As their children advance in the primary grades, the parents of students with learning disabilities learn to dread the daily homework ritual. The challenges of weak executive function and the extra time it takes for a student with disabilities to complete assignments can mean several extra hours of concentration for a student who is already working harder than most of their peers. That leads to frustration, exhaustion, anxiety, lower grades, and reduced self-esteem—and a lot of unfinished homework.

Teachers can make homework more effective for their exceptional students by designing assignments that facilitate mastery and have a clear purpose. Busywork drives students with learning disabilities (and their parents) crazy, and they have problems initiating and completing something that seems meaningless, consumes their evenings, and generates no reward.

Homework should be individualized so that students are completing the right amount at the desired level with a focus on their learning needs. Take the time to clearly state the objective of the homework and why it is important—both verbally and in writing (posting it online if possible) and ensure that students have recorded it accurately and understand the goal. Make certain that the assignments mirror the instruction and do not introduce new concepts or information that may be confusing for students who need structure and support. Vary the frequency and length of assignments to distribute effort and build in important down time for students. Review and provide timely feedback to each child about their homework to identify weaknesses and errors. Teachers can also engage students more effectively by building choice into assignments and designing projects that are highly relevant and creative.

At Evoke Learning, our tutors and coaches partner with families and educators to provide mentoring and feedback that help students achieve proficiency and retain concepts and information. Learn more about effective homework practices in this Reading Rockets article by Kathy Ruhl and Charles Hughes.