English Homework Guidelines

What sort of homework will my child receive?  How can I help them do well?  All questions are answered in this article that covers the main types of English homework children do and ways of helping them.


English Homework

English homework begins in the very first days of schooling when children will be given books to read and/or words to know by sight.  As a child moves through school they will probably be given weekly homework that may consist of spellings to learn, and a piece taking one of three forms: a comprehension, cloze procedure or research work.   This will be expected over and above daily reading.


Children will receive a passage with questions related to it.  Initial questions will be of a factual nature but as the child works through the questions they will become more difficult and will require more inference and deduction skills.  Some children will not be asked to complete the latter questions, depending on their ability.

Please encourage your child to:

  • read through the passage, read through the questions, and then read through the passage again looking for the relevant information needed to answer the questions.
  • justify their reasons by referring to the passage and the information given, known behaviour or characteristics of a character, setting of the passage etc (eg.  I know that Theseus was brave because it says he volunteered to go to Crete even though he knew people didn’t come back).  It is a very important skill that children can give reasons for their decisions and answers.
  • answer the questions in a full sentence; (eg. What was the cat called? Ans. The cat was called Sammy.)

Please do:

  • work with your child.  Sharing the reading of the passage enables you to display to your child the intonation and expression of the passage.
  • discuss the questions with your child.  Discuss with your child what information the questions are asking for and where the answer could be found in the passage.  Discussing what sentences are implying is also a very useful activity.

Please don’t:

  • tell your child the answers.  Discuss the work with them but allow the childs decision on the answer to be the one written down.  It is important that the teacher can assess the childs answers so they can provide the most suitable follow-up work to ensure your child makes good progress.  Providing work suitable for yourimprovement because it’s your homework answers the teacher has read will not help your child!!

With sustained concentration I would expect this work to take no longer than 45 minutes.

Cloze procedure

This is a passage with some words blanked out.  The teacher uses it to test knowledge of spelling patterns or to enrich vocabulary.  Only one word should be placed in the gap but there are no definite ‘right’ answers.  Usually a variety of words can be used that still match the
context and meaning of the passage.

Children should be encouraged to:

  • read the sentences before and after the missing word in order that the context can help them decide on the missing word.
  • use a variety of interesting vocabulary.  Remember, there is not a ‘right’ answer; there are usually a variety of words that can make sense in the gap by fitting with the context of the passage.
    eg.  talk about all the possible words that could fit into the gap making sense.  It is useful for children to become aware of a variety of words with similar meanings.  This knowledge reduces the common occurrence in classrooms of stories with use of the word ‘nice’ throughout!  You may find a Thesaurus useful to extend a child’s vocabulary. A useful activity once the child has decided on a word that fits would be to use the Thesaurus to find a more interesting, longer alternative to include.  Children have a great love of language and words, and this is to be fostered.
  • always read the sentence again with the word thought to be correct, to check it makes sense.  If the child suggests a word that will not make sense in the gap, rather than comment or criticise, ask the child to check by reading the sentence with that word in; eg. _____ dog ran along the road with a ball in its mouth.  Appropriate words would be ‘a’, ‘the’ or ‘Bill’s’ but when reading the sentence and substituting words chosen, a child will quickly notice that the word ‘big’ is not appropriate.

Don’t worry if a child cannot suggest appropriate words for a gap.  Read further on and complete other gaps, and then re-read the whole passage.  This enables the child to check words chosen are suitable and often gives clues to the one or two words not yet completed.

With sustained concentration I would expect this work to take no longer than 30 minutes.

creative teachers

Research work

Research work is a wonderful homework in that it is not usually difficult to motivate a child to find out information about a topic being studied and enthused about at school.  It helps to reinforce children’s research and library skills whilst developing knowledge in a variety of subjects, eg. a topic on Ancient Egypt develops a knowledge of History and a
topic on The Solar System encourages science knowledge.

Do encourage children to:

  • use information in books at home, at the library and on computers.
  • use good book finding techniques.  This could be achieved by explaining how books are ordered alphabetically and how the Dewey system is used to give books a number which dictates their place in the library (your librarian should be able to give your child a brief and simple explanation of this!)
  • take notes from information by writing down the most important facts, or writing sentences about knowledge learned.  It is an important skill for your child to be able to use information to write sentences rather than merely copying out huge chunks.
  • represent information in a new way.  Instead of writing about the special clothes an astronaut wears children could draw and label an astronaut.  Instead of writing about life in Medieval Britain children could draw a detailed scene to display their knowledge and learning.  Instead of writing sentences on different famous people they could devise a table to include the information in an orderly manner.  It might take the form of that below:
Country of birth
Year born
Famous for…
Picture of person


  • use the correct terms for parts of an information book.The Contents page is normally at the front of the book and gives an outline of what each section covers.The Index is usually located at the back of the book and alphabetically lists keywords that enable children to carry out a more detailed search of a particular aspect/ object/ person they want to research.

    The Glossary if included in a book can usually be found at the back.  It lists words that may be complicated, technical or new to the reader and attempts to explain them in a simple and understandable way.

    encourage your child to use all parts of the book for his/ her research.

Depending on the interest and motivation of the individual child the task may consist of researching the requested information taking 20-40 minutes, or it could involve the child going on to research their own questions and a 10 page project being produced over several weeks!

Good Luck!!


Categories: Guidelines

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