to students and parents to spend a lot of time on assignments that the teacher never bothers to even collect.
- Allow the student to email to you his or her homework to avoid assignments getting lost ( a very common problem of students with ADHD).
- Try to make the homework assignments more interesting. One way to add interest and increase motivation to work on homework is to build in the component of student choice. For example: Select 3 of the 5 questions to answer; choose from topics A, B, or C; and so forth.
- Include some homework that incorporates an element of play or fun – such as a learning game to reinforce or practice a skill.
- Reward students for completed and turned in homework (e.g., extra points, tangible treats, “one free homework” pass, “one late homework without penalty” pass, special privileges, or whatever students find positively reinforcing.
- Write a goal for improvement in homework performance together with the student and parent that is realistic and achievable. If, for example, the child turns in less than 50% of homework assignments during the typical week, the initial goal might be to turn in 65- 70% of weekly assignments - then raising the goal/performance standard to 80% then 90% as the student achieves success.
- Write the goal into a contract or Daily Report Card (DRC), with rewards for achieving the goal. See examples of DRCs on the Tips from Sandra page.
Keep Things in Perspective
- Realize how critical it is for students with ADHD and/or LD to participate in extracurricular activities. They need every opportunity to develop areas of strength and interest (athletics, dance, arts/crafts, music) that will be their source of self-esteem and motivation. These non-academic, after-school activities are very important to their development, and the child should have the time to participate. So, be flexible and willing to make adjustments in the homework load – differentiating homework assignments, as needed.
- Also keep in mind that many students with learning/attention difficulties have tutors, work with other professionals in the community (e.g., counseling), and participate in additional academic training programs outside of school. Factor that in when assigning homework to these students, as well.
The content of this blog is adapted from Sandra Rief’s books, published by Jossey-Bass:
The Dyslexia Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents & Teachers (co-authored with J. Stern)
Tags: ADHD, homework, LD, Learning Disabilities, tips for teachers