|How To Help Your Child With Homework
By Melissa Katz, M.S.
Does your child struggle with homework? Does she procrastinate and take a long time to complete assignments?
Many students, especially those with learning disabilities, have difficulty planning for, benefiting from, and completing homework assignments. However, there are strategies that can be implemented which can make homework a positive and effective tool to help optimize your child's learning and help her to achieve academic success. The following are key areas to target when supporting your child's homework habits:
Setting Up The Planner
Let's start with setting up your child's daily homework organizer. You can help your child to prepare her planner by writing the subject areas in the book in advance. Next, you can teach her how to copy down assignments by practicing at home. She can learn some simple abbreviations such as pgs for pages,&.
If after helping your child with methods of recording in her planner, she still has difficulty keeping track of assignments, you can meet with the teacher and discuss strategies to aid your child. One such strategy is moving her closer to the board to copy down the assignment or providing extra time. Some children really have difficulty transcribing from the board due to dysgraphia, perceptual, or other difficulties. Therefore it may be necessary to implement other means of recording, such as putting the assignment on an audiocassette tape. If your child still has difficulty keeping track of homework assignments you may want to monitor assignments through regular email contact with the teacher. It is important to set up a situation where the child will get accurate information related to assignments.
Setting Up The Workspace
Next, you can help your child to arrange her workspace for optimal learning. The area should be well-lit, comfortable, and with few distractions. Make sure that there is no clutter and that she has adequate space in which to work. Your child should have homework supplies readily available so that she will not have to retrieve anything once she begins to work. Some suggested supplies to aid homework are a dictionary, a thesaurus, pencils, pens, eraser, pencil sharpener, different colored highlighters, sticky notes, tape, ruler, bookmark, and a computer. These supplies should remain in the same place so your child can find them easily.
Getting the Work Started
When your child is seated with her homework materials you can help her get started. Have her choose which assignment she wants to work on first. You can have her make a checklist or number the assignments in the order that she will work on them.
Identifying the Type of Assignment
It is helpful for your child to have a basic understanding of the kinds of assignments that she will encounter. There are different types of homework assignments, such as studying for a test, taking notes, writing an outline, writing a book report, writing a research paper, reading and responding to questions. Once she has chosen an assignment to work on you can discuss with her what type of assignment it is.
Have her read the directions. You can help her to process the language in the directions by having her read them again, this time numbering each set of directions. She should circle any unknown words. Students often have difficulty understanding directions because they do not know the meaning of certain vocabulary within the text. After your child has circled unknown words, she can use context clues to try to figure out their meaning. She should look up new words. You can have her record these words in a notebook and learn them so she will know them the next time she encounters them.
Managing the Tasks Involved
If the homework involves studying for a test, then the information should be organized in such a way that it is easy to understand and to remember. It is important to make sure your child comprehends the material. If she is learning the information incorrectly it will then take her time to unlearn it. If it is not pointed out, she may then do it wrong for a long time and think it is correct. Try to monitor her at times to check for understanding. Have your child take short breaks. You can set a timer for each break. It is even better if she can set it for herself.
Using Strategies for Studying and Writing
Some strategies to aid comprehension and memorization are as follows: recording information on note cards, making an outline, highlighting, writing notes in the margin, and underlining. Make sure your child reviews test information on a regular basis since repetition is very important for memory. She should see it, write it, say it, and explain it. If the assignment is to write an essay or report, have your child use a graphic organizer to brainstorm and plan before writing the final draft. She should use a dictionary and thesaurus along with any other visual/ language aides. If the assignment is long-term, have your child plan out what she will work on each day so that she will be organized and not wait until the last minute to complete it. If the assignment involves writing, have your child go back and check her work, one part at a time. If she has made mistakes that she is not aware of, place a symbol before each line that needs correction and have her go back to see if she can find the error. It is best to let your child try to correct her own mistakes whenever possible. If she still misses mistakes, then circle whatever needs correction. Then if she still has difficulty you can explain the correct answer. Once your child gets into a routine of good homework habits she should work more independently.
Homework is most effective when children retain information over time and not just memorize in preparation for taking a test. A good way to keep track of the skills learned is to keep a folder of your child's work with photocopies of all the homework assignments and completed tests. You can have your child keep a skills notebook at home in which you circle any skill that gives difficulty. She should practice that skill until it is mastered, at which time you place a check next to it.
Seeking Additional Help
Implementing a good homework plan is an important part of the process of supporting your child to achieve success in school. Helping your child to develop a strong foundation of skills can prevent academic frustration, which leads to poor self-esteem. If your child has learning challenges or learning disabilities she will likely need academic therapy along with other interventions. It is never too late to intervene. Your child can begin to overcome learning difficulties and master skills in a very short period of time with the right help.