Homework….A Powerful Strategy to Motivate Students

One concern I often hear from parents is that their child doesn’t like to read and that doing homework quickly becomes a tug of war! The increased demands of the common core curriculum now requires students to achieve more at a younger age.  Gone are the days of learning how to write your name, recite the alphabet and identify the primary colors in kindergarten.  Students are now expected to read on a level D by the end of kindergarten, write a complete paragraph and identify the setting, characters, problem and solution in order to meet the new standards! These can be daunting tasks with all the other academic, emotional, and social transitions that incoming students must make as they navigate between their home and school environment.

A common problem that occurs in the earlier grades is that students have been working hard all day and when they get home they are exhausted.  How often after a full day at school have you heard your child say, “I’m so happy to do my homework!” Making a unilateral decision by telling your child to do their homework, often results in a power struggle. No worries if a power struggle is already occurring. This can be changed. In a nutshell, simply give choices. Why does it work?  It works because psychologically, your child now feels he/she is making the decision.  Of course, you’re not budging on the outcome, you are simply revising how it’s going to be implemented by making your child feel like he/she is in the driver’s seat!

In order to have the most powerful effect limit choices. I suggest giving no more than two options for students under the age of eight. Children can become overwhelmed when there are too many choices on the table, and you don’t want to end up back at square one.

There is a great deal of research that supports this strategy.  A 2008 meta-analysis of 41 studies found a strong link between giving students choices and their intrinsic motivation for doing a task, their overall performance on the task, and their willingness to accept challenging tasks (Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008).

Please see my Dear Reading Teacher page for additional strategies on how to help your child succeed.


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