Below you will find useful tips on how to help our little friends concentrate during study time, become more productive but also set a schedule that suits their needs. The role of parents in establishing functional study habits is extremely important both at a psychological level but also through the real help they provide with everyday homework.
- Every child needs enough rest (check recommended hours of sleep based on age), regular physical activity through sports and open-air activities and play time. Make sure these needs are met before you even think about study!
- Turn TV off! Television grabs children’s (and adults!) attention and should remain turned off in the room where children study. Also, set aside the phone, computer and any other technological device might interrupt studying (e.g., tablets, video consoles, etc.). Children can access these at the previously agreed times and places but not during homework.
- Choose a specific and preferably calm place for studying (e.g., the child’s bedroom) and prepare it accordingly. Make sure the desk has enough space for books, notebooks and other materials, choose an anatomic chair and adjust light.
- Encourage the student to organise study by maintaining a notepad with all homework, exercises, projects, upcoming exams and other daily/weekly commitments. In this manner, the student learns to be responsible and plan time accordingly.
- Make sure that daily schedule remains as stable as possible, so that studying takes place at the same time and preferably early enough, i.e., while the student still has energy. Right after school, plan for a short time for rest and/or play; the best moment for this could be after lunch or evening snack. Afterwards, help the student finalise play activities at the agreed time (e.g., use an alarm as a reminder) and direct him/her towards the study room.
- Maintain the total time devoted to homework within reasonable limits according to the child’s age. While in secondary school daily homework often takes more than one hour, the first primary school classes usually does not require more than 30 minutes of homework per day. If the student needs more time, make sure frequent are planned for.
- Help the child study with the aim to understand and not memorise. Deep understanding of contents builds a solid basis that will allow the student progress to more complex contents during the school year. Study strategies that facilitate understanding include highlighting important points in a text, summarise what was read or create a diagram illustrating the relations of important elements as presented in the book contents. Some ways for you to check if students understand what they are reading is to encourage them to recite contents in their own words, resolve exercises as found in the chapter or resolve new exercises presented in a different format but based on the same theory.
- Exercises and related tasks give the opportunity to students to apply the theory they have understood, therefore it is important that students can complete these on their own and parents do not complete them on their behalf. Parental help at the beginning of homework (e.g., with the first exercise) is important, especially in the first primary school classes but it should focus on how the student can understand what is being asked from him so that he can complete the rest of the exercises on his own. Parents can also help little students prepare for upcoming exams by teaching them to carefully read the instructions in each exercise, complete first the questions one knows well, check responses before submitting them, check the time available and fell calm during the exam. Frequent exposure and success in medium-difficulty exams will help the child get familiar with the idea and feel safe and self-confident during any assessment. Therefore, parents can create these opportunities for practice at home or in another educational environment outside school or even encourage the teacher to introduce numerous brief tests during the year so that students learn to manage stress. Finally, leading by example is also a type of help, since children will tend to imitate you. For example, at the same time your child completes homework, you could read a book, organise your bills or folders or work on pending tasks from your work.
- Make sure you follow on a daily basis your child’s progress with homework and school in general; ask if the teacher had your child respond to questions on that day at school, if they were called to write on the board, when they have their next exam, if they received their mark for the last trimester etc. Also, keep in touch with teachers and other parents by visiting the school on the day grades are announced to parents, asking the teachers about the child’s progress at least once per trimester, joining parents and caregivers meetings and also honouring with your presence school celebrations and related activities. In this manner, children perceive that whatever is related to school is important and they should be focusing on it but they also feel that you care and support them in their efforts.
- Last but not least, praise and positive comments are the key of success for every student, since they help build confidence, i.e., believe they can make it in any situation and face any difficulty. Make positive comments on your child’s handwriting, organisational skills, maths knowledge, fluent reading, artistic creativity, willingness to help peers prepare for a difficult exam and any other positive behaviour related to school. This will make it more likely for the child to bear positive feelings towards anything related to school but also listen to your opinion and seek help with difficult topics where they struggle.
√ If your child or one of your students is facing insurmountable difficulties with study and homework, which you have been unable to resolve in collaboration with school/family do not hesitate to seek help from a specialist, educational psychologist/behaviour analyst. The soon difficulties are identified, the easier their treatment will be!