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The Homework Doctor Has the Perfect Prescription to Cure Common Homework Ills

Ailment #1:“I don’t know what to do it Blues”  or “The teacher didn’t teach me this blues.”


Many children are accustomed to their parents re-teaching homework concepts.  For this reason they do not feel a need to listen carefully in class.  In order for the brain to store information for more than 2-3 seconds it needs to feel a sense of importance.  If a child feels no urgency to listen and pay close attention to what is being taught or reinforced, there is a strong likelihood that he/she will not know how to complete the assignment.  What results in homes is emotional upheaval and parents begin to lose confidence in the effectiveness of classroom instruction.  Many parents fear their child will not succeed unless they help their child.  So they step in and do the instruction.  The child returns to school the next day with completed homework free of errors.  This leads the teacher to believe that the child fully understands the concept and then moves on.  The teacher is mislead to believe that the approach to the instruction was appropriate for the child and therefore will not attempt another approach to understanding.  Consequently, the cycle continues.  

Memory hiccups can occur because it takes many exposures for a concept before it can be applied easily. It is possible for a child to understand a concept in class and forget how to apply the concept that evening.  Children also become stressed if they believe they need to understand a concept and have forgotten it. Should parents do instruction, the children get the message that they should get the concept the first time and they never learn coping skills or memory retrieval strategies.  

Prescription:  1

Parent awareness of teaching methods is very important.  Educators rely heavily on student feedback.  They depend on students expressing what they understand and do not understand.  When a teacher introduces a new concept they have students apply the concept immediately to ascertain if the students have grasped the concept.  It is very possible for a child to understand a concept in class, apply it right away, and yet not remember the concept once time and space has been put between the instruction and the application.  Children often say they understand how to apply a concept, get home and realize they didn’t understand as well as they thought.  Their first reaction is to panic and often cry that the teacher didn’t teach them how to do it.  They do not realize that the brain may need more exposure to the concept in order for it to reach the long term memory and be easily retrieved. The child may not have strategies to retrieve information.  To solve this ailment, parents would better serve their children if they teach their children to talk to their teachers.   By encouraging their children to go back to the teacher and share the need for further instruction the children will listen differently and be more likely to remember the concept.  When a child asks a question based on a desire to understand, they are sending a message to the brain that this is important and that alone will improve understanding and memory retention.  Help your children determine the types of questions they might ask the teacher to help clear up understanding.  If children become accustomed to asking questions about the assignment priorto leaving class, they will listen more carefully to the answer, and consequently they will gain better understanding and have less difficulty completing the evenings assignment.  

Ailment #2: Paper Management Dysfunction- Bookbag Regurgitation.


Students with this ailment do not know what to do with papers.  They do not have a natural intuition for dealing with papers or have natural organizational skills.  They may even lack motor planning skills for coping with managing materials.  If their parent is naturally organized their children may suffer from guilt resulting from not feeling adequate because they just don’t get it, so they simply tune out.

Prescription 2:

The student needs a homework system that helps students organize their work and alleviates crumpled and lost papers.  Provide a 3 ringed binder with front and back pockets that can hold an agenda.  The agenda or day planner needs spaces large enough to write several assignments and after school activities.  The pockets provide a perfect storage place for papers that will keep them neat and tidy. The left hand pocket is designated for work to be done and the right hand pocket is designated for completed work.  The agenda is a place to record each item and can be highlighted as each item is completed and placed in the completed folder.  

Using visual imagery to help your child motor plan a successful method for recording assignments and collecting the items needed to be completed for homework is very helpful for students who lack motor planning.  If the student can imagine each step necessary for the successful completion of homework, they will always know where their work is and the days of wrinkled papers will end.  

To help your child visualize a successful homework process I use the following dialogue:  “To help you complete your homework successfully I want you to see yourself being successful.  So close your eyes and see yourself coming into the classroom and taking out your homework notebook.  Can you see yourself doing this?  (If a child has trouble visualizing the situation, they may be an auditory learner and can remember the process by hearing you say the method.  In their situation I will ask them to hear me describing the pattern.  One child told me that she pushes a button behind her ear and replays my script and therefore can remember the steps.  Often the children do not realize they are capable of visualizing since they are so conditioned to receiving visual imagery.  I ask these children to think back to what they did this summer.  If they can see themselves doing an activity, they will be able to us visualization as a support system for managing homework.) I continue by stating, “See you looking at the board to see the homework assignment.    Can you see that?  Now see yourself recording the assignment in the agenda.  Can you see yourself writing in your agenda?  I’d like to see you collecting your materials needed to be successful?  Can you see yourself doing that?  Now look at the worksheet and read it as if you are going to do it right away.  Can you see yourself doing this?  This is the time to discuss the fact that the teacher forms an opinion about each child based on the appearance of their paper and this will give your child a motivation for turning in better quality work. Being empathetic about the difficulty your child might be having regarding organization will help.  These children need to be aware that this is just one area where they need to concentrate.  When they first began to kick a ball, they didn’t do it without focusing really hard on the ball.  Once they practiced and concentrated, they eventually began to kick the ball naturally.  The same is true for tracking their papers.  In the beginning, they need to pay deliberate attention to the papers they must manage.  This situation will always require focused attention.  This awareness often will relieve the stress they feel connected to this activity.

Ailment 3: Minute Minder Deficient- Last Minute Sweats


Children have a poor concept of time.  They feel a month is a long time to complete a major school project. When it creeps up on them, they do not have a plan to deal with it.

Prescription 3: 

Supplement with a day planner approach that teaches time management and scheduling of daily and long term projects.  Teach backwards planning to help children look at scheduling and personalize it for themselves. Demonstrate how to plan long term activities on your own day planner.  A detailed description of this method is available in Homework Solutions for the Weary Student and Their Parents.

Ailment #4: Memory Hiccups


It takes many exposures to a concept until it can be applied easily.  

Prescription 4: 

Understand the purpose of homework and the negative impact re-teaching at home can have on children’s need to listen in class.  Learn strategies that students can apply to help them retrieve information from their long-term memory.  Detailed descriptions of these methods are available in Homework Solutions for the Weary Student and Their Parents. 

Understand the common complaints of students and appropriate responses for 40 of the most common homework challenges click here: Homework Solutions for the Weary Student and Their Parents

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