Tag Archives: homework help

Sunday Morning Shout Out


Homework can feel a bit like a jolt of electricity after summer vacationand leave you and your children a bit disorientated.  Are your children finding it hard to hit the books at home?  Does your homework routine need a makeover?  The article at Scholastic.com titled ‘10 Homework Help Tips‘  by Ms. Stephanie Wood offers some great ideas to ensure an effective homework routine. The folks at Scholastic.com sought and received great tips from parents and teachers around the country, ranging from tips on time and place to do homework, to tips on increasing motivation and curtailing homework anxiety and frustration.

The top tip this article had was to get homework done good and early.  While some kids can hop off the bus and go right at it, other kids need a short break, before they begin their homework.  The biggest take away from this tip was to give a specific time frame-say 3pm to 5pm for homework, and to not start after 5pm for younger children especially.  Young children (and often parents too) are too tired to start at this point and there is dinner, maybe classes or practice, and the bedtime routine to start.

There was a great suggestion to create a call list for when homework is forgotten.  If that vital spelling list is forgotten, a homework buddy can go over it on the phone or have a grownup take a picture of the list to send over the phone. Or it could be e-mailed.

There were tips for motivating the overwhelmed and dispirited child.  It was suggested that you can build initial confidence by tackling that first homework problem together and then turning it over to your child, once she is confident and calmer about her work. Here and always, it’s a good practice to heap the positive feedback on your child’s efforts.  When you do this, you should be as specific as possible. What about the dispirited parent, who has his own homework woes, listening to his child whine and melt down over school work?  The article suggests leaving the room, (sanity saving action) but staying close by until the whining subsides.  It also suggests letting your child complain for a short time and practicing empathy to get over the initial hump.

For daydreamers and procrastinators, there are these tips.  A daydreamer may work better in a separate and specific spot to do his homework. In the article, a parent mentions setting her child up in her office.  There is something about letting a child work in a special place (like where you do your important work) that can be very motivating.  For that special procrastinator in your life, the article discusses having her try to beat the clock, to get over the initial hesitancy and inertia.  A parent can set the clock for five or ten minutes and instruct her child to fire away at her school work.  “ See how many math problem you can finish in 10 minutes!  I bet you can beat the clock!”

Other great tips include helping your child breakdown large tasks into more bite size pieces.  By taking a dry erase board or dry erase calendar, you can take that large project and schedule it out into more manageable steps.  For example, if your child has a special project they need to do on the fifty states, that culminates after two months of work, you can look at what has to be accomplished each of the eight weeks.  Doing it this way can help the most overwhelmed child and parent, too!  A last great tip they gave is something like an emergency switch.  If your child is truly done in and exhausted by specific homework, you can cut in half what they need to do. Either you or your child can explain that he did have of what was assigned, but could not complete it.  If a child uses this technique sparingly, it can help squelch a much larger homework problem.  He must then get the help he needs at school , through a peer, a tutor, or you, to further overcome their struggles.  With these tips, struggles should lessen.  Homework woes should ease and everyone should breathe easier at night…

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Bad Grades? Here’s What To Do


bad-grades-21If your child is getting bad grades, you want to be supportive, but you also want to ensure that their academic performance improves.  While it’s natural to get upset by bad grades it is important to remember that the issue may not be a lack of effort but instead your child may lack the skills and basic knowledge they require to do a better job.  You can help them to take responsibility for their academic performance and provide them with the much-needed tools to get the job done.

What’s The Problem?
Every student has a bad test from time to time, but if you notice a marked decline in a particular subject or in overall grades, it’s time to take action. First speak with your child to try to ascertain what the problem is.  Don’t be discouraged if they can’t tell you; it may be that they just don’t know why they aren’t doing as well as their fellow students.

Speak with their teachers; your teachers are generally the best resource for finding the root of the problem.  Problems may range from getting distracted in class, not being organized, lacking study skills or simply forgetting to complete assignments.  You should also investigate the possibility of social issues like bullying.  While there are instances where your child has difficulty with a teacher it is important to try and facilitate a productive relationship.

Fixing The Foundations
If your student has gaps in their knowledge, then the more their teachers build on these foundations, the less they will understand and the greater the issue becomes.  Often teachers may not recognize this as the issue and even if they do the resources they have available to help your child are limited.  If you suspect that this may be the issue, then get an in-home tutor to evaluate your student’s knowledge. They will be able to tell what kind of an understanding they have of the subject matter and help to fill in the gaps.

In-home tutors are able to work individually with your student so that they are able to catch up and generally show very rapid improvement in skills and self confidence.  They are also able to work in a situation where your student feels comfortable and confident.  As they progress, they will feel more confident, and will be more likely to ask and answer more questions that they may have been too intimidated to do so in the classroom.

Study Skills
Teachers don’t always have the time to teach both the course material and study skills.  Your child may need help with the way they study.  Start by asking your tutor or teacher to ascertain what learning style suits your student best.  Then show them how to convert their course materials into a format that is more accessible to them.  For example, if your student is a visual learner, they can remember material by creating a mindmap, flashcards or an inforgraphic.  Ensure that your student knows how to properly study, summarize and revise and how to estimate how much time they should leave for studying.

Get Organized
Being organized isn’t something that comes naturally for most children.  If your student often forgets about assignments and tests, loses items or doesn’t hand work in, they may need help with organizational skills. Find a calendar that works best for them.  This can be a diary, a smartphone app, a whiteboard; anything that helps them to member important upcoming events.

Ensure that you check their calendar every day and help them to fill in the tests, exams and assignment’s they have coming up.  Block out time between extramural activities when they are set to do their homework or study.  Ensure that they have enough time to complete their schoolwork and help them to prioritize tasks.

Writing Skills
With the increased intigration of Common Core into K-12 academics it is becoming more and more important for your child to know how to read, write and clearly communicate their thoughts at higher levels than ever before.  This holds true for every subject and is an area that is not given enough emphasis.  Learning to write better is something that comes with reading, guidance and practice.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 2/3/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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How Creating The Perfect Homework Station Can Improve Academic Performance


One way to avoid the daily struggle to get homework done and to help your student to improve their academic performance is to create a dedicated homework area. Here your student will be able to work in an atmosphere conducive to study and do their homework in a quiet, comfortable setting.

Elements Of A Good Homework Station
There are several factors that go into creating an environment conducive to study. The homework station should be quiet and out of the way of the general hustle and bustle of your home.

The homework area should have excellent lighting and an abundance of fresh air. If there is poor or stale air, fatigue and lack of concentration occur. Ensure that you clean out your HVAC filters every month to keep the air in your home fresh.

Reduce distractions by ensuring that there are no toys, pets, snacks and games nearby. The study station should only contain items pertaining to homework.

The homework area should be neat and organized with an abundance of stationary and everything your student needs for creativity.

Homework stations also have to be comfortable so ensure that your student has enough space and that the chair and table are at a comfortable height.

Tutor Friendly Homework Spaces
If you have an in-home tutor, then the homework area should be big enough to accommodate your student and their one-on-one tutor. This reinforces the homework area as an academic space where positive, constructive work occurs.

The Study Station Should Be A Quiet Zone
The study station should be a dedicated area in your home where homework happens. When one of your students is in the study station, they are off limits to the rest of the family. Here they are not to be interrupted or distracted and should be left in peace.

Set Homework Times
Homework is best done when your students are refreshed and alert. The best time for this is usually after a short break when they have returned from school, but you and your students should work out a time that best suits your family schedule. Having a set homework time helps to establish a routine and reduces the incidence of incomplete homework.

Floral Study Friends
Studies show that indoor plants reduce stress, absorb sound and create fresh air. Placing a few pot plants around your student’s study area will help to create a positive atmosphere and provide a source of fresh air.

When planning and creating a study area, be sure to consult your student. Together you can create a space that best suits their study needs. Creating a space that is free from distractions and interruptions from siblings, phone calls and pets is a great way to encourage your students to complete homework tasks and study for exams.

Note: Originally published 11/4/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Tutoring: Is It Right For Your Student?


TutorAlmost every child goes through a difficult academic time at some point in their education. It could be that they are having issues adjusting to a new school or a new grade, perhaps they are having personal or social problems or maybe they don’t get on well with their teacher. With so many factors playing a role in academic performance, you need to carefully weigh the situation to determine whether your student needs help.

Cause and Effect
Always keep a close eye on your student’s grades and keep in regular contact with their teachers. If you or your teacher notices a change in academic performance act quickly. Nipping problems in the bud will make them so much easier to deal with.

Sit down with your student and their teacher to ascertain what the problem is. Everyone has a bad test or a poor assignment score from time to time and one poor grade does not a disaster make. If your student got a bad grade, ask them what went wrong and how they can remedy the situation in the future. Two bad grades on consecutive tests or papers means that there is possibly a miscommunication. Go through the paper with your student to ascertain exactly what went wrong and discuss how to fix it.

If the academic problems persist, it may be time to look at the bigger picture.

Causes Of Poor Academic Performance
Speak with your student to find out exactly how much time they devote to study and what else if going on in their lives. Poor academic performance can be the result of several factors:

  • Too many sports/after school activities
  • Health issues
  • Social problems or bullying
  • Personal or family problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor diet
  • Poor relationship with a teacher
  • Gaps in academic knowledge or skill

Resolutions
Only once you have clearly established the cause of academic discord can you work on a solution. Include your student in any discussions about their future or about possible solutions to the problems they are having. Inclusive practices make it more likely that they will participate in the proposed solutions.

If your students don’t have extraneous reasons for poor academic performances, it may be time to get an in-home tutor. One-on-one tutoring is the very best way to get your student’s academic performance back on track. Tutors are able to establish gaps in your student’s knowledge or skill set and can pinpoint issues that need the most attention. Tutors can also present information in ways that suit your child’s learning style so that they are able to understand the work better.

Tutors can help your students to study for exams and to complete homework and assignments on time. Tutors are experts at study methods and they can help your students to study in an effective and efficient way.

Tutors work with your students on an individual level, so there is no anxiety about answering or asking questions. As they get back on track, their confidence grows and the anxiety they feel at school will be reduced.

(Note: Post adapted from an entry on Sept 27, 2013 at the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog.)

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Figuring out your ideal working circumstances will make choosing your homework spot that much easier! (Image Credit:http://mymajicdc.com/lifestyle/mymajic/slice-of-life-ways-to-cure-the-homework-headache/)

Figuring out your ideal working circumstances will make choosing your homework spot that much easier! (Image Credit:http://mymajicdc.com/lifestyle/mymajic/slice-of-life-ways-to-cure-the-homework-headache/)

Does having your child get her homework done resemble  Congress trying to get their work done?  Do you feel like it is you in one corner and Rocky Balboa in the other, when it comes to getting your child to do his homework?  Leslie Garisto Pfaff  from  “Parents “ magazine offers five tips to help your child with their homework  habits  in her article “Five Steps to Homework Success.”

Teach consistency: Instill a homework routine with your child. Barring afterschool activities, homework should be done at the same time every day, according to Jeannine Schay Schumm, PhD,  author of How to Help Your Child With Homework.   Otherwise, it is too easy to put off and not get it done.  She says to base this on your child’s temperament and your family’s schedule. Some children need decompression time and some physical activity before they can hit the books again. Other children might need to do it right away, while they are still partially in school mode and perhaps before, gymnastics or karate. After such activities, homework can easily be karate chopped for certain children. With a consistent time, comes a need for a consistent space. Particularly in the younger grades in elementary school, that might be a quiet space at the kitchen table or dining room table as opposed to upstairs in their bedroom. As a parent, you want to be accessible and able to monitor their progress with their work. Also keep supplies close by to ward off the great school supply search and procrastination. Plenty of room to work, with supplies at hand, makes for a comfortable and equipped work space.

Dial down distractions: Make it a rule that the television, cell phones, computers, video games, and other distractions are minimized, even better off, to maximize focus and the quality of work being done. If possible, make a certain time in the house homework time for all, including parents. By this, parents can be quietly present reading, bill-paying, folding laundry, doing paperwork, etc, modeling how to work in a quiet environment and monitoring for disruption. Older siblings can be modeling for younger siblings how to do work in such a fashion and greatly help younger children instill good homework habits.

Aim for Independence:  While it may be tempting to correct your children’s mistakes while doing homework, please remember the point of homework. It is practice and one way in which your child’s teacher gages their progress. While grade school aged children will likely need some assistance with their work, it is helpful to discuss with your child’s teacher how much assistance they are looking for you to give. Having said this, it never hurts to review your child’s work and to encourage them to independently find the three words or math problems that have mistakes. This teaches them to review their work and puts the onus on them to find them. Additionally, you can use these moments to guide them to use a dictionary or an online reference to help them find answers they do not know.

Discourage perfectionism:  While many parents have the child who rushes over homework, others have the child who agonizes over turning in the perfect paper. When this occurs, it is beneficial to remind your child homework  is for practice and that no one, including their teacher, expects them to be perfect. With such a child, a 10 or 20 minute limit might need to be set per assignment. When time is up they must move on to the next item or get up and play.

Investigate any resistance:  If your child resists all efforts and stubbornly refuses to do homework, it may be a sign of a real struggle with subject material and work. If this persists, it is time to sit down with your child and teacher and see if they are struggling with similar work in school. Perhaps it is a methodology issue and homework can be approached differently.  For instance, one assignment may need to be broken down into several smaller tasks for your child. Jed Baker, PhD, author of No More Meltdowns  says to encourage your child to complete at least one task for sitting.  He says that completing one task may give your child momentum to move on and complete them all.

Lastly, parents should, underline should, recognize their child’s sincere efforts. Such recognition goes far and is powerful, powerful incentive in helping your child feel good about their work and their efforts in school.

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Study Groups


Study groups are like garage bands; they should be fantastically helpful and enable their members achieve success beyond their wildest dreams, but most just end up arguing, chatting or playing Xbox and eating pizza.

For a study group to be successful there must be a consensus to be disciplined and to include members who are committed to pulling their weight. Study groups can help you to cover large volumes of material, explain concepts you don’t understand or introduce you to new perspectives. Study groups also hone your presentation skills. When it does work, a study group can be proof that several heads are better than one.

Being Picky
Don’t choose study group members because they are your friends, choose people you know are reliable and hardworking; people you think you can learn something from. The most successful study groups are homogenous and contain people who are all roughly on the same academic level.

Follow the Leader
You must choose a group leader. This person is responsible for dividing up the work and informing group members of the dates, times and venues of the study group and which chapters each person must prepare. Rotate leadership if there is not one clear leader; taking turns also helps you improve your organizational skills.

Set Goals
Setting goals for your study group will help you to get through all the work before the exams. It will also help you to plan your study schedule. Include all the assignments and exams so that no one forgets to submit work. You should also set aside time to discuss assignments and exams so that you can identify your mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Group Love
Get together with other study groups before a big assignment or exam to share knowledge and get different perspectives. A great exercise during these sessions is to go over past exam papers and discuss answers. Leave more time for this session than you would normally leave for your own group.

Progress Check
Study groups can really be beneficial when they are conducted correctly. Instead of covering reams of reading by yourself, sharing the reading with others can save you tons of time. You can also benefit from alternate explanations of difficult concepts or ideas. Not only do you benefit from the efforts of your classmates, but having to explain work to others helps you to formulate your own ideas and become more articulate in presenting complex concepts or opinions. Keep track of your test scores to ensure that your study group is beneficial. If you are wasting your time and not gaining something in return, discuss this with the group members and try to come up with a new game plan. If there is no change to your group, consider joining a different group or studying on your own. You might also find help through the guidance office in high school or there might be tutoring services offered at your college campus.

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Multitaskings Impact on Study & Homework: The Myth Exposed


Ever checked to see if your student is doing their homework only to find them listening to music, chatting on their phone, checking their social media sites and doing their homework at the same time? Have you wondered if this is really effective?  Multitasking is generally a reality that most teens have grown up with and have seen from the media, parents and peers. However, does it mean multitasking is productive? Are that they are doing a number of tasks badly or are they actually being more efficient? The answer to this question depends largely on the individual learner and the kind of tasks they are performing.

The average student spends about seven hours a day using electronic devices and 58% say they multitask while doing homework. Studies are ongoing as to what the influence of multitasking and electronic devices will have on cognitive and social development, but there are very practical ways to measure whether multitasking has a positive or negative effect on your student’s ability to study or do their homework.

A Stanford University study found that when students switch from one task to another, it negatively affects their ability to think critically or evaluate. Multitasking students were hampered when trying to discern which information was vital and they had to reorient themselves whenever they went back to a task which actually wasted more time than multitasking saved. Other findings from researchers at Stanford include: it impairs your cognitive controlmay harm the social and emotional development of tweenage girls, and a reduction in ability to filtering irrelevant information from relevant to name a few.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 47% of students who spent more than 16 hours a day multitasking received lower grades (lower C’s) than students who spent less time on electronic devices. While these examples are extreme, there is evidence that the brain really isn’t very good at juggling more than one or two tasks at a time. Professor Earl Miller, an MIT neuroscientist, scanned volunteer’s brains as they multitasked and found that only one or two of the visual stimulants could activate the brain at any one given time.

This is especially true when we try to perform two tasks that use the same areas of the brain. For example if you are trying to send a tweet while writing an essay, your brain becomes overloaded and simply slows down.

Not all multitasking is bad. Some studies have shown that playing instrumental or classic music quietly in the background can actually improve concentration and higher cognitive functioning while having a number of sources of information open can help reduce the amount of time students spend on research. If multitasking of this nature is limited to two separate tasks that require different parts of the brain, then it may be successfully accomplished.

Despite a few studies that show the possible potential to learn to multitask to some degree most suggest it is a wasted effort especially when the tasks were not related. A recent study by Junco & Cotten (2012) on the effects of multitasking on academic performance found that using Facebook and text messaging while studying were negatively related to student grades, while online searching and emailing were not. This sounds reasonable since the searching and emailing was probably related to the task at hand while the texting and FB’ing were probably just social functions that distracted the subject.

Test this out for yourself! Conduct practical tests to see how your student fares when multitasking. Set out a number of similar tasks like multiple choice science questions or math problems. Get your student to do half of them while multitasking and the other half while focusing on the task at hand. Compare accuracy and time taken to establish what works best for them. My personal experience in the workplace has been that multitaskers are less productive and hinder group performance. All to often we had a group of ‘rock-star’ programers, marketers and computer software developers attending a meeting and texting and IM’ing. Needless to say the project they were hired to do failed and they wasted a load of our time and money. Now we have a rule of NO ‘multitasking’ during meetings.

I tend to agree with Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell who has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.” As a parent you can help your child by limiting the number of distractions your students have and try to encourage them to concentrate on one task at a time when they are studying or doing their homework.

An article in Forbes seems to sum up the matter nicely. In the article author Douglas Merrill states

I’m often asked if this is a generational phenomenon. Specifically, “everyone knows kids are better at multitasking.”  The problem? “Everyone” is wrong. Their brains, especially the limits imposed by short term memory, are the same as those of adults. Even though your kid boasts she can watch TV and study simultaneously, don’t believe her. If nothing else, learning to concentrate is a skill that will serve her not only with geography exam but also with life.

Nova has a very nice show on multitasking that you might want to watch. Perhaps you can watch while you are doing the laundry and texting a friend?

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