In another post I describe a former 7th grade student of mine who was classified as having asperger’s and tested at a 1st grade or kindergarten math and reading level. He was not doing his homework. His science teacher explained that he was prompting the student to copy the homework. The student’s guardian explained that she asks to see his homework but he didn’t have any. I set out to research why.
The first photo below shows what he copied for his science homework in his agenda. Immediately apparent is the problem with writing, spelling and simply making sense of the assignment. I took his agenda to the science classroom and found what he had copied (2nd photo below). It was not even the assignment but the key sections for a lab report.
My takeaway from this is as follows:
A problem with homework completion can be the result of a variety of causes.
The most common approach to supporting homework completion that I have seen in 17 years is to prompt the student to copy homework.
General ed teachers can easily overlook the complexity of completing homework that a child with a disability can encounter.
As Dr. Molteni, one of my professors overseeing autism studies at the University of Saint Joseph often stated, students with autism who find success usually have an individual who takes a personal and direct role in helping the student. That is certainly what this student needed.
Nice article Dr. Gary Brannigan (@GaryBrannigan) with 9 suggestions for helping a student with homework completion problems. #3 is especially pertinent to math:
Initially assign homework with which the struggling learner is unlikely to have difficulty. Mark the homework for punctual submission and content. Gradually increase difficulty but never beyond the struggling learner’s ability to succeed with moderate effort.
This is called shaping behavior. By starting slowly and moving a student towards the desired outcome. Simply getting the homework turned in on a regular basis is often a major task.
I also posted about notebooks. My approach is to have students use a simple folder for storing homework and to leave their notebook in class. The initial focus is on completing homework and submitting it on a regular basis. As the homework becomes more challenging the student will begin to take the notebook home.
I use what I call a table of contents notebook strategy. Each item (notes, handout etc.) that is to be placed into the notebook is dated and labeled with a “page” number. Each page is recorded in the table of contents. This helps students maintain work in chronological order. For example, on a single day a student may have a warm-up/do now, notes and classwork solving a 1 step equation (e.g. x + 3 = 9).
This helps the student because he or she can find the notes and classwork when he attempts homework. This helps the parent monitor the student’s work and organization efforts. Also, if a parent needs to help a student he or she can see the notes to assist with homework.
Students in math often believe they should know exactly what to do to complete a problem. If not they think they cannot do the problem. Effective math students have learned how to tinker with a problem until they find a path. This is called academic discipline.
I use a maze as an analogy. When we work through a maze we hit roadblocks. When we do, we back up and try something else. That is how to do math.