Homework Support for Parents

One of the biggest themes that often emerge when talking with parents is homework: Why do students have homework? Why don’t students have more homework? I don’t know how to help my child with homework.

As we work through clarifying these questions and trying to problem solve with parents, we begin by sharing the importance of homework.

  • Review and Practice
  • Extend Learning Beyond the School
  • Develop Good Study Habits
  • Critical Thinking

It is also important to affirm to parents that even if they feel they cannot help with the actual homework itself, there are many things that parents can do to support homework at home:

  • Setting routines
  • Providing an appropriate place to study.
  • Removing distractions like t.v and video games and providing supplies.
  • Provide Praise

Sometimes parents may need extra support in beginning the process of setting up healthy routines and positive support for partnerships in homework. Here are some examples of prompt cards that can be provided to parents to help them facilitate problem solving at home for reading, math and overall homework routines.

Translated homework prompt cards

Translated math prompt bookmarks

Translated reading prompt bookmarks

Translated retelling cards

Information about the importance of supporting academic talk in home languages

We have had the opportunity to present to family literacy programs throughout LPS. One group of parents developed a T-chart that highlighted some of the roles and responsibilities that parents and children have in completing homework at home.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.10.10 PM


Colorin Colorado. (2010). Homework Tips for Parents of ELLs. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/39272/

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). Helping your Child with Homework. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/20468/

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). How to Help: Show that You think Education and Homework are Important. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/20473/

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). Checklist for Helping Your Child with Homework. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/20476/

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). Homework: The Basics. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/20469/

ELL Strategies for Elementary Math

There is a common misconception that mathematics is one of the least language-dependent subject areas; consequently, many mathematics teachers are not fully prepared to include elements of language acquisition in their mathematics instruction.  –Jane Hill

To address this, we examine ways to make math more comprehensible for ELL students.  Check out the full presentation here.

Teachers used a planning guide to form content and language objectives, as well as consider what instructional practices would provide appropriate scaffolds for students.

For more strategies to support ELLs in math, check out the ISELL posts:

Solving Math Word Problems with ELLs  and  Increasing Math Achievement Through Sentence Frames and Opportunities for Math Talk

Solving Math Word Problems with ELLs

Math word problems are often a challenge for ELL students; not because they can’t do the computation, but because they get hung up on the language.  Working with Kelly Long, a third grade teacher at Arnold, we’ve developed some ways to make solving word problems more comprehensible and concrete for ELL students.  We’ve had great success with these strategies and hope you do, too!

Hey…what does Kelly have to say about all this?  She was gracious enough to share her thoughts on the work we’ve done!  Click here to watch!

Watch the Strategies in Action…

  • Click here to watch whole group math instruction on solving word problems using ELL strategies, including an introduction to the lesson and students problem solving
  • Click here to get a closer look at students problem solving during a word problem lesson using ELL strategies
  • Click here get an up close look at cooperative groups, including ELL students, solving word problems

Get Started with These Resources…

Increasing Math Achievement Through Sentence Frames and Opportunities for Math Talk

Student participation and communication (math talk) are integral to students’ learning of math concepts.  Many students, ELL and non-ELL alike, often have trouble finding the words to accurately express their thinking in math.

Providing sentences frames allows all students to:

  • fully participate in math discussions.
  • contextualize and bring meaning to vocabulary.
  • use the vocabulary they learn in grammatically correct and complete sentences.

See examples of sentence frames.

Students also need opportunities to practice verbalizing the language of math.  It is very difficult for ELLs to feel comfortable using new language in whole group settings without first having the opportunity to practice that language.  Allowing time for partner talk or small group discussions provides students a safe setting to practice that new language.

See video of students in cooperative groups.

Simple Strategies to Help ELLs in Math

I have had the opportunity to work in various math classes with English learners for past two years. While there are a variety of English learners with different language backgrounds as well as educational backgrounds, it has been my experience that a few intentional approaches seem to make the most impact. Using visuals, such as word walls and sentence frames, are crucial for English learners. Providing lots of opportunities for students to work together and use math language such as partner time, and small cooperative learning groups makes a huge difference for English learners. And giving students lots of practice and reinforcement seem to make a difference in achievement.

Using Cooperative Groups in Math

English learners need to have opportunities to speak and listen to the new language they are learning. Although math concepts may be familiar, the language isn’t ELL students need safe opportunities to use new language. It is much less intimidating to speak to one or two other students than it is to speak in front of the whole class or to the teacher. Teachers can have students turn to their partner and tell how he/she got the answer, or what a term means. Teachers can organize small groups and do activities such as Fan and Pick, Jigsaw, and Four Corners. Cooperative learning groups give students opportunities to practice their new learning in the content as well as the language.

Using Visuals in Math

Students learning a new language as well as new content such as math, need to see the words and concepts they are learning. These can be visual representations of the words or symbols to represent the words but they must be referred to multiple times throughout the lesson and unit of study. Some of these concepts will be used throughout the entire course. For example, this picture:




Other concepts will only be used for the particular chapter. For example, this picture:

Teachers can have the vocabulary posted on their walls, in a pocket chart, or available electronically through a power point or other source. Teachers can also use sentence frames to support the English learner’s language development. If the teacher provides the basic sentence pattern and words, the student can focus on one or two new vocabulary words. For example, If I see a + (plus) sign, I know I need to ________. (add) These sentences can be displayed throughout the classroom, or brought out to help with specific lessons. The important aspect is to actually use the visuals and continually refer to them throughout the lessons.


Place Value with ELLs

Math instruction is becoming increasingly language rich.  Students are being asked to be flexible with numbers and describe their thinking as they problem solve.  Place Value is something many ELLs struggle with.  The academic language is plentiful and the concepts can be abstract!  A few ways to make this challenging concept more accessible to ELLs are:

  • Introduce vocabulary by providing concrete examples and visuals
  • Support math language by providing students with sentence frames to describe their thinking and problem solving skills
  • Give students access to manipulatives to make problem solving more concrete
  • Provide students with opportunities to repeatedly rehearse academic math vocabulary

To see these strategies in action, check out this video of a third grade whole group lesson on place value!