Supporting Students: Homework Completion and the “Missing Homework” E-mail

By this point in the year, many parents may have received a short e-mail from their child saying something like, “Dear Mom and Dad, I did not complete my reading assignment because I thought it was due next week…”  While some middle schoolers already have excellent work habits and are masterful time managers, even more are still learning how to manage the demands of multiple assignments from different teachers, various kinds of assignments, and the increased complexity of after school activities and more independence.

Our own D-E MS teachers employ many strategies to support students in learning this important skill.  One example is the direct instruction in recording assignments that teachers give every day in each class, as they ask students to write down their assignments, and when they require that students save work begun in class in specific google folders or other precise locations.  Another example is the time management that teachers model for students when they give interim deadlines for long-term projects – showing students how to break down an assignment and to predict how long certain tasks will take.  The “missing homework” e-mail that all students are asked to write when they do not turn in an assignment on time is another such strategy.

When a student does not turn in an assignment on time, he or she writes a note to his/her parent, teacher, HB advisor and dean.  The purpose of this is not to scold the student but to help him to reflect on what led to the lapse so that he or she can problem–solve and learn more about his or her own process.  Most students can recognize a glitch in their own systems if they take a moment to write it down, and one or two missing assignments are generally not a cause for concern.  However, if a student seems to be having repeated trouble keeping track of assignments or finishing work, s/he may need help figuring out how to solve a problem.

At school, HomeBase advisors and class deans look at missing homework e-mails to see if it is time to step in and offer assistance to a specific student.  Parents are included on the e-mail so that you may do the same and so that you may reach out to your child’s teachers or dean if you have any concerns.  In this way, we all stay “in the know” and can work together in a timely way to help students move toward skillful task management.  No one wants to wait until report-card time to discover a time management problem that wasn’t apparent in just one class but that can been seen when you compare the student’s homework record across the subjects – and that can be solved with some timely aid.

If your child has been concerned about writing homework e-mails, please help him or her to understand that this is a tool for self-knowledge and a way for all the caring adults around him or her to have the information we need to help when help is needed.  And then help him or her to problem-solve about how to avoid missing assignments!  Your child’s HomeBase teacher or class dean would be happy to hear from you if you are having this conversation with your child – and you can expect a call from us if we are stepping in to help coach your child on his assignment management.

Over the course of their middle school experience, and with teacher and parental guidance, students learn what systems work well for them – pack up the backpack at night or in the morning? Start homework right after school or take a break? etc. – and gain the sort of self-knowledge about their own habits and energy levels that allow them to make smart choices about where, when and how to complete and keep track of all their assignments.  We look forward to each student being entirely independent in managing his or her homework time by the end of middle school – and then no more homework e-mails!