Homework Strategies

Children are not born knowing how to study effectively.  It is something they need to be taught. So what can parents do?

First, set up a designated study place.  This should be a place free from distractions, perhaps with some quiet classical music playing in the background to help a child to focus.  Television and telephone privileges should be off limits during this time.

Second, there should be a daily study time.  The same time every day is homework time.

      A common parental complaint is having to struggle in the evening to encourage a child to finish his/her homework.  An article by Linda Arking in Parents Magazine (available from your school counselor) includes a quote from Joseph Renzulli, professor at the University of Connecticut:  "Homework typically involves material already learned in class, so it requires practice and review, not discovery.  And since it's usually skills based, it can be tedious, even boring."

        Your child may require incentives to complete homework.  A planned family activity (such as playing basketball with the family in the driveway) or a quiet time reward (such as 15 minutes of free time with mom) can serve as a necessary inducement.  Other families reward their children with TV time.  If you do homework or read for fun for 45 minutes, you are allowed to watch TV or use the computer for 45 minutes.

          A stricter homework plan can help the easily distractible student.  Before beginning the stricter plan, parents and child should decide on an agreed upon "reward" for goal completion.  The reward can be T.V. time, free time with a parent, tokens (which can be saved and traded in for something), hug from a parent; smiley faces to put on the refrigerator, or notes saying 'Great job' or 'I'm so proud of you.'  A clear consequence is also agreed upon.  Consequences can be loss of T.V. time, loss of tokens, etc.  Rewards and consequences are written down on a child/parent contract.

        Parents then estimate the total amount of time needed to perform the homework assignments.  The homework is broken down into smaller parts, with a certain amount of time to complete each part.

        The next step is for the parent to make sure their child understands the directions to the homework.  Estimate with the child the rate of completion and level of accuracy expected.  For example, in 15 minutes, the child should have ten math problems completed with 90% accuracy; or child will have five spelling words written in ten minutes and the words will be written legibly.

        Parents would then leave the room and allow the student to work on the assignment for the pre-determined period of time.  Setting a timer can be helpful.  At the end of the time, parents should check on the progress, providing positive feedback if warranted.

        If the child has met the agreed upon goal, he/she receives the reward (token, 10 minutes of T.V. time or free time with a parent drawn in on a graph, etc.).  If the student has not met the agreed upon goal, he/she receives an immediate consequence (token taken away, 10 minutes of T.V. time erased from the graph).

        The student then works on the next homework goal.  At the end of that time, rewards or consequences are given depending on whether the student reached the completion and accuracy goals.

        Gradually, the length of time required for the child to work independently and complete the assignment is increased.   Make sure when you are beginning this program, the child is able to find some success in meeting the goal.  For example, you may want to begin with having your child sit for only five or ten minutes to do the first chunk of homework.  The child needs to feel some success at first, before the length of time is increased.
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