Secrets of Efficient Homework

December can be stressful. The fall review season is long over and the workload is at full force. Students are often not getting enough sleep and holiday activities only add to that.

Seniors may be anxiously waiting to hear about their college acceptances or are still hard at work filling out applications. Juniors understand that their grades this year really do count and are feeling that pressure.

Which is why this is a good time to help your student assess how efficient they are with their schoolwork and, if necessary, advise them on adjusting their routine.

For the students I specialize in working with – those with learning differences – homework efficiency typically requires even a bit more effort.  Most of my students have some level of difficulty with what’s known as “executive functioning,” a challenge which can affect how they handle their daily homework, long term assignments and large undertakings (such as applying to college).

In many cases, students with these challenges have a hard time seeing the big picture or figuring out where they are getting stuck. This is where you may be able to help.

For starters, I suggest you set up a time to talk with your student about homework patterns. You may not have had much involvement in this area in years but it can be quite eye-opening to take a new look.  Help your child brainstorm some goals on becoming more efficient with the reward being more time to do the things he enjoys and better academic results.

Last month I attended a talk titled, “Managing Homework.” The speaker was Carla Brady, a speech and language pathologist and director of Clinical Services at Architects for Learning in Needham, Ma.  She offered several helpful tips which I share with you below.  Some of these may seem ordinary, but used together they can make quite a difference.

  • Optimal Learning Zone.  No one can learn effectively if they are too tired, hungry, thirsty or distraught. At least some of these things are pretty easy to fix, but may not be obvious for your child to notice how they affect their productivity.The “optimal learning zone,” is the midway point between too bored and too anxious. A quick way to get “in the zone” is to do something physical (like wall pushups).
  • Motivation.  Students need confidence that they have what it takes to do the work and a feeling that it is important enough for them to bother.
  • Routine.  By setting up the same way every day, in a distraction-free environment and with a plan for that day’s priorities, your student can develop a routine.

Overall, a helpful discussion with your child is to help him identify “time wasters.” He needs to know ahead of time which things (texting. Facebook, tv, etc.) are his primary problem areas and make a choice in advance to remove those tempting options. Of course, getting your student to buy into making these changes and enjoying the rewards will be critical in making new habits stick!

Take the time during this busy season to talk to your teen and see if they feel that they could be more efficient. If so, share these simple but powerful ideas and help them pick which steps they can take to get through their workload more productively.

Just in time to enjoy the holidays!!

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