Five Homework Strategies for Teaching Students with Disabilities

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Oct 22, 2010

Homework is one aspect of the general education curriculum that has been widely recognized as important to academic success. Teachers have long used homework to provide additional learning time, strengthen study and organizational skills, and in some respects, keep parents informed of their children's progress. Generally, when students with disabilities participate in the general education curriculum, they are expected to complete homework along with their peers. But, just as students with disabilities may need instructional accommodations in the classroom, they may also need homework accommodations. 

Many students with disabilities find homework challenging, and teachers are frequently called upon to make accommodations for these students. What research supports this practice? This digest describes five strategies that researchers have identified to improve homework results for students with disabilities. 

Strategy 1.  Give Clear and Appropriate Assignments 

Teachers need to take special care when assigning homework. If the homework assignment is too hard, is perceived as busy work, or takes too long to complete, students might tune out and resist doing it. Never send home any assignment that students cannot do. Homework should be an extension of what students have learned in class. 

To ensure that homework is clear and appropriate, consider the following tips from teachers for assigning homework: 

  • Make sure students and parents have information regarding the policy on missed and late assignments, extra credit, and available adaptations. Establish a set routine at the beginning of the year. 
  • Assign work that the students can do. 
  • Assign homework in small units. 
  • Explain the assignment clearly. 
  • Write the assignment on the chalkboard and leave it there until the assignment is due. 
  • Remind students of due dates periodically. 
  • Coordinate with other teachers to prevent homework overload. 

Students concur with these tips. They add that teachers can: 

  • Establish a routine at the beginning of the year for how homework will be assigned. 
  • Assign homework toward the beginning of class. 
  • Relate homework to class-work or real life (and/or inform students how they will use the content of the homework in real life). 
  • Explain how to do the homework, provide examples and write directions on the chalkboard. 
  • Have students begin the homework in class, check that they understand, and provide assistance as necessary. 
  • Allow students to work together on homework. 

Strategy 2. Make Homework Accomodations 

Make any necessary modifications to the homework assignment before sending it home. Identify practices that will be most helpful to individual students and have the potential to increase their involvement, understanding, and motivation to learn. The most common homework accommodations are to: 

  • Provide additional one-on-one assistance to students. 
  • Monitor students' homework more closely. 
  • Allow alternative response formats (e.g., allow the student to audiotape an assignment rather than handwriting it). 
  • Adjust the length of the assignment. 
  • Provide a peer tutor or assign the student to a study group. 
  • Provide learning tools (e.g., calculators). 
  • Adjust evaluation standards. 
  • Give fewer assignments. 

It is important to check out all accommodations with other teachers, students, and their families. If teachers, students, or families do not find homework accommodations palatable, they may not use them. 

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