How to get k 12 Students to do their Homework

How to get K-12 students to do their homework challenges the best of teachers.  As discussed in “Why K-12 students do not do their homework,” there are many reasons why they do not, which range from lack of enthusiasm, environmental pressures which include financial hardship, and familial and parental issues. 

Teachers have a heavy workload nowadays-due to budget cuts, there have been layoffs which have lead to hiring freezes for both licensed teachers and support personnel while simultaneously increasing class sizes, resulting in fewer teachers in charge of larger classes.  In addition, teachers are often called upon to volunteer to coach and lead after school clubs and other extracurricular activities which the school districts have come to depend on the teachers to fill in.

With excessive demands on their time, teachers cannot do the individual counseling and tutoring which some students require to keep them motivated and on task.  Scheduling conferences with parents takes time, calling and waiting for a response, reserving time after school in order to conference with the parent and child, sometimes also attended by a school administrator.

Some students require special prodding and attention which, as has been mentioned, is more difficult than ever because of the reduction in teaching staff.  Except in exceptional cases, teachers have to handle student behavior problems themselves.  Along with a reduction in teaching staff there has also been a reduction in administrative and counseling staff.

Instituting a good management plan to see that students do their homework is of prime necessity.  Establishing good classroom rules, yet maintaining a democratic classroom environment is the first step. 

*Rules should be posted where easily seen.  They should be discussed one by one and explained to the class.  Any requirements that affect the grade, such as not turning in homework on time, missed assignments, or not turning it in at all should be clearly stated.

*Homework requirements as to due dates and any other expectations should be printed out on a letter from the teacher to the parents. The letter should be sent home with the student with a request that the parent read and sign it to insure that if there are any questions arising later regarding the grades, it is on file as having been read by the parent and read or explained to the student.

*A portion of the teaching  board may be reserved for writing in the assignments and dates due.

*After telling the class the assignment, stop and ask if there are any questions on how to do it.  If a student is especially confused, invite them to see the teacher individually at his/her desk.

*Allow enough time before the end of the day or period to pass out any worksheets and packets so that each student will have the necessary materials to take home with them, and to explain and answer any questions in case of confusion.

Methods to encourage students to do their homework include both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  Recent trends in education have been attempting to develop attitudes, deal with the emotional and personality parts of the student.  This means basically, that the reward should be in the doing, accomplishment, responsibility-internal nonmaterial rewards.  It takes time and thought to pay personal attention to students.  As mentioned previously, there is a lack of time and an overload of students, making it nearly impossible for many teachers to pursue these as the main way of developing students’ work habits.

Encouragement but not praise is recommended by educational psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs, because if a child becomes dependent on praise and it is withheld, it could result in loss of self-esteem.

Extrinsic rewards of a material nature are favored and relied upon by many teachers.  Children like them too.  Pizza parties and stickers and other things are appreciated by the students and they enjoy them.  It would be understandable if the teacher resorted to extrinsic rewards, such as being allowed to skip certain assignments as a reward for doing a certain number, or food or material gifts such as sparkly pencils, cute erasers with animal bodies.

Some ideas for extrinsic rewards:

*Turning in a certain number of homework assignments and an allowed skip.

*Extra library time or extra minutes to leave early for lunch.

*Add some fun things in along with the homework:  web searches, games, and puzzles, change the routine now and then to make it more interesting.

*Recognition: always acknowledge whether it is done or not with a frown, smile or nod; (very effective for children in lower grades who may not have homework but do have to take home and return papers to parents); stamp and initial it immediately when received; give a compliment if deserved; award a certificate of achievement for all homework completed. 

*Food: popcorn, goldfish crackers, chips, cookies, apple or orange, fruit roll, jello cup, chocolate kisses, pizza party, cupcake/ice cream party with parents’ help. (Mindful of any individual dietary concerns.)

*Material gifts such as sparkly pencils, crayolas, colored pencils, funny animal body erasers, stickers, balloons, notepads or books.

*Treasure chest filled with toys and appealing items. Student earns chance to look inside and choose a gift.

Intrinsic rewards are financially easy on the teacher but time demanding.  Extrinsic rewards can become costly if relied upon to the extent that students come to expect them and slack off if not offered continually.  Over a period of time and with experience every teacher has to work out their own homework management plan.  What works and what does not will ultimately determine its success.


Manning, M. L. and Bucher, K. T. Classroom Management, Models, Applications and Cases. 2nd Ed.  2007. Pearson  Education, Inc.  New Jersey: Upper Saddle River

 VirtualSalt (2 March 1991) by Robert Harris, Ph.D. “Some Ideas for Motivating Students.” (

 William Pierce (2003).  (