I get a lot of questions from my in-person students and on Quora about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!
Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.
Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.
These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.
If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.
Sometimes, students are not happy with my answers because there is no magic. In other words, there is not a secret “trick” that you can do that will suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will insert you with the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.
The tips are basic. Most of them have been known for thousands of years! What! Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain? YES!
Simple is often still the best route. Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and maybe (big maybe) some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.
The tips are basic.
Sorry, I got carried away there. But really, find a quiet location, if possible. It is much easier to focus when distractions are reduced. Turn off the T.V. – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard – etc. Focus on one task.
* Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!
Read. Read, and read, and read …. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension. You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text. You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well. Go beyond the minimum!
Write. Write out notes. Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember. Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study. Write a journal. Really? Yes, writing down your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge. so keep on writing, preferably handwriting. Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain. People – and yes even young people – retain more information when they have physically written out notes compared to typing them.
Study. I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times. I mean study. Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening. If you don’t know the answers without reading them in front of you, then you don’t know the material! Self-testing (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself. Don’t cheat yourself by thinking that you know something without ever testing this hypothesis.
Be kind to yourself. Reward yourself when you have done a good job. Recognize the value of working hard but also the value in working smart. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief. (Catnaps might be a misnomer. Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!) Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain is included) performing at a steady rate. Don’t let yourself off the hook! Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself? Yes, sometimes kindness = toughness. You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses. The reward you get later is the kindness component.
Making the most of homework time:
If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information; gain more knowledge; and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams. You will be working smart which is at least as important as working hard.
Reducing the pain:
If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will begin to find the material is learned faster and better. You might even be studying for less time and getting more out of it – reducing the “pain.” You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor starts to become less noticeable even during the sessions.
These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time AND reduce the pain.
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Of course, for a more personal touch – check out the website, and contact me. I can set up personalized programs that will help you, or your child, reach your goals.