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My Son Doesn't Write Down His Homework Assignments

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My son is in fifth grade, and he takes a long time to write down and copy assignments. Most of the time he doesn't get all of his assignments written down and I have to get it from the teachers. When I spoke with his teachers they said it was due to him talking and daydreaming. The fifth grade involves much more homework and tests than any other grade so far. What should I do?


Is this new behavior? Was your son able to copy his assignments off of the board in previous grades? Is he only "slow" with this task, or does he have other academic challenges? There are processing problems that might explain his difficulty with retaining the information from the board to the paper. If that is the case, he might have shown signs of this difficulty before fifth grade.

Children avoid what they don't like doing and also what is hard for them. You and his teacher should further discuss if she believes this issue is purely behavioral, or if he may need an educational evaluation. Some teachers have various methods for assessing this and dealing with both behavior and educational concerns. Here are some approaches teachers use:

  • Have students write down their assignments in the morning when they are fresh, to avoid rushing at the end of the day.
  • Posting assignments online so both parents and students can check them from home.
  • On Mondays, provide students with a homework list that includes all assignments for the week.
  • Have a student in the class read the assignments aloud from the board, in addition to copying.
  • Provide a standard homework form with blank spaces to fill in. Some children do better filling out a few things instead of having to write down the whole assignment.
  • Ask your son what ideas he has to make this easier for him.
  • Ask him how he feels about homework and the assignments. Could you make some adjustments at home that would help him feel more successful with the new challenges of fifth grade?

Also, some children regress in fifth grade because of their fears about entering middle school. It would be helpful to explore this issue as well. Some schools offer workshops for both students and parents about transitioning to middle school which can begin to address these issues.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"This is a good idea, post online to parents and students on the homework assignments. I have sometimes ran into this. Its good to get the homework out of the way at the beginning, also especially when leaving at the end of the school day where kids are loading there book bags etc, anxious to leave."
"I have had and still having these same problems with my daughter. She is in fifth grade and has been identified as having a learning disability. With this she has a short attention span and is very forgetful. And the school is outstanding with working with this. Now along with the school tutoring they provide she also goes to Huntington Learning Center. And grades have improved alot. Now I tell her over and over that she has to show she tries. Now along with this I gave her some insentives such as....allowance and she likes cooking sushi so I told her on the weekend she picks it and we czn cook or go to a Japanese Resturant where they cook in front of her. Now she was told IF she PASSES she will get a big surprise!!! So far with this she has been doing good and is bring home good grades. "
"'Some teachers have various methods for assessing this and dealing with both behavior and educational concerns.' The fact that teachers are in control of whether or not a child gets a fare assessment or not, can be huge error. When my child struggled with getting his work done and with having willingness to try. The only assessment they were open to was meds. Since then my child has been evaluated by doctors. Hundreds of dollars later, the doctors were not convinced in any way my child was assessed correctly, and would not diagnose a disorder. This labeling by a few teachers followed him through three grades and ultimately damaged is view of learning and his confidence in the class room. How can I be sure his next teachers will have the willingness to just see my child for who he really is?"
"My six grader son was doing just fine when he was in fifth grade. Now he forget to write his home work assignments in his planner, causing missing his homework. I made him to call one of his school mate to compare their assignment. It does help but he start relying on his friend rather than himself. Is there a hormone change causing this? I see his wake up sign in his face when I ask him about his planner! What could we do?"