Can A Spoonful Of Sugar Help Homework Get Done?

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  10/14/2006 2:14:31 AM

News You Can Use Distributed 10/13/06

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but it could take a little more for the homework to get done, according to the experts.

"We’ve reached the point in the school year where the first nine weeks of school are behind us, the crayons are worn, the new pencils are broken and the notebooks are beginning to tatter," LSU AgCenter associate Cheri Gioe says. "The excitement of the first days of school has gone away, and homework has begun to rule the afternoons for you and your children. What do you do?"

Gioe says it may be easier to get children to complete homework if they see the rewards or benefits to it.

"The rewards may be something as simple as spending quality time together as a family after everyone has done their homework," Gioe says. "The important thing is to try to take any sense of drudgery out of doing homework.

"I’m not suggesting filling your children with sugary snacks, but something other than a ‘spoonful of sugar’ can make homework more fun and help it get done."

The LSU AgCenter expert and others say the quest for making homework time more enjoyable has to begin with everyone understanding why teachers assign homework.

"Teachers know that homework can help improve a child’s memory and understanding of daily schoolwork," Gioe explains. "It also can help children develop study skills and time-management skills that are valuable in and out of school. And it helps children realize that learning can and will take place anywhere, not just in the classroom."

According to the experts, homework assignments fall into four categories – practice, preparation, extension and integration.

–Practice involves homework that is meant to reinforce learning and help students master specific skills.

–Preparation entails homework that introduces material that will be presented in future lessons.

–Extension refers to homework that asks students to apply skills they already have learned to new situations.

–Integration includes homework that requires students to apply different skills to different tasks.

"Research indicates that shorter and more frequent assignments are most effective," Gioe says.

The National Parent Teacher Association suggests homework for children in kindergarten through second grade should not exceed 10-20 minutes per day and that children in third through sixth grades benefit from 30-60 minutes.

"Junior high and high school students benefit from spending more time with homework than do the younger children, but the amount of homework they have and the time they spend with it will vary from day to day," Gioe says. "A good thing to remember, however, is that daily reading of any material is particularly helpful for all ages."

The U.S. Department of Education says assisting children with homework is OK – as long as parents or others don’t complete the assignments for children.

"Parents still can play an important role in assisting with homework," Gioe says. "They just need to let children do the work – so the children learn from it."

Communicating with teachers to help ensure children have a method of keeping track of what homework needs to be completed is one way parents can be involved, according to Gioe.

"Assignment books can be purchased at many stores and are a great way to keep track of assigned homework," she says, adding, "Many schools these days have Web sites where teachers upload homework assignments and notices to parents each day."

Parents also need to ensure children have a quiet, well lit location that is equipped with all the supplies they may need to complete their homework assignments successfully.

"It is important that when children do their homework adults also do their ‘homework’ at the same time," Gioe says, explaining, "It may be balancing your checkbook, paying your bills or making your grocery list. The important thing is that children see what you’re doing and realize they are learning things that they will later relate to in adulthood."

If a child becomes frustrated with his or her homework, it may be time to allow a short break, Gioe says. In addition, when the homework is complete, she says to be sure to reward a youngster’s progress with time outdoors, a trip to the park, a walk in the neighborhood or a simple card or board game.

"By rewarding your child with your time, you help reinforce the positive effort your child put into the homework assignments," Gioe says. "Homework usually won’t be the most pleasant part of the day, but parents can help to maximize the positive effects of homework and the long-term role it plays in a child’s development."

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Contact: Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or cgioe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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