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Homework in Middle School: Building a Foundation for Study Skills

In the middle school years, students begin to experience the benefits of homework, though it is difficult to determine how much good it does, particularly at a given age. And there is some debate on how much homework students need to receive that benefit.

Duke University’s Harris Cooper, one of the leading researchers on homework, says students enjoy genuine academic benefits from homework, including better comprehension and retention of subject matter. However, while the benefit is clear for high school students and beyond, the degree to which homework helps middle school students is a matter of some contention.

Homework starts to prove its value for middle school students.

  • It’s difficult to tell if homework helps high achievers do well, or if they do their homework because they are high achievers.
  • It’s challenging to determine how much homework students actually do. Most homework studies rely on self-reported data, which means students can easily misstate the quantity of time they spend on homework.
  • Many studies use test scores to measure academic success, which, as many researchers point out, is an inherently problematic form of measurement.

Teachers should assign an appropriate amount of homework

While there is still much discussion on the effectiveness of homework, research asserts that the 10-minute rule per grade level holds true for middle school students. This means that students might receive anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes of homework each evening.

In middle school, students’ higher academic achievement starts to correlate with completing homework. However, this correlation fades if homework lasts longer than that.  Indeed, giving more than 90 minutes of homework has been shown to have detrimental effects on students.

Students need time away from their studies to relax and engage in social, extracurricular and family activities. When given too much homework, students lose this time and suffer the effects of stress and sleep deprivation, which has proved to reduce academic performance.

Purposeful assignments

Teachers who give homework must consider the purpose and value of the assignments. While elementary school homework can build confidence and engage students in the subject matter, middle school homework needs a more specific purpose.

Certain subjects require practice homework, such as vocabulary, which often requires drills. Other homework requires reading or more complicated skill work. Still, there is a growing belief among researchers that even when homework serves a clear and distinct purpose, less is more.

Homework should be clearly connected to learning outcomes and shouldn’t overwhelm students so much they are unable to actively participate in their lives beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers should carefully consider how much practice students need and design homework to effectively meet those goals within the shortest duration possible.

Ultimately, even if the benefit margin is small for middle school students, there are other advantages of completing homework. Some researchers argue that at least anecdotally, students develop important study skills that will benefit them in high school and college, and they learn the value of time management and responsibility.

Caitrin Blake has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

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What Teachers Need to Know about Homework

by MiddleWeb · Published 11/06/2022 · Updated 01/11/2023

Having my own child in middle school the past few years has provided my teacher self some fresh, brutally honest insight into the perspective of a middle school student. I have learned a lot from listening to Lily’s opinions and ideas.

Recently we’ve talked a lot about homework. Our conversations – and seeing firsthand what it’s like for her to get home late from sports and then try to do homework before bedtime – inspired me to ask her if she’d be willing to share her ideas and experiences with teachers. She was eager and excited. I’m happy to introduce my daughter and her thoughts on homework. – Kasey Short

By Lily Strickland

homework for middle school

Lily Strickland

Dear Middle School Teachers,

As an 8th grade student, I think it would be helpful for you to hear a kid’s perspective and advice about homework.

I know my teachers care about their students, but I am not sure they always understand the impact of assigning homework on students and what it is really like for kids my age when they get home from school.

Being a middle school kid is stressful, and when we have hours of homework it adds lots of stress. Teachers say they are giving homework to help us learn, but when we feel this kind of stress it lowers our performance on the homework and school in general.

This stress also impacts our mood and can make it difficult to sleep because we are worried. Homework is also often the main reason that students are not getting enough sleep and then have a more difficult time focusing the next day in class and finding the energy to do well at sports practice.

Since the start of middle school teachers have given the advice that we should put our cell phones away while doing schoolwork and warn us about technology distracting us from homework. What I am not sure they realize is that many of the reasons it is difficult for us to focus at home are out of our control. We go home to siblings, pets, and parents who are distracting and loud, want our attention, and often don’t understand how much work we need to do.

Teachers also talk about time management but don’t seem to understand how little time we have. Most nights after sports practice, I have around two and a half hours between when I get home and when I should go to bed. That is not a lot of time to shower, have dinner, get ready for the next day, and do between one and two hours of homework.

Teachers also need to know that when work is done at home it isn’t always done by the student. When we do work at school, students think about the questions and work through it themselves. At home they are often tired and stressed and sometimes resort to looking up the answer online or asking their friends for answers. That then puts other kids in a bad position of having to tell their friends they won’t help or risk getting in trouble.

Six ideas for teachers

homework for middle school

Photo by Simeon Frank on Unsplash

I do understand that there are times when kids need to do schoolwork at home, and I think there are a few things some teachers do and other teachers could try that are good and would help kids.

1. When assigning practice problems or activities consider how much practice kids need and make some of the practice optional for those who need it most. It helps me to practice things like math and vocab, but there is often more assigned than I need to do to feel confident I know how to do the work.

2. Please don’t introduce new concepts in homework assignments. It is stressful to try something new without your teacher when you are tired from a long day and dealing with distractions at home.

3. We often learn just as much in classes that give very little or no homework as classes that give homework every night! The teachers can teach us as much information by using the time in class effectively and spending all the time focusing on learning. Kids appreciate teachers who don’t waste time in class or don’t let other kids take over and distract everyone.

4. It is really helpful when teachers give more than one day to complete homework assignments or give the assignments in advance. This lets kids plan around sports and other after school activities. Many homework assignments are given one day and due the next day, and kids have to complete all the work that night regardless of what other things are going on or how late they got home.

5. Weekend homework is better than weekday homework. Even on the busiest weekend, I have more time in those two days than in a single school night. (Ask your students about this.)

6. Teachers always want kids to read but don’t realize that by the time we have finished all our other homework we are often too tired to read for fun. Instead of specific homework, teachers could encourage reading for fun. I know that for me reading reduces stress and I learn a lot as well. It would be important if teachers did this to remember that reading is difficult for some students and that audiobooks would be a great option for them.

Can homework be graded fairly?

homework for middle school

When we do work at school, we all are in the same environment and have the same adults who can help us and hold us accountable. Once we take the work home everyone’s situation is different.

I know some kids have parents who basically do their homework or at least give them more help than I bet teachers know about . Other kids may not have that kind of help or have stressful things going on at home that make it difficult for them to focus.

Lily Strickland 8th Grade Student

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Homework has a very low score on John Hattie’s researched list of instructional methods. I have been very successful with non-homework. I spend 10 minutes explaining and the students spend 40 minutes working while I wander around and help, supervise, organize, and direct. They help each other. The one-sheet two-sided assignment is due at the end of the period, and it is graded. I go home 30 minutes after the kids, and all my papers are graded. My math students improve 2.5 to 3 grade levels in one year (every year). Other teachers who use the non-homework approach achieve similar results.

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What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too much.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

The National PTA and the National Education Association support the “ 10-minute homework guideline ”—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students’ needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

The guideline doesn’t account for students who may need to spend more—or less—time on assignments. In class, teachers can make adjustments to support struggling students, but at home, an assignment that takes one student 30 minutes to complete may take another twice as much time—often for reasons beyond their control. And homework can widen the achievement gap, putting students from low-income households and students with learning disabilities at a disadvantage.

However, the 10-minute guideline is useful in setting a limit: When kids spend too much time on homework, there are real consequences to consider.

Small Benefits for Elementary Students

As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time (Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). A more effective activity may be nightly reading, especially if parents are involved. The benefits of reading are clear: If students aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school (Fiester, 2013 ).

For second-grade teacher Jacqueline Fiorentino, the minor benefits of homework did not outweigh the potential drawback of turning young children against school at an early age, so she experimented with dropping mandatory homework. “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home,” Fiorentino writes . “This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.” She encouraged her students to read at home and offered optional homework to extend classroom lessons and help them review material.

Moderate Benefits for Middle School Students

As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework. Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students (Cooper et al., 2006 ). Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores (Roschelle et al., 2016 ).

There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus. The researchers recommend that “homework should present a certain level of challenge or difficulty, without being so challenging that it discourages effort.” Teachers should avoid low-effort, repetitive assignments, and assign homework “with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.”

In other words, it’s the quality of homework that matters, not the quantity. Brian Sztabnik, a veteran middle and high school English teacher, suggests that teachers take a step back and ask themselves these five questions :

  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Have all learners been considered?
  • Will an assignment encourage future success?
  • Will an assignment place material in a context the classroom cannot?
  • Does an assignment offer support when a teacher is not there?

More Benefits for High School Students, but Risks as Well

By the time they reach high school, students should be well on their way to becoming independent learners, so homework does provide a boost to learning at this age, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework (Galloway, Conner, & Pope, 2013 ).

Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.

Teachers should also keep in mind that not all students have equal opportunities to finish their homework at home, so incomplete homework may not be a true reflection of their learning—it may be more a result of issues they face outside of school. They may be hindered by issues such as lack of a quiet space at home, resources such as a computer or broadband connectivity, or parental support (OECD, 2014 ). In such cases, giving low homework scores may be unfair.

Since the quantities of time discussed here are totals, teachers in middle and high school should be aware of how much homework other teachers are assigning. It may seem reasonable to assign 30 minutes of daily homework, but across six subjects, that’s three hours—far above a reasonable amount even for a high school senior. Psychologist Maurice Elias sees this as a common mistake: Individual teachers create homework policies that in aggregate can overwhelm students. He suggests that teachers work together to develop a school-wide homework policy and make it a key topic of back-to-school night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year.

Parents Play a Key Role

Homework can be a powerful tool to help parents become more involved in their child’s learning (Walker et al., 2004 ). It can provide insights into a child’s strengths and interests, and can also encourage conversations about a child’s life at school. If a parent has positive attitudes toward homework, their children are more likely to share those same values, promoting academic success.

But it’s also possible for parents to be overbearing, putting too much emphasis on test scores or grades, which can be disruptive for children (Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2015 ). Parents should avoid being overly intrusive or controlling—students report feeling less motivated to learn when they don’t have enough space and autonomy to do their homework (Orkin, May, & Wolf, 2017 ; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008 ; Silinskas & Kikas, 2017 ). So while homework can encourage parents to be more involved with their kids, it’s important to not make it a source of conflict.

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8 Tips to Help Your Middle Schooler With Homework


As a middle school educator, I often think back to my time as a sixth, seventh, or eighth grader and remember the things that were most challenging and rewarding about those years. One of the things that fell squarely into the “challenging” category was the conflict I had with my parents as I worked to complete my nightly homework.

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Now that I have spent more than a decade as a teacher and principal at Friends’ Central Middle School , I see homework completion from a very different perspective. Drawing on my own memories and my professional experience, here are some simple tips for helping your middle school-aged child with homework. The objectives of these tips are to reduce conflict and empower children with their learning throughout high school and beyond:

8 Homework Tips for Middle School Parents

1. eliminate distractions.

Enough said! No loud music, texting, social media, video games, or watching TV/videos during study times. There is a multitude of research on our inability to truly multitask. One of the best things we can do for our children is to model this and enforce putting aside distractions (including our own phones, for example) when doing important work.

2. Never Take the Reins

When faced with a difficult assignment that your child is working on, it can be tempting to physically take the paper or computer from your child to help complete the work, to proofread, or more. Resist this urge! By all means sit next to your child and join, but taking the paper or computer dis-empowers and sends the wrong message to the child about who is ultimately responsible for the work.

3. Ask Questions, Avoid Directives

Instead of telling your child how to do an assignment or interpreting the assignment yourself, ask your child encouraging, productive questions.

For example, “Read the assignment aloud to me. What do you think the assignment is asking you to do or show? What are the requirements that we should keep in mind before you begin? What resources do you have that will enable you to complete this work?”

4. Don’t Fall for “I Don’t Know” or “I Can’t Do This”

Many middle schoolers will throw up their hands with an “I don’t know” or “I can’t do this” when approaching homework assignments, particularly when material is new or difficult. These phrases are reflexes for some students but are more about emotions than ability. They are really saying: “This is hard” or “I'm not sure where to start” or “I don’t feel confident” or “I don’t want to.”

Resist becoming drawn into your child's emotions and redirect away from the discomfort or uncertainty. Try “Let's start with what you know” or “What could help you figure this out?” Resources could range from class notes to doing a Google search to calling a classmate. By redirecting your child’s emotional energy, we teach children to be resourceful instead of shutting down.

5. Know When to Stop

There comes a point where a child’s confusion, frustration, and/or exhaustion is counterproductive. If your child truly works on an assignment for a solid 30-45 minutes and cannot make progress, it’s time to stop. There isn’t going to be meaningful learning if your child reaches a point of profound frustration or exhaustion.

At this point, encourage your child to meet with the teacher the following day for some clarification or assistance. You could even notify the teacher that your child wasn’t able to complete the assignment and will be seeking help.

6. Asking for Help is a Life Skill

If your child needs additional help, work with him or her to plan how to ask for assistance from the teacher. Many students perceive an incomplete homework assignment as giving up or as failure, and others do not know what to ask when they meet with the teacher.

Self-advocacy is among the most important life skills for any student to learn, especially during the Middle School years. We can set students up for success by reframing asking for help as the opposite of “giving up” and by teaching them how to most effectively as for help.

7. How Do You Solve a Problem Like... Math

It’s tempting as a parent to teach your child how to do a math problem the way you remember being taught or the way that comes most easily to you. Be careful, your “tricks” or methods could be helpful, but they could also compound any confusion. There may be a good reason why a teacher is teaching a particular method to solve a problem, such as laying the foundation for the next concept. If you want to give your child another method, let your child’s teacher know so you can work together without causing additional confusion.

8. Say it (A)loud

If your child is having difficulty with a reading assignment, read it aloud together or separately and then ask questions to help with reading comprehension. It’s tempting to give a plot summary, but that will not help your child develop those skills.

Likewise, the best way to help your child with writing is to read it aloud. Proofreading aloud helps the writer slow down enough to hear (and/or see) grammatical or structural errors. It reveals where one thought ends and the next begins, necessitating punctuation.

Finally, reading aloud helps your child to hear whether the ideas are connected and organized. I’ve had many parents and students tell me that proofreading aloud is the simplest and most effective tool they ever learned for improving writing.

Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School

I hope these simple tips will enable you to eliminate some of the “hot spots” when it comes to homework. Hands on or hands off, there's no right or wrong way to help your child. Just stick with the idea that over the course of each subsequent grade level, your support should be designed to require an increasing amount of self-direction, independence, and self-advocacy on the part of your child. In this way, you are empowering them to master material while forming learning habits that will endure beyond the classroom and the middle school years.

-Alexa Quinn, Middle School Principal

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Reading Bell Ringers for Middle School ELA /ESL for 5th and 6th Year-Long Bundle

homework for middle school

Connotation Word Sort - Middle School

homework for middle school

Reading Bell Ringers for Middle School ELA /ESL for 7th and 8th Year-Long Bundle

homework for middle school

Mood and Tone Practice, Set 3, Middle School ELA Test Prep

homework for middle school

October Reading Bell Ringers for Middle School ELA /ESL for 7th and 8th Grade

homework for middle school

Reading Journal- English Language Arts - Middle School

homework for middle school

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  1. Cool homework board by @sunflowersandsped 5 Tips to Help Students Feel

    homework for middle school

  2. Homework Sheet Template Middle School

    homework for middle school

  3. Monthly Agenda for Middle School Students (Homework Log for All Subjects)

    homework for middle school

  4. Use these homework tips to help your middle school math students get

    homework for middle school

  5. Future Investment Middle School

    homework for middle school


    homework for middle school


  1. @#school in some kids homework planning🤣🤣🤣 #too much escape...#teacher vs student #conservation..😅😅

  2. The homework assigned by the school has been completed again

  3. Elementary homework vs middle school homework

  4. 23-24 Back to School Tips for Middle School

  5. This Homework Assignment is a Waste #homework #backtoschool #homeschooling

  6. homework in Elementary school and homework in middle school and high school


  1. Are Old Middle School Yearbooks Available Online?

    Some old middle school yearbooks are available online at and has a more extensive collection and maintains a list of new and upcoming additions. Both sites assert that they work diligently ...

  2. What Is a Good Science Fair Project for Middle School Students?

    Examples of good projects for a middle school science fair include descriptive projects such as researched reports about global climate change, experimentation projects such as “What is the effect of caffeine on plant growth?” or engineerin...

  3. Navigating Middle School: Study Skills Every 7th Grader Should Know

    Middle school can be an exciting yet challenging time for students as they transition from elementary school to high school. With increased academic expectations and a growing workload, it’s essential for 7th graders to develop effective st...

  4. Homework in Middle School: Building a Foundation for Study Skills

    Teachers should assign an appropriate amount of homework. While there is still much discussion on the effectiveness of homework, research

  5. 8 tips to help middle-schoolers slow down on homework

    8 tips to help middle-schoolers slow down on homework · 1. Designate a set amount of time for homework. · 2. Time it right. · 3. Help your middle-schooler

  6. The Advantages of Homework for Middle and High School Students

    The Core Benefits of Homework for Students: · 1. Students Learn the Importance of Time Management · 2. Promotes Self-Learning · 3. Helps

  7. What Teachers Need to Know about Homework

    Dear Middle School Teachers,. As an 8th grade student, I think it would be helpful for you to hear a kid's perspective and advice about homework

  8. How to Homework

    Homework: Worst. Invention. Ever. But since we've got to do it (and ideally, do it well), let's make doing homework a little easier—and

  9. Effective homework in the middle school

    This literature review examines the studies and research of the best practices and most effective implementation of homework in the middle school classrooms. It

  10. What's the Right Amount of Homework?

    Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too

  11. Homework Help

    Designed for middle and high school students and adults who have a basic foundation in English grammar and reading but need adapted reading material for a

  12. 8 Tips to Help Your Middle Schooler With Homework

    8 Homework Tips for Middle School Parents · 1. Eliminate Distractions · 2. Never Take the Reins · 3. Ask Questions, Avoid Directives · 4. Don't Fall

  13. Middle school ela homework

    Browse middle school ela homework resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace trusted by millions of teachers for original

  14. Should Middle Schools Do Away With Homework?

    Some experts say that working independently on homework helps teens become more self-reliant and sharpens their critical-thinking skills. Plus, others add