Help With Homework For Middle Schoolers

For Teachers

Homework in Middle School: Building a Foundation for Study Skills

By Caitrin Blake October 5, 2016

In the middle school years, students begin to experience the benefits of homework, though it is difficult to determine how much good it does, particularly at a given age. And there is some debate on how much homework students need to receive that benefit.

Duke University’s Harris Cooper, one of the leading researchers on homework, says students enjoy genuine academic benefits from homework, including better comprehension and retention of subject matter. However, while the benefit is clear for high school students and beyond, the degree to which homework helps middle school students is a matter of some contention.

Research on homework is complex because multiple factors come into play:

  • It’s difficult to tell if homework helps high achievers do well, or if they do their homework because they are high achievers.
  • It’s challenging to determine how much homework students actually do. Most homework studies rely on self-reported data, which means students can easily misstate the quantity of time they spend on homework.
  • Many studies use test scores to measure academic success, which, as many researchers point out, is an inherently problematic form of measurement.

Teachers should assign an appropriate amount of homework

While there is still much discussion on the effectiveness of homework, research asserts that the 10-minute rule per grade level holds true for middle school students. This means that students might receive anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes of homework each evening.

In middle school, students’ higher academic achievement starts to correlate with completing homework. However, this correlation fades if homework lasts longer than that.  Indeed, giving more than 90 minutes of homework has been shown to have detrimental effects on students.

Students need time away from their studies to relax and engage in social, extracurricular and family activities. When given too much homework, students lose this time and suffer the effects of stress and sleep deprivation, which has proved to reduce academic performance.

Purposeful assignments

Teachers who give homework must consider the purpose and value of the assignments. While elementary school homework can build confidence and engage students in the subject matter, middle school homework needs a more specific purpose.

Certain subjects require practice homework, such as vocabulary, which often requires drills. Other homework requires reading or more complicated skill work. Still, there is a growing belief among researchers that even when homework serves a clear and distinct purpose, less is more.

Homework should be clearly connected to learning outcomes and shouldn’t overwhelm students so much they are unable to actively participate in their lives beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers should carefully consider how much practice students need and design homework to effectively meet those goals within the shortest duration possible.

Ultimately, even if the benefit margin is small for middle school students, there are other advantages of completing homework. Some researchers argue that at least anecdotally, students develop important study skills that will benefit them in high school and college, and they learn the value of time management and responsibility.

Caitrin Blake has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

Learn More: Click to view related resources. Tags: Middle School (Grades: 6-8), Professional Development

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"After you finish your homework."

You have probably heard your mom or dad say these words. It might seem like all the good stuff has to wait until your homework is done. There's a good reason why adults make a big deal out of homework. Homework helps you learn. And getting a good education can help you build the kind of future life that you want. So homework is important, but how can you get it done?

First, you need a quiet place without clutter and confusion. Writing on top of potato chip crumbs while talking on the phone is not going to help you finish your history lesson. Turn off the TV and other distractions. You'll be better able to concentrate, which usually means you'll finish your work more quickly and it's more likely to be correct.

Set aside enough time to finish your work without rushing. You can't just squeeze your science assignment into the commercials during your favorite TV show. Really learning something takes time. But if you find that you're struggling even after putting in the time, you'll want to ask for help.

Why Do Some Kids Need Homework Help?

Aside from just not understanding the lesson or assignment, kids might need homework help for other reasons. Some kids are out sick for a long time and miss a lot of work. Others get so busy that they don't spend enough time on homework.

Personal problems can cause trouble with your work, too. Some kids may be dealing with stuff outside of school that can make homework harder, like problems with friends or things going on at home.

Kids whose parents are going through a divorce or some other family problem often struggle with getting homework done on time.

Even students who never had a problem with homework before can start having trouble because of problems they face at home. But whatever the reason for your homework struggles, there are many ways to get help.

Who Can Help?

Talk to someone (parents, teachers, school counselor, or another trusted adult) if you're having problems with schoolwork. Speak up as soon as you can, so you can get help right away before you fall behind.

Your parents are often a great place to start if you need help. They might be able to show you how to do a tough math problem or help you think of a subject to write about for English class. But they also can be helpful by finding that perfect spot in the house for you to do your homework and keeping supplies, like pencils, on hand. Parents also can cut down on distractions, like noisy younger brothers and sisters!

Teachers also are important resources for you because they can give you advice specific to the assignment you're having trouble with. They can help you set up a good system for writing down your assignments and remembering to put all the necessary books and papers in your backpack. Teachers can give you study tips and offer ideas about how to tackle homework. Helping kids learn is their job, so be sure to ask for advice!

Many schools, towns, and cities offer after-school care for kids. Often, homework help is part of the program. There, you'll be able to get some help from adults, as well as from other kids.

You also might try a local homework help line, which you would reach by phone. These services are typically staffed by teachers, older students, and other experts in school subjects.

You can also use the Internet to visit online homework help sites. These sites can direct you to good sources for research and offer tips and guidance about many academic subjects. But be cautious about just copying information from an Internet website. This is a form of cheating, so talk with your teacher about how to use these sources properly.

Another option is a private tutor. This is a person who is paid to spend time going over schoolwork with you. If cost is a concern, this can be less expensive if a small group of kids share a tutoring session.

Do It Together

Some kids will hardly ever need homework help. If you're one of them, good for you! Why not use your talent to help a friend who's struggling? You might offer to study together. Going over lessons together can actually help both of you.

Information is easy to remember when you're teaching it to someone, according to one fifth grader, who says she helps her friend, Jenny, with multiplication tables. "It helps me to learn them, too," she says. "I practice while she's practicing."

You might want to create a regular study group. You could set goals together and reward yourselves for completing your work. For example, when you finish writing your book reports, go ride your bikes together. Looking forward to something fun can help everyone get through the work.

Still Having Trouble?

Sometimes even after trying all these strategies, a kid still is having trouble with homework. It can be tough if this happens to you. But remember that everyone learns at a different pace. You might have to study for 2 hours instead of 1, or you might have to practice multiplication tables 10 times instead of 5 to really remember them.

It's important to put in as much time as you need to understand the lessons. Ask your mom or dad to help you create a schedule that allows as much time as you need.

And keep talking about the problems you're having — tell your parents, teachers, counselors, and others. That way, they'll see that you are trying to get your homework done. And when it is done, make sure you find time to do something fun!

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