MAT Blog

Engage Parents Throughout the Year For Homework Success.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Sep 29, 2011 11:00:00 AM

engaged parent assisting with homeworkAt Back-to-School nights all across the country, many K-12 teachers take the opportunity to communicate their classroom and district homework policies to parents. Here are two perplexing issues for your consideration:


Despite our best efforts at clear communication, many teachers receive homework questions from parents in the days and weeks following Back-to-School night.  Prepare yourself well this year, to get maximum cooperation from parents and optimal results from your students.  

The US Department of Education hosts a site with helpful homework hints for parents:This site explains what teachers already know: homework, when used properly, offers students the chance to

  • review and practice what they've covered in class
  • get ready for the next day's class
  • learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference materials and websites to find information about a subject
  • explore subjects more fully than classroom time permits
  • extend learning by applying skills they already have to new situations
  • integrate their learning by applying many different skills to a single task, such as book reports or science projects.

Homework also can help students develop good study habits and positive attitudes. It can

  • teach them to work independently
  • encourage self-discipline and responsibility

In addition, homework can help create greater understanding between families and teachers and provide opportunities for increased communication.

Communication Creates Engagement

We encourage you to communicate regularly with parents. Some schools schedule several informational parent events throughout the year, in an effort to narrow the teacher-parent gap. Establishing a good rapport with parents by using routine, clear communication will make all the difference to you, if and when a problem arises.

To help get things off on the right foot, offer a variety of ways for parents to get involved. Not every parent can volunteer on-site during the school day, and not every parent can afford to buy items for the classroom.Think about off-site tasks or projects parents can do to help the class, and offer ways to volunteer that ask for nothing except the value of a parent’s time.

Send notes home and make phone calls on a regular schedule. Elementary teachers who write two notes or make two phone calls each school day will contact every child's parents at least once a month. Secondary teachers with larger class loads can follow the same schedule and stay in contact at least once a quarter. Remember to contact the parents when students are successful - don't call only to report a problem. Positive communication creates an environment of trust which pays dividends when there is a challenge.

Engaging parents plus assigning meaningful homework is a powerful combination that will add up to successful results for your students! We offer a Guide for Teachers with creative ways to extend your classroom for optimal success. We guarantee you’ll find new, time-saving ways to attack old problems!


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Photo Credit: Peter Gene


Tags: download, Classroom Climate, Marygrove MAT, Extension of the Classroom, MAT Program, back-to-school, Homework, Parent Engagement, Homework Tips,, district policies

A homework lesson I’ll always remember.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 21, 2011 6:00:00 AM

describe the imageWhen my son was in first grade, our family had the opportunity to go out west for a nephew’s christening in May. Since my mother was an elementary school teacher when I was growing up, I knew all too well how teachers viewed parents who pulled their children out of class for vacations. That’s what Spring Break was for.

Sheepishly, I sent an e-mail informing David’s teacher about the trip. I was apologetic and explained that it was really, really important that we take David out of school for a whole week. I had visions of the truant officer knocking at my door: Another remnant from my mother’s 1970’s “teach-y-ness.”

Much to my surprise, Dave came home that day with a hand-bound journal his teacher had made, complete with a decorated cover entitled “David’s California Vacation Journal.” He couldn’t wait to show me—he was over the moon about the fact that she had taken the time to prepare it just for him. She even explained to him—and the rest of the class— that he was expected to take daily notes and report back when he returned. He had a “job” to do on his vacation; it was official business.

At first I thought, oh—what’s this…homework? Then I realized it was much more than that. Journaling was part of his daily routine in class. This was a good way to engage Dave, and keep him working toward achieving his first grade proficiency standards for writing.

On Day One, he had lots of exciting thoughts about his very first plane ride…how the Grand Canyon looked like “brown Play-Doh” from 30,000 feet…how he felt “annoyed” when his baby sister cried at times, but was “smiling a lot” when the pilot handed him a pair of wings to pin on his shirt.

Day Two’s remarks were about the weather—“much nicer than home…I’d like to live here with my parents…” (Sister not included). He even noted that “California smells pretty good, too.” Jasmine bloomed everywhere—he was right.

Looking at the journal today, as he is about to graduate from high school, I am amazed at his little reflections. Coronado Beach really did have shiny sand. And Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad certainly was full of grey rocks. He attached a gruesome photo of a jellyfish that his Dad stepped on, (something I tried to forget about) and a photo of himself, laughing with his cousins, whom he hasn’t seen in years. The entire trip was encapsulated beautifully.

I know now that the journal exercise was an extension of the classroom that really had impact. David couldn’t wait to write his thoughts down each night—or almost each night. Upon his return, he was so proud to show it to his teacher, and explain all of his adventures to the class. The journal, and his chance to present it made a rather shy boy stand ten feet tall that day.

As a parent, I was grateful that my son’s hooky time was met with resourcefulness on the part of the teacher. It somehow made me feel better about it. My only guilt to this day is that I don’t think I ever told her how grateful I was. Or how proud he was.

So, as homework tends to be a dirty word right now– parents revolting all over the country– administrators trying to decide how much is too much– policies being written to do away with it altogether– I came to realize that homework under the right conditions, can allow a child to be quiet within himself, and help to internalize a lesson. If it is approached with care, it can be a relevant extension of the classroom, and an independent learning tool that will serve children for the rest of their lives.

Colleen Cadieux is a content writer for the Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) Program at Marygrove College in Detroit. She admits she probably should have been a teacher when she grew up.

Tags: writing strategies, Writing, Homework

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