Homework is notoriously unpopular, and students are commonly reluctant to complete it on their own. Fortunately, there are ways to make homework more enjoyable, foster a love of learning, and encourage organizational skills for the future. Below, St. Timothy’s put together several methods to improve children’s homework habits. All it takes is a bit of extra attention to understand what each student needs to succeed.
Understand Your Child’s Individual Needs
One of the best ways to approach a child with homework help is to treat him or her as an individual who has a unique learning method. Observe habits to understand what type of learner he or she is. Remember that each child is different, and that even a primarily visual learner may sometimes respond better to auditory methods, or vice versa.
Some learners prefer pictures, diagrams, maps, and written directions. These students find it helpful to make lists, take notes, and draw, even if they aren’t traditionally artistic. Visual learners are the ones who watch as teachers write on the board, and they absorb information through presentations. Employ visual techniques at home by incorporating flashcards, handouts, or other aids.
Traditionally auditory learners benefit from listening and speaking when learning. They don’t rely on visual components during lectures, but they often reinforce information by saying it back to the teacher. Ask questions to engage these types of students, and incorporate music or video into the homework routine when appropriate.
Some students like to touch or feel whatever they are learning about. These students need to experience something to understand it fully. Having kinesthetic learners act out what they are learning is an effective tool, as are games, labs, or other tasks to get them moving.
While it’s helpful to understand the different types of learners, most students have some overlap in learning styles. See what works best for different students; maybe they like diagrams and essays or perhaps they prefer reading and problem-solving. Either way, incorporate more of the respective learning methods while helping with homework assignments.
Eliminate distractions to help with homework troubles. Turn off the TV in the background, tell the older sibling to practice the flute later, and don’t grant cell phone or iPad time until after the work is done. It can be tricky to get rid of every distraction, especially when children need to use the internet to complete their work. Try setting a time limit; such as no TV for one hour. Knowing there is an end to the workload encourages productivity and focus. Account for a child as an individual to know what distracts him or her.
It may be common to hide the video game controller, but some children might care less about gaming and instead get distracted by books unrelated to school. While it sounds like a great problem to have, there are still assignments to be done. Figure out what it is that makes your child tick, and work with him or her to optimize focus time.
Make Homework Less Daunting
Another trick is to avoid treating homework like a huge chore. Try to shift your child’s perspective by promoting the enjoyable aspects. Create a routine or schedule that is as consistent as possible. This could include consistency in both the time and space in which homework is completed.
Is there a book report about an interesting bit of history? Discuss a unique take on it. Or perhaps there are some math problems to apply as a metaphor, like baking. Show fractions by cutting up a cookie to be eaten afterward.
If your student is independent and doesn’t need help, but rather motivation, remind the child that he or she is capable and can complete the task in no time. Your child can sit on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa or prop a favorite stuffed animal on his or her desk. Try and make homework feel like just another part of the routine, not something to avoid.
Give Constructive Yet Positive Feedback
Just as students learn differently, they also prefer different types of feedback. Some like to know how to improve, while some feed on compliments and rewards. Others are competitive and want to prove themselves.
Remember, homework is practice and perfection is not always expected. In many cases, allowing a teacher to see errors and not helping your child to correct every mistake is helpful information for the teacher. If you do help your child to correct several mistakes on homework, it could be helpful to let the teacher know so these skills can be further reviewed in class. The three main types of feedback are:
Appreciation is excellent for intrinsic motivation by giving someone a reward or recognition for their hard work.
Coaching allows an interactive approach to feedback that lets you address any concerns or ask questions about performance.
Let the student know what the standard is, how he or she measures up, and align your expectations. Evaluation provides reassurance that the child is doing well when it comes to the average.
In addition to understanding children as individuals, planning helps to stay on top of homework. Ask the child or their teacher about deadlines and use a calendar system to mark due dates. Plan to get things done ahead of time so that there isn’t any last-minute chaos.
Stay in touch with the school to keep updated, whether through a newsletter, emails, conference nights, or another preferred method of communication. Everyone at hand has each child’s best interests at heart, so come up with a plan together.
At St. Timothy’s, we care about the wellbeing and robust growth of each child. Homework is a way to keep learning and get independent practice, though we also recognize the value of play and family time at home. If you’re interested in learning more about St. Timothy’s and our curriculum philosophy, start a conversation with us today.