Homework 101: Tips for Better Study Skills
As a parent, you know the importance of completing homework and strong study skills, yet many kids don’t know where to begin. To avoid the constant nagging, battles, and lost papers, it’s time to get your kids organized. After all, there’s no reason for both you and your kids to dread school.
Here’s how to help them hit the books and develop good study habits for a successful school year:
1. Start Strong
Make sure your child understands the directions for every assignment and/or task and takes the time to complete homework accurately. Have her read through written directions before beginning to work. Does she understand what she needs to do? Ask her, “What does that look like?” or “What do you picture for that?” For example, if the assignment is to read Chapter 2 of her history textbook, take notes on what she’s reading, and then answer the questions at the end of the chapter, make sure she is creating an image for each of these tasks. If not, she may miss an important piece of information and not receive full credit for the assignment. Also, remind your kids that school is not a race! The first one done with homework does not get a prize. The real prize is learning! Encourage your children to read carefully and think through their answers.
2. Encourage questions
Have your child ask questions if they aren’t sure what they are supposed to do or what is expected of them. Remind your child that it is always okay to clarify directions or check for understanding with their teacher. It’s better to ask a question and fully understand than it is to guess and complete work incorrectly. However, if you notice your child continues to struggle with understanding even after talking with his teacher, there could be a comprehension weakness interfering with his understanding.
3. Spend time on vocabulary
Before diving into new material, check on your child’s understanding of key vocabulary words. When she encounters an unfamiliar word, work with her to develop a mental picture for it. For example, rather than jumping to memorizing the definition of photosynthesis, ask her questions like, “What are you picturing for the sunlight? What do you see happening?”
To commit new terms to memory, flashcards are a great tool for practice. Have your child write the word on one side of the card. The other side should include the definition, a hand drawn picture, and a brief sentence using the word in context.
During practice, use language that prompts her to draw on her images. Instead of, “Do you remember the steps of photosynthesis?” ask, “What are you picturing for photosynthesis?” and “What do you see happening next?” If a term is unstable, flip over the card for her definition and drawing to discuss. Create piles for her “fast,” “medium,” and “slow” cards to help focus practice sessions.
4. Establish a steady pace
Make sure your child divides her studying time over a number of days, rather than leaving it all for the night before. Also, have your kids stay on top of homework—slow and steady progress throughout the year is a good way to prepare for tests. Trying to cram for a test the night before isn’t effective. It’s important that your child practices the imaging techniques he’s been working on while studying in order to apply to the content being covered on the exam.
5. Organize for efficient study sessions
Easy access to their review materials—practice tests, homework assignments, sample problems, the textbook, and class notes—will allow for a much less stressful study session. For example, have her put the main ideas/information/formulas onto a sheet that can be quickly reviewed. Make sure she is creating images for the key concepts, such as dates, names, places, new vocabulary, etc., that will be on the test to help with her understanding and recall.
We hope homework time is battle-free for your family this school year. If your child needs more help, check out Homework Matters at your Lindamood-Bell Learning Center. Homework Matters is supervised homework help, 1-4 afternoons per week. We create an environment that motivates and focuses students on getting their homework done. Our skilled instructors take the struggle out of homework for families by helping students get their work done. We can answer your child’s questions and assist when necessary. Homework Matters is available at our learning centers or online.
If you would like further information or have questions regarding your child’s language comprehension skills, please contact the learning center at 800.300.1818.