Adventures in Homework Part 2: Four Ways to Maximize Homework Time
In part one of this series on homework, we covered three ways to build a solid foundation for homework time by considering location, distractions, and maintaining a set homework time. If you missed part one, you may want to go back and learn more about these strong building blocks.
In today’s post, we will unpack ways to maximize the time spent on homework by creating a plan.
1. Know the “What” and “How”
One very common challenge for children with learning differences is knowing what needs to be done and how to do it. Sometimes the assignment isn’t written down, or is only partially written.
In this case, having a standard method to communicate the assignment is essential.
For example, the child may have a friend who can consistently write down the assignment correctly and can be consulted with questions. Some schools post assignments online and some teachers are available for an evening call or email.
Children may know what needs to be completed but may not know the how. This may happen because they did not understand that day’s instruction or understood in the moment and then forgot by the time they arrived home. Here again, there are options where help can be found. Perhaps a parent or an older sibling can explain the content, or a trusted peer could be consulted.
2. Do They Have the Necessary Materials?
Sometimes, students bring home all the necessary materials for their homework tasks and other times they don’t.
For students who habitually forget an essential item, it may be helpful to establish a routine for the end of the school day.
Maybe the student needs a checklist on their desk or locker to remind them to slow down and think through which materials are required. Perhaps a teacher or aide needs to actively consult with the student to ensure that necessary materials are in their backpack. Or, if a parent picks up the child at school, they could provide a quick reminder question to make sure everything is in hand.
Learning how to approach homework tasks is just as important as understanding the content. For example, maybe the child needs a large calendar on the wall to visually plot out when tests and projects are due in order to plan ahead for them.
They might need help breaking down a longer task into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be completed on successive days. Some children need a checklist of specific tasks to keep them focused during homework time and provide a feeling of accomplishment as they check off completed tasks.
And finally, employing a strategy like doing the hardest task first can help the child make the most of their energy.
4. Coordinate with the Teacher: When is Enough “Enough”?
There are times that a student works very diligently with parent help and is simply not able to complete the work in a timely manner. Spending hours at night on difficult assignments means that the child is more tired for school the next day, and less able to absorb new material. Also, emotions can run high as fatigue and frustration set in.
These cases call for strong communication with the child’s teacher.
Most teachers will tell parents to write a note on the assignment indicating how much time and effort was spent and that an end point was reached. But don’t just write a note without talking with the teacher about possible solutions first. Perhaps the amount of work sent home needs to be adjusted or more reteaching needs to happen during the day. Then, if both parties agree, an end point for homework completion can be determined together.
In the final post of the series, we’ll cover how to keep the positive momentum going.
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Beth Harmon, S.Psy.S. is a School Psychologist at CLC Network.