By Joyce Costello
Parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity to share strategies with parents of those students who are trying to achieve success, but seem to be falling short. These are not the students who are apathetic or lethargic, but those that try and try and get frustrated with the amount of work that they have to do at home. The parents are frustrated and, of course, the students become frustrated. During my twenty-plus years in the classroom and going to these conferences, I have shared numerous strategies with my parents. Here are three of them.
Do the homework of your least favorite subject first. Many students are just told to “Do your homework” when they get home. They are most likely to do the subjects that they like and understand well first and push off doing what they least like until the end. I have told the parents of my students to tell them to do their least favorite subject first. Get it out of the way. I have had very positive feedback from parents who say that just this strategy alone has cut down on homework time.
Do your homework with little or no distractions around you. This can be difficult because this generation has so many devices that can be a distraction and these devices seem to always be with them. Put the phones away. Don’t be in the room with a lot of foot traffic. No television. Usually, the room that this describes is the dining room. When I have tutored students in their home, I have always asked to be in the dining room. Yes, there are those students that work better with some noise in the background, but overall, a room with little to no distractions is the best environment to study and complete homework.
Give yourself a three-five minute break for every twenty minutes of concentrated homework. If a student is really concentrating for twenty minutes, they will work better with taking a break. This is not just a mental break. Get up. Move around. Get the blood flowing. Autistic students are told to take Sensory Breaks because it resets their brain. This is the same principle. Students think better when they take breaks. I even practiced this is in the classroom. I set up the workday for them to work continuously for about 15-20 minutes, then I had them change tasks. I found that they were able to concentrate at a higher level after these breaks.
These three simple strategies have always been well received by my parents in conferences. Remember that the parents that come to these conferences want their child to succeed. Many times they are frustrated and are looking for some guidance or advice from teachers that know their child. I have never encountered a parent that didn’t want to try at least one of these strategies. In many cases, I was pleased to see an improvement in their child’s work. When this happens, everyone is happy.