Back to School


Since September began, I have been back to teaching, and the schedule has begun to fill up with the children’s activities and appointments.  I am putting up an article in progress about helping children with homework.  Although the article focuses on students with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) I think the strategies are helpful for all students.

How to Overcome Obstacles Common to Students with ADD

            Whether I am visiting with friends or family, talking with colleagues, or meeting with parents, I have heard the frustration of many parents who have a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.  Repeatedly they have heard that their child has potential, but the student continues to miss homework assignments.  Students often have a negative attitude toward school, and home becomes a battleground as parents want students to finish homework, and children procrastinate.  As a teacher, I have learned a few techniques to help my students with Attention Deficit Order be more successful in school.  Here are some techniques for parents and students to incorporate to overcome doubt and discouragement when dealing with horrendous homework.

Doubt and Discouragement.  Your child may dislike school and be frustrated by low grades and have difficulty concentrating in class. Remember that children and adults with ADD are unique, creative people, and God created them on purpose with these qualities.  Be sure to encourage your child to pursue extra-curricular activities in her gifted area, like sports, music, or art.  When your child can express himself, it makes him confident.  These positive feelings and situations can offset the negative feelings and situations your child may encounter.

Horrendous Homework.  Many parents demand that children remove all distractions and create a silent atmosphere for finishing homework.  However, this creates a dilemma for students with ADD as the quiet may heighten their sensitivity to sounds.  It is okay for children to have background noise of television or music.  Since students with ADD have trouble with focus, the background noise helps one part of their brain to be aware of the stimulus, freeing another part to focus on homework.  My son completes his homework in front of the computer listening to music.

Working in focused, brief stints with frequent breaks or rewards is helpful.  The drawback is that assignments make take a few hours to complete.  Parents should come alongside the students to redirect attention as needed.  The remainder of the article gives more details on how to break down homework into manageable chunks.

Bottomless Backpack.  The backpack needs to be sorted weekly, if not daily.  Students with ADD have trouble organizing and filing, recording information and retaining papers. Elaborate systems don’t work.  Purchase one colorful folder and put all worksheets into it.  If there is more than one folder, this increases the chance that something will be left behind at school or at home.  Expanding folders can hold quite a bit and even have a closure so things don’t fall out.

Keep a folder or binder at home with all of the informational letters teachers send home.  Teachers can be quickly reached via email, and sometimes a website can confirm assignment requirements and deadlines.  Teachers are encouraged to be in contact with parents, and they often have systems in place to help increase communication with parents.  Be sure to take advantage of Open Houses and parent-teacher conferences to build rapport with your child’s teacher.

Many schools issue an agenda book with places for assignments.  Some schools require parents to sign these books on a regular basis.  As a child grows, his responsibility to keep track of assignments should increase.

English Essay. The blank page incites fear in the hearts of students, and often students just give up and turn in nothing.  As an English teacher, I would rather receive something rather than nothing.  One technique that is helpful is to ask the student to recite what he already knows.  As he dictates, write or type his response.  Now the page is not blank! However, many students think they are done at this point.  Now is the time to edit the essay to complete it.  Allow a quick break for completing the rough draft, then get back to work.

Essays vary according to grade level, but regardless of students’ age, essays always need correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation and grammar.  Often papers need a quote–exact words from a work of literature or text in quotation marks.  Use any notes, prompts, or graphic organizers the teacher has provided to check the work.  The teacher may want a specific number of facts, sentences, paragraphs, or examples.

If your child runs out of ideas, prompt her with questions that can be turned into statements, like, what is a cause of the Revolutionary War? Or, what happens next in the cycle?  Finally, make sure the essay is turned in as a final draft—usually in ink or typed.  Always be sure your child’s name is on the assignment!

Mountains of Math.  Students often receive multiple problems to complete each night.  The key to math problems is to break down the assignment into manageable chunks.  Have your child complete three to five problems at a time and then take a break.  Graph paper is very helpful so that students can use the boxes to line up figures and decimal points to avoid careless errors.

For younger students, getting a handle on multiplication facts is key.  Get some flashcards and keep them handy for down time.  I used to drill my daughter during her nighttime bath or shower.  Card rides and dinner time offer some opportunities to run through tables.

Students with ADD usually benefit from movement or music associated with learning.  Help your student create a sing-song voice or use British accents to recite facts.  Use manipulatives or move from place to place.   Snap fingers or clap to create rhythm. Move the math mountain piece by piece and keep it fun.

Persevere.  Students with ADD need extra help and reminder from parents, teachers, and peers.  Helping your child is not cheating! Many classrooms implement cooperative learning. By creating structure, breaking down assignments, staying in touch with teachers, and helping with organization, you can help your child can be successful and less discouraged about school.


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