Developing Good Homework Habits
Children will be more successful at school if they develop good homework habits at an early age. Parents play an important role in helping the child figure out how to do their homework well. Learning to do homework correctly reinforces skills which will help the child in many areas like planning, time management, memorization techniques, persistence, and concentration. The tips in this article give practical advice on developing productive study habits and what to do if the child reaches a roadblock in understanding the material.
1. Schedule a regular time for homework each day (including weekends). Get your child a day book or calendar and have them designate the study time. They can also note their extracurricular activities, vacations, and other scheduled events. Learning to keep a calendar and manage their time will be useful to them throughout their life. It allows one to achieve more if one blocks out the time needed for each task.
2. When your child gets home from school, encourage them to eat a light snack. Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk, or try a bit of applesauce, a few crackers, and a cheese stick to supply them with the energy they need to focus on their work instead of their stomach. No high sugar foods (like cookies) as these make the brain sugar levels spike and thinking capability drops tremendously when that happens.
3. Designate an area for study. It can be the kitchen table, a desk, the coffee table in the living room, or any other place that is relatively quiet, allows sufficient space to lay out books, paper, and writing utensils. Make sure supplies like extra paper, pencils, pens, tape, scissors, and so forth are readily available right there so no time is spent wandering the house looking for pencils.
4. Have your child carry a folder specifically for take-home worksheets. Then all the homework sheets are in one place in their backpack and can be readily retrieved when study time begins.
5. The first step for the study session should be to identify all the homework that must be done. Assignments that have a longer timeline should be noted in their day book and segmented into smaller steps. Each step should be assigned a particular date to complete it culminating in the finished assignment. For example, if the child must write a book report by next Friday, interim steps that might be annotated to the daybook include identifying how many chapters must be read each day, when the draft paper should be written, when the proofreading will be done, and then when the final paper will be assembled in a cover. Planning like this makes completing larger projects less overwhelming.
6. Once your child finishes a homework assignment, have them check it off and put the completed work into their backpack ready for school the next day. It helps to see progress being made toward the goal of completing all the homework assigned.
7. Check in often with your child to make sure they are making progress and aren’t stuck on a concept. If the child is struggling and you can help, do so. Encourage your child by praising the close answers. If you can identify where the problem is, point out what step the child has missed. Sometimes (particularly for mathematical concepts) it helps to have the child write down a series of steps to use to solve the problem. Having a specific procedure to follow helps take the mystery out of the numbers. If your child just isn’t getting it, try taking a break from the material causing a problem. Move to another homework assignment. Come back to the challenging homework later in the session. If your child still doesn’t get it and you don’t get it either, try these techniques to break through the mind block:
- If your child has a friend taking the same class, have your child call the friend to see if they understand the concept. Sometimes hearing someone else explain the concept will help. By the way, I don’t mean the child should just get the answers from someone else, what is needed is an explanation of what procedure should be followed to get to the answer.
- Talk with the child’s teacher to get suggestions for help. Maybe the teacher can explain what is needed to you or spend a few extra minutes with your child to make sure they know what to do.
- Get a tutor. You can either find someone where you live or hire an Internet service, whatever works for you and your child.
Do not let a problem go very long. Learning builds on previously taught concepts. Once your child develops gaps in understanding of a subject, it is difficult for them to understand later material. Take immediate action to help your child succeed.
8. Encourage your child to use mnemonic devices to remember names, spelling, vocabulary, dates, and other straight memorization feats. A mnemonic is a memory aid to make recalling information easier. Make up silly rhymes or phrases to first letters of a group of related information. For instance: My Ink Spot used to remember the three types of rock – metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary or “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
9. Teach your child to key into bold print and topic headers in their textbooks. These are clues to the most important material in the text. Have them make flashcards with words and their definitions on the reverse side. Once they have studied the cards for a time, have a study partner (you or someone else in your household) show them the card and let them recall the definition. Learning the vocabulary for any topic is critical to developing understanding.
10. Encourage your child to use as many of their five senses as they can in order to lock the material into their brain. Have them read it, write it, say it out loud, and dance around the living room singing their mnemonic phrases.
Homework is practice. Teaching your child a structured way to approach their homework will help them make the most of their learning experience. Preparing in this way for the next day of school will increase their confidence and their ability to do well in school.