Homework Strategies That Work!



Homework Strategies That Work! 

How can you help your child develop the study skills she needs to become an independent worker at home? Read on to discover how these simple steps can teach you and your child the art of developing good homework habits.

What Homework???– Your first purchase of the school year should be a well-designed homework planner. Getting into the habit of consistently using a homework assignment planner is one of the most essential skills your child can learn. Homework planners that have dated, pre-printed pages which are lined and separated into subjects areas are a plus. Sometimes schools pre-order homework planners for students, so check with your individual school before heading out to the stores. Planners should include sufficient room to record assignment directions and page numbers as well as a place to record due dates. Having special areas set aside for general reminders is also a great feature. Some planners are even three hole punched so they hook right into your child's binder and are less likely to get lost! Educational supply stores and office supply stores usually sell these types of  student-friendly planners. If you cannot locate a homework planner, simply make your own. Label a sheet of loose leaf paper with your child's subjects (ie: Math, Social Studies, English, Science etc.) leaving plenty of room between each entry. Leave a blank line at the top of the page where your child can fill in "today's date." Divide the paper by folding it or drawing horizontal lines between subjects. Photocopy several of these sheets and place them in a thin "homework binder." Place a 3 hole punched folder in your child's "homework binder" to carry home any homework sheets, important notices, permission slips etc.

Once your child has a planner, encourage him or her to use it daily. Emphasize neatness and accuracy when copying down assignment directions. In addition, have children physically check off assignments upon their completion. If necessary, you can review your child's homework planner each night, and initial that assignments have been completed and packed away for school. If your child is reluctant to adapt the homework planner habit, point out how even adults rely on this essential tool to help keep them organized. After all, homework planners eventually evolve into the more sophisticated electronic planners we see people using each and every day!

Homework Buddies – Unfortunately, possession and daily use of a homework planner does not always guarantee accuracy or results. It is very frustrating when children return home from school, begin working on their homework and realize that they are missing important assignment information such as directions, page numbers, due dates etc. Now what do you do? It looks like it's time to call a "lifeline" or in this case, a homework buddy. Homework buddies are responsible classmates you can call upon to clarify assignments or answer questions. It is a good idea to have the phone numbers of at least one or two students in your child's class.  Homework buddies can be chosen by your child or your child's teacher, and their phone numbers can be listed right inside your child's homework planner. Homework buddies are especially useful in the upper grades when students begin to switch classes and have multiple teachers with more complex assignments and numerous assignment due dates. Encourage your child to exchange phone numbers with a friend the first few days of class, if possible. Don't wait for a problem to arise before you get the information you'll need to contact a classmate.

Homework buddies have other important roles as well. Buddies can double check the accuracy of the information that your child records in his or her planner before leaving school. Likewise, buddies can work together at the end of the day when packing up in the classroom or at hall lockers by double checking that the proper books are being brought home. This technique works well with younger students who are in the same homeroom class and have identical homework assignments. Older children can enlist the help of a nearby locker buddy.  When packing up books from their lockers, kids can cross check with their nearest locker neighbors to eliminate forgotten books or supplies.

Having a homework buddy in your child's homeroom class  (or for older children in each subject area ) can be a real life saver! After all, two heads are better than one!

Color Coding Books – A simple, yet very effective homework strategy is color coding your child's books. How many times has your child accidentally brought home the wrong notebook or textbook? After all, when you have several identical black and white marble notebooks it is easy to grab the wrong one. In order to alleviate the problem, designate a particular color for each subject area. For example, Math books and notebooks should be red. Purchase red marble notebooks, red spiral notebooks or red 3 ring binders just for Math. Cover your child's Math textbook with a stretchy fabric book cover in red or in extra sturdy red wrapping paper. Choose the color green for all Science books and purchase all of your Science supplies in that color. Repeat for each subject area choosing basic, easy to find colors. Some schools that employ this strategy will even standardize the color code for subject areas so check first before making your purchases. Try to use same color code year after year since switching subject colors can confuse students who have already mastered the technique.

This strategy can be used for young children who are having difficulty organizing their materials, but it is particularly useful for older students who switch classes and store books in a hall locker. The color system keeps kids organized and makes those quick changes between classes smoother. You may even wish to print up your child's daily schedule in color so that it coordinates with their books.

Don't Leave School Without It – Even with color coding, some children still have difficulty bringing home the proper textbooks and notebooks needed to complete assignments. As simple as this may seem to adults, many children will either forget the necessary books in school or accidentally bring home the wrong ones. Things like this happen to the best of us, but on a regular basis this type of habit can be very frustrating and time consuming. In order to alleviate the problem, start by encouraging your child to write down the title of the textbook needed right next to the assignment directions in the homework planner. Hopefully your child will review the planner while packing up at the end of the day and will heed her own reminder. If not, you may wish to enlist your child or child's teacher's assistance in choosing a responsible classroom homework buddy.

Don't Leave Home Without It – Likewise, it is just as frustrating to have completed homework assignments forgotten at home. A simple solution to this problem is designating a highly visible and specific location (preferably by the door) where packed book bags can be left at the end of the night, completely ready for the next morning. Children are more prone to forget things if they are packing up during the "early morning make it to the bus stop on time rush." Children who prepare their supplies the night before are less rushed, and also benefit from having all night to remember and add forgotten items into their backpacks.

Develop a Homework Routine – Whether children have their snack first, enjoy some playtime, wait until they return home from after school activities or work on homework after dinner, it is important that clear expectations be established about when and how homework is to be done. Taking the extra time and effort to structure and enforce a predictable homework routine sends the message that homework is important to both of you. Since individual children's learning styles and energy levels vary greatly, as do family schedules, you need to develop a routine that works best for you and your child.

In general, it is best not to leave homework until the end of the evening when children are tired and bedtimes have to be disrupted. Let's face it.. kids need a break when they get home from school, just like grown-ups, but just make sure that their break is reasonable and not excessive. Eating a healthy snack when they get home is a great way to unwind and boost energy levels for the tasks ahead. Asking children to produce quality work when they are either too tired or hungry is unrealistic and is bound to backfire. Likewise, leaving the most difficult or involved assignments to the very end of the night is not a good idea. Most children tend to procrastinate when it comes to more challenging work, and will complete easier tasks first. The truth is that they need to tackle harder assignments earlier in the day (or evening) when they are more alert and less tired. Most schools will schedule testing or academic subjects earlier in the day for this very reason. Encourage your child to complete subjects like Math first, and to complete all written assignments before moving on to non-written tasks or time consuming tasks such as studying for tests.

Try setting reasonable time limits for homework completion. When homework becomes an open-ended activity it can drag on into the late evening hours. Teach children to estimate how long it will take to complete their homework (a very valuable skill) and check on their pacing periodically. It will take time to develop s sense of how long it takes to complete certain tasks, but just getting kids to be aware of their pacing is a huge accomplishment. Do you have a bedtime curfew? Does homework need to be completed by a reasonable hour? Remember too that finishing assignments early can help children to get to bed earlier- a routine that can improve your child's performance in class the following day.

Naturally, it will take time to find a homework routine that is comfortable for both you and your child, but your efforts will eventually pay off. Be patient, and with the proper homework routine your child may even surprise you by automatically completing assigned work without you even having to ask.

Set The Stage – Have you ever tried to concentrate on completing a task when you are faced with endless interruptions, noisy distractions and missing materials? Losing your train of thought cannot only be frustrating, but can certainly make completing your job more difficult. It is helpful to get in the habit of using a specific and consistent location for homework completion. The best location is usually a place with limited distractions and temptations (noise, TV, video games, telephone, windows, siblings, etc.) In addition, having the necessary materials at hand will prevent interrupting concentration to retrieve missing supplies. Some students experience difficulty remaining focused and benefit from workspaces such as cleared off desks or tables. Be especially wary of the many desktop gadgets and gizmos that tempt children to play. As a rule, keeping it simple is best. You may also wish to consider encouraging short breaks between subjects or approximately every thirty minutes. Allow children to switch homework locations when working on different types of assignments. For example, reading a chapter book might be more relaxing in a livingroom chair (free from distractions of course) rather than while sitting at the kitchen table. Experiment to find what works best for your child by tailoring the homework environment to fit your child's learning style and/or type of assignment.

In the early stages of homework completion, young children may require occasional reminders and assistance from parents to remain on task and to keep track of their pacing, so keeping them within view is probably a good idea. Once good homework habits are established, students should be able to work independently in a remote location without reminders or silence. It is always important to remember that children's learning styles are just as different as the children themselves, so what works for one child will not necessarily work for another. The key is finding the work style which is best for you and your child.

For additional information, see Homework Help! at www.littleones.com.


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