How to do Homework more Efficiently
Do you have homework battles in your family? Is your child disorganized, inefficient, unmotivated, or afraid of doing homework? Here are some tips to make homework a more positive experience.
Does your child have a clear idea of which assignments are due tomorrow, when long-term projects are due, and when there will be tests and quizzes? For most students, all of this can be found online. Daily and weekly, it is important to look at the big picture and record all due dates and test dates on an online or offline calendar. Some students may need parents’ help.
Some children avoid homework when they perceive it as being too difficult. Sit down with your child to see how they approach an assignment, whether they understand the instructions, and what may be holding them back. They may need to email the teacher to clarify the assignment. They may not understand a concept. Conversely, they may realize that once they get started, they do have the tools to complete it. They may just be overwhelmed with the volume and need to break it down or ask the teacher to modify it or reduce the number of math problems. They may need to get extra help. Tutoring For Success offers in-home and online tutoring in almost every subject.
Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. Some students exclaim, “I just can’t get myself to start my homework!” Of course, there are many other things they would rather do. One technique is for students to locate the assignment, make sure they understand it, open their notebook, and begin a task for just 5-10 minutes. They can even set a timer, and then stop. Take a break and come back to the homework later, when a decent block of time is available. Then everything will be ready to go, they will be able to visualize what they have to do, and they will be ready to focus.
Many students benefit from giving themselves a focus reward every 20 minutes or so. They can set a timer or not, and in the back of their minds, they will know that they won’t have to do this task for very long. When the timer rings, they can take a short break. They may need to set the timer for their break as well. The key is that the stretches of time working should be very focused, so distractions like a phone should be out of the way. There should be a quiet place to work, ideally with distracting family members elsewhere and one family member available to help as needed. Once a rhythm is achieved, students will be able to work for longer periods of time. One structured studying technique to try is the Pomodoro Technique.
Make the Most of a 5-Minute Break
- Take a Micro-nap
- Practice deep breathing
- Grab a small healthy snack or drink
- Doodle or draw
- Listen to one song
- Do a short brain teaser
- Walk around the block
- Cuddle with a pet
- Do not do anything online, or you may get stuck in a rabbit hole.
Do Easy or hard Assignments First
There are different opinions on whether to do the easy or hard assignments first. Both have their merits. Personally, I tend to be a procrastinator, and what works for me and many students is to start with the task that I am most motivated to do because it seems easy or interesting. This may make getting started easier.
Give your Child Specific Praise
Some students become more motivated when a coach, cheerleader, or parent is giving them positive reinforcement. You can praise them for getting a good grade on an assignment, and you can also praise them for specific good studying techniques. For example, “I noticed that you were resourceful in solving that science problem by watching a video online. You are a good problem solver.”
Tackle the Why’s of Schoolwork and Homework
Students are more motivated when they understand real-life applications of what they are learning. For example, our political and military leaders need to know history in order to know what has been successful and what has failed in the past. Understanding math teaches your brain to make logical connections. If your child’s teachers are not making real world connections to what they are learning in school, a parent or tutor may be able to.
Focus on Effective Study Skills
Studying for a test should not be limited to reading over class notes. Active studying is most effective. This includes highlighting important points, creating and completing a study guide, answering practice questions, and practicing math problems. Studying with a partner is also helpful, and we now have the technology to do this from our individual homes.
Finally, try not to fight about homework. You can help your child set a homework schedule, review assignments together, limit screen time, and supply extra help if needed. You can offer support, but ultimately, homework is your child’s responsibility. If they don’t do their homework or study for tests, the natural consequences may be to receive poor grades. Most people want to be successful at their jobs, and for students, their jobs are school. If they do receive poor grades, this is your opportunity to, instead of getting angry, support them in figuring out ways together to turn things around for the next quarter.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.