Along with the return to school comes the return of homework assignments. The end of the day can be filled with stress when children, already tired from a day of classes, must struggle to make sense of their math problems or social studies reading. Establishing a regular routine, scheduling breaks and using effective study methods will help relieve homework time tension and increase learning.
“Help your children develop a written homework plan,” suggests Terri O. Johnson of LearningRx. A plan should include timelines and goals “using whatever tools are the most appealing to them: computer, notebook, giant calendar page, blackboard, sticky notes on the refrigerator door, even dry-erase markers on their bedroom window.” Make it something fun so that your child will want to participate.
“Break down assignments into smaller chunks,” says Johnson, “Use a stopwatch to time your child to see how long they can pay attention to a task before giving up, then encourage them to go longer during the next timed round.” A little playtime interspersed with scheduled blocks of study will help young students return to assignments refreshed.
The best way to study
In its August issue, Scientific American published a review of study methods and reported the five methods that were found to be most effective.
- Don’t cram - Pulling an all-nighter after weeks of ignoring lessons is not an effective way to study. Knowledge and skills crammed into the brain will not stick. It is better to pace learning over several weeks or months to better retain concepts.
- Self testing - This is the idea behind flashcards and classroom review games such as Jeopardy and Bingo. According to Scientific American, many studies have shown that self-testing improves learning and retention of materials. A possible explanation for this is that self-testing causes the student to search long-term memory for relevant information, forming new pathways in the brain that make it easier to bring forth prior learning.
- Ask “Why?” - Students that are required to explain why something is true are better able to remember facts, and having to explain may enhance comprehension. Johnson suggests having children play teacher and attempt to explain assignments to parents or other children.
- How do you know that? - Students that can identify how they learn a particular piece of information will better retain that information. For example, a child could say, “I know maple trees are deciduous because the maple in our yard loses its leaves each autumn.” This exercise in metacognition helps students recognize their own thought processes to better understand how they acquire and store information.
- Mix it up - Alternating subjects studied, rather than completing one block of similar problems at one time, allows students to compare methods and think about differences, which enhances comprehension.
Kenneth Goldberg, author of “The Homework Trap,” believes homework is best done outside of the home. “It should be done in the library or in an after school program.” This is an option parents may wish to explore so that homework does not infringe on home life.