Homework. Whether you’re a fifth-grader or a freshman in college, the mere thought of homework can be overwhelming. And actually doing homework can be quite difficult. But homework doesn’t have to be something a student dreads.
As a former high school English teacher and researcher who specializes in what it takes to make it through college – and a co-author of a forthcoming revised edition of a book about academic success – I’ve studied homework since 2010. Here are six ways I believe homework can be made more manageable and valuable, whether you’re in elementary school, high school or graduate school.
1. Set priorities
Establish a list of priorities based on the class syllabus or assignment list. This can be helpful for tackling difficult tasks, creating motivation and activating your sense of control and independence when it comes to learning. The priority list helps maintain goals and gives you a sense satisfaction to cross things off the list as they are completed.
2. Tackle difficult tasks first
Start with your most difficult assignments first in order to make the most of your energy level and to focus at the beginning of a work session. You can attend to the easier or less time-consuming assignments at the end of a work session.
3. Break tasks down to smaller steps
You may not know how to start a major task, which could trigger procrastination or feelings of defeat. To guard against this, break major tasks into three or four smaller steps. Within one homework session, you can feel a greater sense of accomplishment by completing each small step toward the larger whole. In some cases, you might be able to spread these tasks over the course of a week.
4. Create evidence of learning
You will get more out of the time you spend reading, reviewing notes or otherwise “studying” if you create something in the process. For example, creating flash cards, a graphic organizer, chart, or notes with bullet points can help you become an active learner rather than a passive one. Organize the tools you create with the homework assignment by date and topic so that you can review those items to prepare for quizzes, tests or projects.
5. Build a network of support
If certain homework problems could not be solved and you’re stuck in a rut, figure out what’s confusing you and write or record your thoughts. Jot questions down and be as specific as possible in order to seek out additional support from teachers or tutors. The more you can identify sources of confusion, the more you can proactively reach out to your support network – teachers, tutors and others – in order to get additional help.
6. Revisit goals and set new ones
At the start of each homework session, establish goals for completion of your tasks or assignments. Revisit the goals at the end of the session and acknowledge a sense of completion. This goal-setting process builds confidence over time and helps you realize their potential even when faced with difficulties. A productive homework routine will help you realize that learning is an ongoing journey. The journey may be difficult but getting organized will make it as stress-free as possible.
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