5 Tips to Make Homework a 100% Success
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Homework. It doesn’t have the best ring to it, does it? But it’s essential! Ever wonder how to improve and energize the process for your child?
Now that the school year is getting hectic with holidays and tests, I asked UW Professor of Psychology Dr. Liliana Lengua what habits she recommends for homework success. She offers some wonderful, practical ideas:
It’s incredibly useful to get on top of homework habits early, when our children’s homework load is relatively light, as the habits they form early on can buttress their success when homework loads get harder. Establishing these habits will support our children in being more independent, so that parent help will be needed mostly for challenging academic content and less for getting the work done.
The goal is to establish consistent patterns around the timing and structure of homework so that, over time, children can work independently. Try establishing these habits:
- Select a regular, quiet, comfortable place. This helps put your child in the frame of mind to work more efficiently. An example is the dining room table where you can easily monitor your child. Observe them, and redirect their attention when it wanders. (Avoid having them shut themselves in their rooms as they can be easily distracted by toys, electronic devices, etc.)
- Choose a time that works most days. After a snack and play break, have children get started with their homework soon after they get home. This encourages the habit of getting right to work. If there are activities scheduled right after school, then homework can start after that. But the more regular the timing, the less likely there is to be a struggle around getting started.
- Define an order in which they do their work. If the daily homework is math, spelling, and reading, then try to do the assignments in that same order every day. This helps your child learn to independently transition from one assignment to the next with less structuring from you.
- Ask your child to start by writing a checklist of work that needs to be done. That way, the list of things to do and the order in which to do them is established. Children can then monitor their own progress through the list. It can be very rewarding to check things off and to see the items dwindle down with each check.
- Build in refreshing breaks. It’s hard for anyone to work straight through for an hour or more. A 5-minute break between subjects or once every 20-30 minutes is ideal. The goal is to energize the body and the brain. Spurts of physical activity, time outside, listening to music, or conversing with a parent or sibling can help a child return to their homework with renewed focus.
Establishing these habits will take more support and structure from parents at the start. There may be struggles or arguments at the beginning, but maintaining consistency with the plan (don’t cave in or give up!) will help reduce those struggles over time.
So…now you’re ready to guide your child toward their own success. Ready for more tips from Dr. Lengua? Check out this video on mindful parenting from her presentation with Dr. Kerns at the Center for Child and Family Well-Being:
Do you have any helpful homework tips of your own? Please share below.
“Homework is the first ‘job’ for students with clear consequences if not completed,” says Mason educational psychology professor Anastasia Kitsantas. “It is a vehicle for students to assume responsibility and to learn that they are accountable for their own actions.” Recent research studies reveal that homework experiences increase students’ responsibility for learning and help them build study habits. In Kitsantas’s research, she has found that homework has a positive impact on students’ confidence, development of study strategies, and academic independence. It also influences student achievement indirectly via improved responsibility. Here she shares five tips to make homework a successful experience for everyone involved: parents, teachers, and, especially, students.
Mason education professor Anastasia Kitsantas works with education students on their research posters. Photo by Evan Cantwell.
1. Shift responsibility for homework completion to students.
Help students set goals, engage in time management, monitor their learning environment and effectiveness of strategies, and evaluate performance based on goals. That is, plan out how much time homework completion should take before starting an assignment, make a calendar, and develop a checklist for long-term assignments by dividing the assignment into smaller pieces. Encourage students to self-reflect and discuss outcomes in terms of strategies. If it takes a student a long time to complete a nightly assignment, check to see whether he or she is being distracted. Common distractions can range from viewing video clips to instant messaging.
2. Instill confidence in students to handle homework assignments.
Create mastery experiences with portions of assignments that students believe they can successfully complete. Show a positive attitude for homework completion. If students express dissatisfaction or frustration, allow for a small break and provide support and verbal encouragement for them to continue.
3. Prescribe the right amount of time to spend on homework.
Mason education professor Anastasia Kitsantas has found in her research that more homework doesn’t always translate into greater achievement.
Take into consideration the students’ age, grade level, student capability, and the subject matter when assigning homework. Create shorter and easy-to-complete assignments for elementary students. Children in grades K to 2 should not spend more than10 to 20 minutes each day doing homework. Children in grades 3 to 6, should spend 30 to 60 minutes a day, whereas in junior high and high school, the amount of homework should be about 30 minutes per subject. Research shows thatgenerally increasing the amount of time spent on homework does not lead to higher achievement scores.In fact in one of our studies, increased proportions of homework time spent on mathematics homework were associated with a decrease in math achievement.
4. Provide adequate homework resources.
Create a quiet environment for your child to study. In addition, make sure that items, such as a computer, dictionaries, necessary books, a calculator, drawing instruments, and so forth, are available for use. Research findings show that achievement gaps diminish with the increase in availability of homework resources.
5. View homework as a partnership in learning between the teacher and the home.
Form a teacher-parent team and actively communicate with each other. Parents should follow the directions given by the teacher and avoid confusing their children by using instructional techniques different from the teacher’s.
A correct formula for homework enhances students’ development as independent learners with better study skills, more positive academic attitudes, and greater responsibility toward learning.