Thomas Frank has some good advice on how to stop falling behind on homework. He has a 3 step method to help you stay on track. We are summarizing his views below and adding our own perspective to it, so do read the blog and not just watch the video!
1. Calendar and to-do list: organize and keep it up to date
Put you stuff outside of your head into an external system so your brain does not have to worry about it. This is excellent advice given by productivity experts like David Allen, who advises us that the mind is for having ideas, and not for holding them. If you want to learn more, read his seminal book on Getting Things Done.
Start early in the semester. Take the syllabus and schedule and transfer it to your calendar and to-do list. Keep on adding assignments and to-dos on your task management system. You can either use a paper calendar/to-do system or an app on your phone.
Some of the tasks will pile up. Establish a review day during the week and go through your to-do list and check them off and decide when to do what is not done.
2. Break down the tasks into smaller chunks
And set deadlines for each chunk! Do this consistently and your work will be more manageable and you won't fall behind. Break down your studying as well as tasks. Don't put off things. Just do them in small chunks and do them consistently.
Breaking down your projects into smaller pieces also helps you in getting started because it is doable. Also, set a deadline for your first micro task the day you got the assignment. This way you can get started when the project is fresh in your mind. This way you can deal with procrastination.
3. Work every day to stay sharp and on task
Try to do something every day. This will give you continuous momentum and help deal with resistance and motivation. To help with this idea, find a time and place where you can do your work. This is quite important. For example, I don't like to work in public places. I don't know why, but I don't. I like to work at home or at a place where I can personalize my setting. You need to find places where you like to work. And then the time. What times you will do your homework? What times do you like to read interesting material related to what you have learned in school? Etc.
Many students have several activities besides studying and doing homework. Find out what works for you. Maybe going to a tutoring service, like Hillview Prep :-), may give you the space and time you need to work on your assignments. Plus, you can get instant help from a tutor.
4. Find a solution if you are falling behind
Well, you will occasionally fall behind. It could be an illness, unanticipated events, unplanned activities, tasks and activities taking longer than you expected, etc. In such cases, accept the reality and find a solution. Maybe, come to a tutoring service, like ours, during the weekend or after school. We also offer bootcamps and online classes.
Each student struggles in a unique way.
Everyone knows that homework is usually a pain, but often you may not be aware of your student's actual struggle. You have to find out your student's real challenge. Here are some ways your student might be struggling.
How do we solve these problems? Here are some solutions.
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Often you will get homework that is tedious and frankly plain boring. You don't want to do it. Nobody really does. However, often, you have to do boring drills to achieve mastery. Think of all the athletes who practice routine after routine, many of them just boring, to improve their skills. You have to do the same. Fortunately, there is some help for you. Try these six hacks if you are having difficulty maintaining focus to do your boring homework.
1) Move Around
Walking around while studying can help you get energized and maintain your focus. You can walk around and talk aloud, or even walk with a book in your hand. Try to find out what works for you. Walking around listening to music for 5 minutes might help you deal with your fidgets.
2) Speak Out Loud
If you don't want to walk around, just talk! This will support your auditory learning style and help improve your learning. Speaking out aloud also slows things down which helps you retain more material. Paraphrasing out loud what you have read is an excellent way of learning and retaining important information.
3) Change Position
If you are at home, you can easily change positions while doing homework. Instead of sitting on your desk, do it on your bed, or on the sofa. Heck, you may even climb a tree and do it there! At school, it is difficult, but you could request a change in your seating arrangement or bring a new notepad or bag with you—just to change something.
4) Work in short Bursts
Work in short bursts. Working intensively for short periods of time will be more productive for them. One successful method is the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it. Spend 25 minutes on a task uninterrupted. Then take a 5-10 minute break. Continue doing two or three more Pomodoros and then take a longer break. Your brain will thank you.
5) Shift Subjects
“Shifting” is not multitasking. When your attention drifts, change the subject. This will help with boredom and will renew your interest in learning. Also, it gives you a mental break from one subject and helps you integrate the material better by giving you a break from the subject.
6) Find out the Bother
If you still can't stay focused, something must be bothering you. Are you tired? Sad? Ecstatic? Bored? Whatever it is, write it down. Just writing what is bothering you will help calm you down and help you focus. If you still can't focus, go do something else and come back later.
Image from Pixabay
After spending more than seven hours in school, five days a week, most students are given homework. Although homework is viewed by most educators and parents as an essential component of reinforcing what has been taught in the classroom, for most students homework is a chore that often frustrates and angers them.
How can you help your child with homework frustration? Following are some tips. Find out which ones will work for you and your child.
This is perhaps the most important tip and often hard to implement. Try to find out what interests your child and connect the homework to his interests. For example, a friend's son loves Halloween and wants to work at the Halloween stores! The friend asked his son, how he could he work there if he doesn't know math? How will he run the cash register? The son got motivated and starting doing his math homework!
2. Build a Routine Around your Child’s Daily Rhythms
Does your child like to do homework in the morning, right after school or in the evening? Each child is different. Don't fight your child's nature daily rhythms. Some are early risers, some stay up late. Find out the best time for them to do their homework.
3. Create a Daily Structure
Create a structure by sitting and strategizing the day’s homework with your child: How much has to be done? What looks easy? What looks hard? Keep it simple. Eliminate distractions.
4. Break Down the Material
Often children have difficulty breaking projects into manageable “chunks.” This is why studying for a major test or a large project becomes an insurmountable task. Sit down with your child and a calendar and divide up the material he must master. Break it down to their level, not yours. Find out what your child feels is doable.
5. Start a Homework Group
Invite one or two kids from your child’s class to come over and do a little homework together. Maybe, it is your car pool kids, or your child's friends. Your child can learn from other children's studying strategies and habits, and the chance to play with their friends while doing homework is an added incentive to get homework done.
6. Reward Accomplishments
We believe in small, tangible rewards for small, tangible accomplishments. Finish your math homework, and you’ll get a cookie. Finish all your homework, and you can go play. With the assignments your child really hates, sit down with her to help her navigate through it. Find out why she hates it. It is often bad teaching at school or a complex concept. And then reward her for sharing her problems and working through them.
7. Don’t Over-schedule
If you fill up every afternoon with activities, then as the evening arrives, children will get tired. How about moving some of these activities to the weekend? Does your child take a nap after school? When she wakes up, that might be a good time to schedule the homework.
8. Get Them Moving
If your child is having problems focusing, get her moving. Physical activity increases alertness for mental activity. Encourage your student to walk around the house reading aloud from a book. Chances are, she will soon settle down and be able to focus on her work.
9. Give Them Regular Breaks
The brain is a muscle. It needs to relax, so after half an hour of study, give your child a 5 or 10 minute break. That will increase his productivity and reduce stress.
10. Talk Out Loud to Solve Tough Problems
Experts have pointed out that, when students are required to explain their thinking, elaborate their ideas, or defend their position, they tend to gain a better understanding, and be more efficient at the problem they are solving. Talking out loud is a great method for you to move through a problem you are facing in a systematic way. It slow things down and helps with focus. It also prevents you from skimming over a particularly hard section, or skipping necessary steps.
11. Get a Tutor
If you are busy and/or having trouble getting your child to do homework, get a tutor! Often, children would listen to another adult and most tutors have more experience in teaching than the average parent. They simply have seen many more kids and do it all the time. Save your time and hire a tutor. Call us at Hillview Prep and we will be happy to match a tutor for your child.
Parents of gifted children are surprised when their kids have homework problems. After all, gifted kids are smart. They learn quickly and things come easier to them. Unfortunately, for some parents, the visions of straight A report cards are replaced by low or poor grades.
It is not unusual for a gifted child to have homework problems. There could be several reasons.
Image from Pixabay
Whether you are making up work, preparing for a new class, or simply want to get ahead, it is possible to get your homework done during your holiday and still enjoy your free time. However, due to distractions and time visiting family and just relaxing, you could lose sight of your goal and unable to do much. Try these two cures for holiday homework.
Eliminate online distractions.
Switch between play and study.
Image from Pixabay
1. They Google everything.
You have a massive search engine available to you. Top students hear a new concept and go to Google for a quick explanation. They do not limit themselves to the information given to them by their teachers or professors. They use Google.
2. They watch related lectures and videos.
One fun way studying is to watch related lectures and videos in order to supplement the material. Watch documentaries or videos on YouTube and educational websites. You may be surprised at how much useful information is available online.
3. They test themselves.
People fear tests because they might fail or get things wrong. Au Contraire! Testing yourself strengthens your brain’s connections to new material, and gives you immediate and clear feedback on whether you know something or not. The truth is that testing is better than rereading the same material.
4. They study in short bursts and space out their practice.
Studying in short bursts tends to help you focus intensely because you know there is at least a short break coming.
They also space out their studying over time by reviewing notes and other material. This helps with their 'forgetting curve'.
5. They do retrieval practice.
Many people think of “studying” is cramming, or simply re-reading notes, textbooks, or other materials. But having the information right in front of us doesn’t force us to retrieve it from memory. Recalling information without supporting materials is much more effective way of learning. And again, testing helps with retrieval practice.
6. They reverse-engineer solved problems.
Most students follow the memorize a set of steps that their teacher provided or the textbook. That only gives you surface-level knowledge. Top students take solved problems and work backwards, asking whys:
Why did this get this value?
Why did they simplify this expression?
Why did they use that type of rule?
This process allows you to understand the interconnections of the concept, and how to directly apply that to a problem. This “working knowledge” of a concept is key to performing well on exams, especially on problems that you haven’t seen before.
7. They sleep–a lot.
Have you noticed that often the best students sleep a lot? They look confident and rested. That is true of top performers in any field (chess, music, etc). They usually do periods of intense work (4-6 hours per day) followed by high quality long sleep (9 hours per night). Sleep helps them stay healthy and focused. How do they find the time? They have good study habits and use their study time effectively.
8. They use concrete examples.
They use specific examples, like solved examples, to understand abstract ideas.
9. They ask a lot of questions.
Questions are what guides our thinking and creativity. Asking a lot of questions is important because they help you make new connections that you didn't have or never thought of.
10. They find clues in lectures.
Though completely unaware of this fact, your professor has tells. Yes, like in poker. Tells during lecture will hint at particular types of concepts and problems that will be emphasized on the midterm or final exam. The best students pay attention to topics professors spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time on and make note. Chances are you’ll see something related on the final.
11. They don’t wait for motivation to strike.
Motivation comes and goes, but studying requires persistence and consistency. Just like Olympic athletes train even on their worst days, the best students figure out how to get their coursework done when it’s the last thing they want to do.
12. They practice under test conditions.
Instead of reading through all of the lecture notes and redoing old homework problems, top students make themselves practice exams, and rehearse their exam performance, under time pressure and in similar conditions to what they’ll see on test day.
13. They use old exams.
It is hard to come up with new questions all the time, so teachers and professors so they recycle exams. Typically midterms and final exams more or less look alike for similar courses year-to-year and even across schools and universities. Because of this, old exams are a gold mine for acing tests.
14. They use the 80/20 rule.
Top students identify the 20% of concepts they need to learn deeply, in order to determine 80% of their final grade. They focus intently on those few things, and simply ignore the rest. This is a formula for high performance, without hours and hours of busywork.
15. They make their own study guides.
The best students don’t simply use the study guide the teacher provides, they create their own. Creating the study guide is half the battle, requiring you to go through your notes, consolidate them, and organize them in a way that you understand–all valuable study activities.
16. They teach and mentor others.
Teaching is one of the best ways of learning. As a professor said he is teaching to learn. The best students teach and mentor other students who need to catch up.
Images from Pixabay
Having homework problems? Check out 10 shortcuts to improve your homework experience.
1. SAVE TIME in 10 minutes
Take 2 minutes to put loose papers into the folders and the next eight minutes to reread notes and/or handouts from school. These 10 minutes will save you hours of searching and studying.
Plus, reviewing your notes transfers information to long-term memory, saving hours of study time when test time comes around.
2. Work in 30-Minute Blocks—THEN TAKE A 5 minute break
Set a timer and limit each study or work session to 30 minutes. Challenge yourself to finish a certain amount of work within that time. The adrenaline rush of the challenge will improve your focus. Set another timer for five minutes, relax or stretch. Start another 30-minute block of homework.
3. Create a User-Friendly Planner that works for you
A lot of students who keep a planner forget to use it throughout the day. Experiment! Find a way that works for you. Maybe, you want your parent to review your planner. Maybe an aide at school. Maybe you want it on your phone or you want a nice notebook or visual cues.
4. Sip Some GLUCOSE!
When kids do homework, they should sip (not gulp) lemonade or a sports drink. These beverages deliver glucose to your brain, which is its only source of fuel. The more fuel you have, the more you will be able to work effectively and efficiently.
5. Skip Problems That Stump You
If you come to a homework question that you find confusing, highlight or circle it and move on. Let your brain work on the problem in the background as you work through easier ones. Then come back to the ones that stumped you, or ask for help.
6. Review Your Notes Out Loud
Your brain will process the information in three ways: through your eyes as you read it, your mouth as you say it, and your ears as you hear your own voice. This improves your focus and memory.
7. Create Test Questions from Your Notes
Did you know testing is better than studying? So, why not write your own questions? It will help you learn better than reciting or memorizing information. The process forces you to think about the information at a higher level, which will help you learn more things, thus shortening your study time.
8. Read Your Textbook: Just Not Every Word
Read through related sections of your textbook, but don’t read every word. Read headings, diagrams, and captions to photos and illustrations to get started. Set your timer and spend one 30-minute block reviewing a textbook chapter. Your enhanced comprehension will help you sail through your homework.
9. Do a Quick Review Before Class
Review the table of contents and key headings before teachers lecture about them in class. This process gives your brain enough knowledge to help you pay better attention in class. You can reduce study and homework time if you have a deeper understanding of the material.
10. Get Ready for School at Night
Kids who are night owls are often groggy in the morning, so it’s easy to forget things if you are trying to get organized. Instead, gather all of your folders, books, notebooks, and supplies, and put them in your bag before you go to sleep. When you don’t deal with chaos in the morning, you have more resources to stay focused through the day--and for your homework.
Image from Pixabay
If your child is overwhelmed with homework assignments, deadlines and tests, help him by creating a very powerful, yet simple routine: a daily planner!
Surprised? Yes, a daily planner can be a powerful tool. It can teach your child scheduling and prioritization skills. It can lighten her burden.
Here are some pointers.
Have her sit down with it every morning, to review how her time will be spent that day, and which tasks she needs to accomplish. Make sure the planner accompanies your child to school, and that he writes down all test dates, due dates, assignments, and so on in it.
When your child gets home from school, sit down with him and his updated planner. Together, review the homework assignments for the evening. Don't tell him what to do. Let the planner guide him. Ask him questions. You might ask, “What should you work on right now?”
Help her prioritize. Find out what works for her. Some students like to get the hard stuff out of the way, while other students prefer breezing through the easy stuff, while helping themselves to some confidence boosters on their way to solving harder problems.
Talk about the difference between urgent tasks (e.g., next day deadline) and tasks that are important but not urgent (learning a fundamental concept). This will help him gain experience setting homework priorities and gaining more control over his academic abilities.
Still having problems with homework? Consider hiring a learning specialist. At Hillview Prep, our learning specialists can help your child learn faster, test smarter and score higher. Guaranteed! Check us out at hillviewprep.com.
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Start at School and Finish at Home
If homework is a constant battle in school ask your child's teacher to allow him to do some of his homework at school, where the teacher or student helper can assist him as needed. This way he can get most of him homework done before coming home and finishing it at home becomes easier.
After-school Care Start to After-dinner Finish
If your child goes to an after-school care or to a homework club, have her do her homework there. After dinner, go over it and have her correct any mistakes she made. Also review for any test she has the next day. If you wait till after dinner to start homework, she would be too tired and distracted to do it, and you would get into a fight.
Use your Child's Daily Rhythms
Most children do much better if they do their homework relatively early in the afternoon—maybe not immediately upon coming home from school but certainly before dinner or supper. Stick to a consistent daily schedule. Do the homework at a specific time, say, at 5 pm, or before watching TV, playing video games, or going to the park. Some kids are early risers and that can be a terrific time to get homework done.
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