Avoid Homework Headaches

Avoid Homework Headaches





Help Your Child Build Effective Study Habits

Memory Makers

It turns out that those fancy concept maps your kids might create – taking notes and studying exclusively from the information, highlighting as they go, isn’t as effective as just thinking about it. Researchers have been looking at the best ways to improve information recall, such as that needed for a history or science test. What they have found is that when students read information, then put the information away and review it without notes, their retention levels are greater than if they rely on reviewing their notes and concepts maps.

Kids who rely on their notes for studying aren’t able to effectively teach their brains to independently recall information from memory. Students who study with their notes are often more confident about their knowledge and preparation, but their confidence is a false sense of security. Students who use alternative retention methods are more likely to remember information than those confident note-studying students.

“It may be surprising to realize that there is such a disconnect between what students think will afford good learning and what is actually best. We, as educators, need to keep this in mind as we create learning tools and evaluate educational practices,” he [Karpicke] said.

It is the unassisted recall studying that is required for most students in order to have higher levels of retention. Some ways to encourage your kids to study for this improved recall include:

  • Encourage them to read a page or two (depending on the depth of the material being covered), then close the book and try to recall important information. Then have them go back and check to make sure they recalled it accurately.
  • After your child has read a chapter in his textbook, have him verbally summarize the highlights for you (take notes – either mentally or written – to help make sure he is on the right path).
  • Encourage your child to draw connections between information being studying. Drawing inferences includes a higher level of thinking that can help develop further recall connections in the brain. Kids are sometimes more in the mode of regurgitating what is presented, but if they are taught to look for ways to connect the dots on their own, they will see the bigger picture.

Allow for Electronics

If you’re having the battles between homework and technology gadgets, make room for some compromises. While we as parents can’t imagine successfully doing homework with iPods, computers, and cell phones constantly beckoning us, our kids can hardly imagine a world without these constant connections. Instead of trying to fight a battle to keep them in a world where you existed as a child, work to find ways to meet in the middle.

  • Designate “dedicated homework” times. In our family this means that for at least 1 hour each day our daughter works on homework without a cell phone or iPod in sight (laptops only for schoolwork). Beyond that hour she can have limited access to those pieces of technology.
  • Know how much time homework requires technology. I was very surprised to recently learn of a professor who requested students to send him texts with the answers to quiz questions. If our kids are being required to use technology in and out of the classroom, we need be clear on the differences between academic expectations and random digital socializing.
  • Try to find more ways for your child to use technology well with homework, and watch out for those things that can be hinderances. It turns out that when students use computers to complete writing assignments that their language test scores improve (even when those tests are not given with a computer). Not surprisingly, the more a student plays non-academic video games, the lower overall academic scores become.

Assess Learning Styles

If your child attends a public school, chances are likely that he or she is expected to engage in classroom activities designated by the teacher. However, when it comes to homework time, make sure that you understand your child’s unique learning style and find ways to support it outside of the classroom. If you’re not sure, take this quick survey to see which one might apply best to your child.

  • Kinesthetic learners might need to move around more during their studies. This might appear to be fidgeting, but it could just be what your child’s brain needs. Let your son study his spelling words while bouncing a basketball or throwing a football, or maybe your daughter does better when she is surrounded by her favorite soft, furry blanket and the cat on her lap she can pet while she studies – kinesthetic learners thrive on combining movement and tactile exploration with academics.
  • Visual learners should have plenty of good lighting and as many resources like textbooks available as possible. Find other ways to support your visual learner, such as watching supplementary documentaries that reinforce the topic. Also be sure to give your visual learner a place to do homework that is free of distractions – such as your radio, phone conversation, or a lot of movement by others in the family as these can be heavy distractions.
  • Auditory learners can find homework challenging because their teacher is no longer there to explain things or restate ideas. This is when you can encourage your auditory learner to read aloud (even older kids can do this – I often edit manuscripts this way). The homework area should also be free of other auditory distractions (unless soft background music is helpful for your child).

Helping your kids develop good study habits is a lifelong process (but one that we sometimes only have the energy to deal with one day at a time). Take it one day at a time and learn enough about your kids to help them manage their homework highways. Just like teaching them how to do laundry and make more than macaroni-n-cheese might not be thrilling today, it will have payback in full in the future.

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