Back to School 2005 - 7 Strategies for Turning Homework into Family Fun


2. Get Up and Dance When kids have difficulty concentrating, educators and parents often make the intuitive leap that reducing distractions in the surrounding environment will help keep them engaged. However, Goldstein says research has shown that "when a task is boring, repetitious, effortful, uninteresting... reducing stimulation does not enhance task completion." The key to success lies not in creating a less stimulating environment but "more stimulating homework." After a long school day, it's especially helpful to incorporate movement whenever possible. Consider playing charades with the vocabulary words, or while practicing multiplication facts, have your child stand at a dry-erase board and use different colored markers. Make up songs to memorize history dates. Try anything that might make homework more stimulating and active.

3. Fun Tickets When your young child has homework that requires sustained, quiet concentration, allow for short breaks every 15 to 20 minutes. Guide her toward a simple activity that will leave her feeling refreshed. One idea is to have your child create a collection of "five-minute-activity cards" that might include playing with the dog, running around the block, daydreaming or telling jokes to Mom. When it's break time, let her choose the activity that sounds most pleasing to her. Use a timer to help her take responsibility for returning to her homework after the five minutes is over.

Tip: Time Tracking. Help your child break big projects into smaller segments so that she doesn't get overwhelmed. Take out the calendar and count back the days from long-term project due dates. Have your child allocate different tasks to different days while keeping in mind other commitments like sports practices. Even daily assignments can prove overwhelming until students learn how to break them down into small tasks. Sometimes five minutes spent with your child organizing a list of tasks beforehand will help her work independently throughout the rest of the homework session.

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