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Bright ideas from our readers: Homework help

GreatSchools’ readers share their ideas for avoiding battles on the homefront over homework.

Is homework a struggle at your house? You’re not alone. Many parents have been there and wrote to share their advice about what helped end the homework battles with their kids.

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Establish a Routine

Many parents say setting a regular time and routine for homework is crucial.

Making homework a habit:

One parent of a fifth-grader writes: “We pick up our son from school and immediately sit down at the kitchen island to open the backpack, eat a snack and immediately start the homework.

“Our son has been doing this routine since he was in the first grade. As such, on rare occasion when a friend comes home with us after school, the friend has said, ‘Bobby, what do you want to do?’ My son responds, ‘Well, we can do anything but not until we get our homework done.’ If ever a routine has established a pattern, this is it.

“One day we were talking about colleges and we said that sometimes you can choose which days to attend classes in college, like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and when you want to take class, like in the morning or afternoon, or evening. His comment was, ‘If I did my homework right after class, then I am free to do whatever I want?’

“Let’s hope this thinking pattern for homework is for a lifetime.”

Five simple rules:

“Consistency is the key. Stick with a homework routine,” another parent writes in sharing rules that worked for her:

  1. Establish a daily routine.
  2. Structure after-school activities to allow for homework at a set time every day.
  3. Stick to the routine so your child will know what is expected.
  4. Stay organized and keep homework area free from clutter, noise and distractions, such as television, games and radio.
  5. Praise your child when the homework is complete and allow free time after homework time is over.

Vary the Scene

Other parents said changing the scene helped their children focus, particularly as kids get older.

Study in a cafe:

An Illinois mother of a sixth-grade boy and eighth-grade girl writes: “When homework becomes a dreaded chore, I find new places to go and do homework, for instance, Starbucks, the library, a cafe. It’s interesting to find that when you offer up a new place to study, homework appears where they said there was none.”

Make the library your home base:

“One thing I have done is to take them to the library to do their homework,” writes a Colorado mother of three boys, 12, 16 and 20. “There are no distractions from home, and they can focus just on the task at hand. Plus, there are all the available resources we need there. It is especially helpful to get a study room when we can. That way, we can talk and study things without disturbing anyone. The library we go to has white boards in the study rooms, which we have used occasionally just for something different (doing spelling words on it instead of writing them on paper, for example). This seemed to also break up the monotony of the homework ordeal. An added bonus is that our library has a coffee shop inside with Italian sodas, etc. This can be used as an incentive!”

HELP WITH TIME MANAGEMENT

Break projects into manageable chunks:

“If there is a project due, we separate it into how much time we have and then do a little each day,” one mom writes. “We do the same for a book report. I count the number of pages and divide it by the number of days they have to read it and give them two days to write it. We do a ‘sloppy copy’ and we do a final draft. …”

Build in breaks:

A California mom of a kindergartner writes: “Have short time frames planned out. Kids get restless without breaks. Maybe 15 minutes of work, then a three-minute break.

“Remove any distraction – TV, snacks, cell calls, don’t let them think they are missing out on anything by doing homework.

“Reward them if they are focused on any given day.

“Talk about homework as if it is a natural part of your schedule. “Don’t say, ‘You have to do homework first.’ It becomes too much of a task. Say, ‘OK, it’s homework time. Let’s get started.’ Always start (at the) same time every day. In that way, they feel it’s just what you do, there are no options!”

HELP YOUR CHILD IDENTIFY WHAT WORKS 

A trick to stay focused:

“I let my 7-year old daughter chew gum while she does her homework,” says a Washington, D.C., mom. “She says it keeps her ‘focused.'”

REWARD A JOB WELL DONE 

Star system:

“I have a 10-year-old that sits right down the minute she gets home and does all her homework. Unfortunately, the same is not true of our 7-year-old,” a mom writes. “We tried nagging, taking away privileges to no avail. Homework was a chore and stressful for all of us. Until we devised the star system. He has 30 minutes to finish his homework (they are given about 10-15 minutes worth of homework). Neatness and correct spelling count. If he beats the clock, he gets a star. He must get all five stars that week for the reward to take place. Once he has five stars he can pick anything he wants to do, and the whole family has to come along. Our weekends are now occupied with bowling, mountain biking, eating at his favorite hamburger place and the homework woes are behind us.”

Use healthy activity as a reward:

“Homework has been a breeze with one of mine but with the other it has been an unbelievable uphill battle, especially this year,” writes a single mother of three daughters, two of them school age.

“Our town just built an indoor pool and since it is winter in Vermont, swimming at this time of year is considered ‘awesome’ by all three of the kids. So, we set up a reward program: Every night that they can show me that they have completed their homework while at the after-school program or did as much as the people there could help them with, then we will grab a quick sandwich at home and swim for about two hours before the pool closes. Either one whose homework was not done due to lack of genuine effort has to come and just sit on the pool deck to do their homework while the sisters and I swim. This has worked like a charm!

“Find a good, wholesome activity that your kid really likes and that you know you can commit to every night if your kid lives up to their end of the bargain, then make it contingent upon their completion of homework (or for older kids, hard work on it for a set amount of time). If they can’t do the activity because they did not do their part, they have no one to blame but themselves, right?”

TURN WORK INTO A GAME 

Beat the clock:

Our son has yet to get real homework, but he does math and reading practice work,” an Oregon mother of a six-year-old writes. “There are many times that he tries to complain and get out of it. A good tool is using stop watches for math. Boys like being challenged and to beat their previous time. …

“We also try to divide some of the homework (on weekends), half in the morning, the other half at night (reading is good at night and for 30 minutes). It also helps if mom/dad or sibling is sitting too, doing their homework or busy work at the same time to show that he/she is not the only one who has to do something.”

Be Available

Many readers emphasized the importance of being available to help, even though it can be a challenge for a busy parent to carve out time every day to do so.

Make the kitchen table a homework center:

A Connecticut mother of two, ages 9 and 13, says talking to her children about homework is valuable for them – and for her. “I give my kids a snack with a drink while doing their homework. Also I sit at the table, discuss it with them. They like to share their homework with me and I also have learned from them …When they have a test coming up in school we play a game out of their studying to make sure they know the material for the test…”

Do your own “homework” at the same time:

“I find that it is helpful to let my daughter have her snack after school, watch a little television and unwind from the long day before I have her start her homework,” writes a single Arizona mom of a 7-year-old. “I also take time from my busy schedule to sit with her and either read or do my bills so that she understands it is quiet time. She doesn’t feel so bad if she’s not the only one concentrating on something. Believe me, not all days are so easy!”

Helping a child with ADD:

“My tips are certainly not new, but they have been very instrumental in helping my son with ADD do his homework,” writes a mother who describes herself as a “military mom on the move.” “We have learned that giving short breaks help along with allowing the child to pick what subject they want to tackle first. Giving your child options lets them feel more in control of their surroundings, which in turn creates a better work environment. This would be great for all kids, not just children who have a hard time focusing. I also recommend setting time aside for your child, in case they need help. I make sure I sit in the same room with my child and can get to him quickly when he gets frustrated or needs help.

“I also have a child who needs no help with homework. Don’t take this for granted. Always ask what they are doing, if it is difficult and if they like a certain subject or not. This may help eliminate surprises when it is time for progress reports/ reports cards to be sent home.”

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5 Strategies to Solve difficult Test Questions

A. Translate the questions into your own words.test paper

B. Read each option carefully.

C. Use a strategy:

  1. Attack unfamiliar words by sounding them out, by breaking them into familiar parts with meanings you know, by looking at the surrounding words and sentences for clues to the meaning of the word.
  2. Use your general knowledge. Ask yourself, “What do I already know about ____________”?
  3. Anticipate the answer and look for the one most like what you expect. Be flexible. You may not always find exactly the choice you are looking for. Then, you must choose the best of the options available.
  4. Use logical reasoning. For each possible answer, ask yourself, “What would happen if . . . “?
  5. Use process of elimination with multiple choice questions for which more than one option is correct.
  • Pick out the options you are sure are correct.
  • Pick out the options you are sure are incorrect.
  • Rule out all answers which contain wrong options.
  • Rule out all answers which omit options you are sure of.
  • Select the best remaining answer.
  • Look for Test-Wiseness cues if the other strategies don’t work.

If you guess at an answer, check your guess against what you already know and against what your logical reasoning tells you.

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Teaching Young Children To Study

every child can shineWHAT IS STUDY? – Study is the skill of learning something independently of a teacher.

Obviously I did not mean that a 5 year-old should be reading and studying textbooks at night after going to school!

Being an independent learner in Kindergarten means things like being able to FOCUS on what the teacher is saying so the child is be able to COMPREHEND what is being said and to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS given.

Many children are not capable of concentrating enough to be able to do this effectively when they first arrive at school so they miss a lot of the teaching in class – it just goes straight over their heads. These children are dependent on the teacher instructing and monitoring them individually . . . meanwhile the independent children are getting on with their work and learning things. The independent learners will have been taught good listening and oral comprehension skills by their parents, and just as importantly, they will have been taught the social and emotional skills needed to operate successfully in a room full of people – many of whom will be disruptive of the group as they have not learned good social and emotional skills before coming to school.

By the time your child is 10 years-old, study means a lot more. By then your child will need much more developed written and oral communication skills to be able to make the most of his/her time in class, and be able to do homework with minimal supervision – a child who is not a fluent reader for example will not be able to become a very independent learner. By this age, it is also important that your child has developed the positive Growth Mindset.

On entering Middle School it is important that your child has learned how to take full responsibility for comprehension at all levels. Your child should:

  • KNOW WHAT SHE/HE KNOWS and
  • KNOW WHAT SHE/HE DOES NOT KNOW, know what to do about it, and ACTUALLY DO IT. That might mean independent research or seeking help from an appropriate person.

So you can see, study skills are important right through school. As a caring parent it is important that you monitor your child’s progress very closely, and teach your child good study skills at home – if possible, BEFORE they are needed at school.

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When Our Child Is Struggling at School

lead_960It can be discouraging to learn that our kids are struggling academically. Don’t wait for the problem to work are some practical steps toward helping:itself out — act now. Here are some advice you may want to follow:

  • Meet with teachers. Ask questions, listen and take notes.
  • Research problem areas, and learn how you can provide practice and structure. Most academic struggles can be alleviated by consistent practice in the home.
  • Most school will give home revision and tests. Check it daily. When needed, follow up with teachers via email or their school dairy.
  • Set up a reward system that you develop together with your tween. Follow through and make sure to celebrate successes.

When parents and teachers unite, students have the best chance to experience academic success.

Claim your FREE 2-hours Maths Coaching Session to learn how we can benefit your child’s future.

FREE TRIALMake the different. Fill in the short form below and we will get back to you soon!

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Improve Your Maths Marks

This article is written by  Deb Russell, http://math.about.com.

Here are some quick steps to help you get better at doing mathematics. Regardless of age, the tips here will help you learn and understand math concepts from primary school right on through to university math. Everyone can do math, be positive and follow the steps here and you’ll be on your way to seeing success in math.

Understanding Versus Memorizing

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All too often, we will try to memorize a procedure or sequence of steps instead of looking to understand why certain steps are required in a procedure. Always, always strive for understanding the why and not just the how. Take the algorithm for long division Typically, we say, “how many times does 3 go into 7” when the question is 73 divided by 3. After all, that 7 represents 70 or 7 tens. The understanding in this question really has little to do with how many times 3 goes into 7 but rather how many are in the group of three when you share the 73 into 3 groups. 3 going into 7 is merely a short cut. Putting 73 into 3 groups means understanding. The long division algorithm rarely makes sense unless the concrete method is fully understood.

Maths is Not a Spectator Sports, Get Active!

Getty ImagesUnlike some subjects, math is something that won’t let you be a passive learner. Math is the subject that will often put you out of the comfort zone, don’t worry as this is normal and part of the learning process. Try to make connections in math, many of the concepts in math are related and connected. The more connections you can make, the greater the understanding will be. Math concepts flow through levels of difficulty, start from where you are and move forward to the more difficult levels only when understanding is in place. The internet has a wealth of interactive math sites that let you engage, be sure use them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Getty ImagesDo as many problems as is required to ensure you understand the concept. Some of us require more practice and some of us require less practice. You will want to practice a concept until it makes sense and until you are fluent at finding solutions to various problems within the concept readily. Strive for those ‘A Ha!’ moments. When you can get 7 varied questions in a row right, you’re probably to the point of understanding. Even more so if you re-visit the questions a few months later and are still capable of solving them. This too is key to understanding. Be sure to check out the worksheet section for lots of practice examples.

Additional Exercises

Getty ImagesThis is similar to practice. Think of math the way one thinks about a musical instrument. Most of us don’t just sit down and play an instrument. We take lessons, practice, practice some more and although we move on, we still take time to review. Go beyond what is asked for. Your instructor tells you to do questions 1-20, even numbers only. Well, that may work for some, but others may need to do each of the questions to reach the point of fluency with the concept. Doing the extra practice questions only helps you to grasp the concept more readily. And, as always, be sure to re-visit a few months later, do some practice questions to ensure that you still have a grasp of it.

Buddy Up!

Getty ImagesSome people like to work alone. However, when it comes to solving problems, it often helps to have a work buddy. You know the saying: two heads are better than one. Sometimes a work buddy can help clarify a concept for you by looking at it in a different way. Organize a study group or work in pairs or triads! In real life we often work through problems with others. Math is no different. A work buddy also provides you with the opportunity to discuss how you solved the math problem. And as you’ll see in this list of tips, conversing about math leads too permanent understanding and you know that understanding is key.

Explain and Question

Try to explain to somebody else how you solve math concepts. Teach a friend. Or, keep a journal. It’s often important to state either in writing or orally how you solved your math problems/exercises. Question problems, ask yourself, What would happen if…….I solved it this way because…..
Remember William Glasser’s findings:
  • 10% of what we READ
  • 20% of what we HEAR
  • 30% of what we SEE
  • 50% of what we SEE and HEAR
  • 70% of what is DISCUSSED with OTHERS
  • 80% of what is EXPERIENCED PERSONALLY
  • 95% of what we TEACH TO SOMEONE ELSE

Phone a Friend …. or Tutor!

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Seek help when it’s appropriate. Don’t let yourself get stuck and frustrated. Seek extra clarification when needed, be your own advocate! Whether you have a friend or need to hire a tutor, recognize the point at which you need help – then get it! Most of us need help some of the time, if you let it go too long, you’ll discover that the math will only become more frustrating for you.

Learn how your child can benefit at his most at MathsExCEL!facebook icon 2