By Shawna Audet
In their article, “Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems Turn in Their Homework,” Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel provide four useful strategies. The strategies can be grouped into the following categories: process, procedures, and accommodations.
The first suggestion is that when a child is not handing in homework, we need to gain an understanding the child’s process for homework completion. This means that we should ask the child to walk us through their process from the moment when they are assigned homework so that we can identify the sticking point. For example, if the homework is being lost, we want to identify where it is being lost. Once we know this critical piece of information, we can work with the child to consider what changes needs to take place to resolve the problem. In her article, “Enabling Disorganized Students to Succeed,” Suzanne Stevens suggests that it is useful to teach students to follow a set step-by step process when dealing with homework. She suggests teaching the child that "homework is not done until your homework is in its proper folder or notebook, the folders and notebooks are packed into your backpack, and your backpack is on its launching pad" (Stevens).
In my classes, I explicitly teach students the homework process. On the first day of class, I have all my students divide their notebooks into sections. The first section is called “Homework.” I don’t give a lot of homework, but when I do, students write the assignment details and due date on a page in their “homework” section. I put the same information on the board and provide a visual count down to the day that it is due. For students who have executive functioning problems, it can take a while for the process to work smoothly. For those who need extra support, I provide frequent check-ins and add little tweaks to the system. One tweak is that some students need to attach the idea of homework completion to an already established habit. For example, if a student loves basketball and brings basketball shoes to school everyday, then he could make a ritual of putting the shoes and then binder with the homework in it into the backpack before bed.
The next suggestion provided by Kahn and Dietzel is that it is useful to “develop templates of repetitive procedures.” They suggest creating checklists of things that need to be done when entering a classroom. Another suggestion is that parents can use checklists with their children to help to make sure that their morning routine goes smoothly. In my classes, I am a big fan of checklists. I try to provide them for every major assignment so that the students can check off each part as they proceed through the work. It is a great way to keep them organized and it also helps with their time management because I attach completion dates to the different tasks. As the students complete each part of the assignment, they initial when a section is completed and then they show it to me and I initial out the box that says, “teacher viewed.” This system is great for everyone, but it is essential for some students.
One final suggestion from Cooper-Khan and Dietzel is that we can provide accommodations that will help students to turn in their homework. The idea is that the teacher will build a reminder into the class until the desired pattern of behaviour is happening. I do this in my class by putting homework information on the board and providing a visual count down to the day that it is due. I also post homework on Freshgrade. Freshgrade is an online a communication platform to share student work and to support communication between the teacher, students, and parents. When I post homework on Freshgrade, I provide an example of how a finished product might look. I also let my students take out their phones right before the bell if they want to take a photo of the homework board.
In “Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems Turn in Their Homework,” Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel, get it right: their suggestions make common sense and they are easy to implement. I use all of their suggested techniques and my students complete homework when it is assigned. The secret to my success lies not just the suggested strategies though. I succeed in teaching my students to do homework because I am relentless about following the process myself. I always put the homework on the board, do the countdown to homework completion, and use Freshgrade to engage the parents as partners. The article suggests that some of these supports could be removed once the students are following the homework system, but I keep them in place because they are our classroom routines. Classroom routines are important because they create a sense of predictability in students, which helps to make them feel more at ease.
Cooper-Kahn , J., & Dietzel, L. (2021). Helping children with executive functioning problems turn in their homework. Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems Turn In Their Homework | LD Topics | LD OnLine. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from http://www.ldonline.org/article/Helping_Children_with_Executive_Functioning_Problems_Turn_In_Their_Homework
Stevens, S. H. (1987). Enabling disorganized students to succeed. LDTV.