Tips for Shortening Homework Time
Homework can be a long, arduous task for many students. Sometimes the simple task of sitting down and getting started can be a challenge for many. Staying focused on the task at hand while avoiding distractions is another struggle that many students face.
Rather than dragging out the process into the late hours of the night, here are some strategies you can try to make homework time shorter and easier.
Here are some quick and easy ideas:
1. Use a planner, and use it well. Many schools use online portals for posting assignments and due dates.
However, putting all assignments, projects, and upcoming exam dates into one planner helps students see the big picture. Here’s a strategy to try: while at school, your child should write down each assignment. When he gets home and begins his homework, he should start by estimating how much time he thinks it will take to complete each assignment (and write the ET, or estimated time, for each task).
Next, he should order the assignments based on the ones he wants to complete first, second, etc., by writing the appropriate number next to the assignment. Finally, your child can begin tackling the assignments in that order (it is typically better to complete the longer, more challenging ones first). Once each assignment is complete he should write down the AT, or actual time the assignment took to complete.
When the assignments are done and put away in the appropriate place to be turned it, he should cross out the assignment or put an X next to it.
2. Power down electronics. While students think they may need their computers or tablets for completing their assignments, with social media, news flashes, text messages, emails, and the like, devices can often be more of a distraction than helpful tools for getting homework done quickly. Encourage your child to power them off or put them in another room, and only use them when absolutely necessary.
3. Get a little exercise! Before beginning any homework, try having your child do some jumping jacks, dance to music, or even do a few push-ups.
These types of physical exercises will help increase alertness and focus, and will help students tackle homework in a more efficient manner. While some students are fine starting their work right after school, others benefit from this type of physical activity before beginning their school work.
4. Find a quiet area to work. Some students might prefer a desk in their room, while others may use a table in an office space or play room. Any of these choices work fine, as long as they are in a quiet area with minimal noise.
5. Integrate break times. Students can divide their homework assignments into segments and reward themselves with a break after each segment is complete. For instance, they might start with their first assignment: two pages of math homework. Once that is complete, they can give themselves a five minute break for a snack or quick email check. Set a timer to make sure the break doesn’t extend beyond the allotted time. Students can motivate themselves by creating incentives with “fun” break ideas.
6. Get organized! Rather than carrying an endlessly growing stack of papers inside notebooks, students can stick with one working notebook that they clean out one day per week (on their “clean out my working notebook” day). On that day, have them clean out papers they don’t absolutely need to be carrying and file them in an accordion file.
I suggest three sections for each class: homework, notes, and tests and quizzes. They can also include a homework section in their working notebook, containing a homework inbox and outbox. Alternatively, students can use one colored folder for each subject, or create an organizational system that works for them and jives with their school’s preferred system.
Implementing these strategies will help your child become more focused, organized, and efficient – all of which will lead to completing homework in a faster and more effective manner.
Contributing Author: Dr. Emily Levy, Director of EBL Coaching
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades preK-12 in NYC and NJ. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a study skills workbooks series emphasizing test taking, note taking, reading comprehension, writing, and summarizing strategies, and the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series. These workbooks are currently used at schools nationwide.
Dr. Levy studied at Brown University and later received her Masters Degree in Special Education and her Doctorate Degree in Education. She has spoken at national and international conferences on research-based methods for teaching students with and without learning disabilities. She is currently the Director of EBL Coaching’s NYC and NJ learning centers.