Should Teachers Give Homework?

Homework is controversial. There’s research that says it’s not beneficial. There’s research that indicates that it increases achievement. Which is it? Because I know that I need to do some “homework” no matter whether it’s school work or practicing my Kung Fu, I believe there is value on what I call “do-able” homework. The goal of homework is to take something learned earlier in the day and bring it back into working memory before bedtime. Research shows that practice increases recall the next day. It’s not about quantity, or the amount of time spent on the homework. Rather, it’s about forcing your brain to remember what was learned several hours ago and thereby building those neural connections.

Social studies mind map homework strategyAs parents, we can use homework strategies to adapt assignments to our child’s learning preferences so that they retain what they learned in school earlier in the day. How? Here is a list of seven strategies that you can use at home to help your child increase their academic performance and make the homework experience more enjoyable, rewarding, and productive.

How to remember the sequence of events

1. To help your child remember the sequence of events in a story or history lesson, have them create a cognitive map with words and pictures. Using visual images to represent facts or a series of events helps to enhance recall and learning. By using colored pencils, crayons, or even colored fonts on a computer, your child can create a step-by-step map of the story – complete with descriptions of events and drawings or clip art to help them remember what happened, in sequence.
Sequence strips to remember events and facts in order2. Another way to help your child remember a sequence of events in a story or history lesson is to have them create a sequence chart. Think of this as a time line or story line that shows events drawn out and written in chronological order. Although this can be done on any type of paper, long adding machine tape works well. Don’t forget to use color and visuals to increase memory.

How to Study Vocabulary Words

3. Increase vocabulary retention by creating visual flash cards. This strategy uses visual images to enhance recall and learning. Have your child write their vocabulary word on an index card and then place a border around it. The border will help them memorize what the word looks like. Then have them draw, print from the internet, or cut out from magazines pictures that help define the word. Attach the visual to the front of the card. On the back of the index card, have your child write the definition and a silly sentence using the word to help them remember the definition.

Foldable Note-Taking

Use color coding and visuals on flash cards to make them more memorable4. Create a “fold-able.” A fold-able is a small book made out of folded pieces of paper that can become a study guide for various things. For example, your child can make a fold-able for a series of vocabulary words, historical figures, or even the cell cycle. Each page of the mini book would display, through words and drawings or pictures, one vocabulary word, a historic figure and related fact, a stage in the cycle of a cell, etc.

Have your Child Teach You!

5. It has been shown that we learn and retain the most when we teach someone else – so be your child’s student! Divide up their vocabulary list into manageable chunks (start with two to three words per night), then have them learn to finger spell or sign the words on their list and teach them to you.

Mnemonic Strategies

Use color coding and visuals on flash cards to make them more memorable6. Increase their ability to remember by teaching your child to use various memory devices such as mnemonics, associations, rhyming, chunking, acronyms, and acrostics. These devices help us to remember the order of things as well as facts and concepts. What works for one child may not work for another, so test each device and see what works best. Some examples:

Add visuals to mnemonic devices to increase retentionA mnemonic: I Am A Person – The four oceans (Indian, Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific),

An acrostic: Mallory Valerie Emily Meetzahs Just Served Us Nachos – The order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).

A rhyme: 30 days has September; April, June, and November.

Famous Figure Wanted Poster

7. A fun way to help your child remember facts and concepts about famous figures is to have them create “wanted posters.” Have your child either use the computer or hand draw a wanted sign, complete with a picture of the famous figure. Then have them write the name of the person, their date of birth, and a list the “crimes” (facts) the person is “wanted” (famous) for – these will be facts about the person’s life and accomplishments. For example, Susan B. Anthony would be wanted for helping women gain equal rights.

Remember, no one strategy will work for every child. Talk to your child and give them some options. Help them choose strategies that they are comfortable with and that they think will help them to retain the most information.

Have you, or your student, used any of these homework strategies? If so, how did they work for you? Have you adapted any of these homework strategies to make them your own? Tell us about that.

Please Help Me With My HomeworkFor more information about study strategies for your student, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Please Help Me With My Homework. Available in both print and electronic versions!

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