Homework Routine Worksheet

Make Homework Routine

test_adminDecember 4, 2010ADHD, InterventionsComments Off on Make Homework Routine

By Guest Blogger, Penny Williams of {a mom’s view of ADHD}

ADHD children do better with routine. It’s a proven fact. In a brain characteristically in chaos, the order routine provides is soothing. They need to know what to expect in advance and have time to make the mental transition as well.

Everything goes more smoothly for my son when he knows what’s coming and when, and everything falls apart when our schedule changes unexpectedly. As parents of neurologically different children, we make their world more comfortable by publicizing the family schedule and sticking to a routine as much as a family can. We have a routine for getting up and ready for school in the morning. We have a bedtime routine. We even have an {unpopular} dinnertime routine. Why should homework time be any different?

It has taken me two years to establish a fairly comfortable homework routine for Luke, my 8-year-old, third grade son who has ADHD and sensory integration issues. Two years of a lot of trial and error. And we aren’t set yet, nor do I predict we will be for many years. As the full extent of Luke’s written expression disorder has been revealed this year, the homework routine has changed quite a bit, but for the better.

Like Clockwork

I’ve experimented quite a bit with the time of day that we do homework. It was quickly apparent that waiting until after dinner (and after medications had worn off) was not going to work for Luke (or for me). We then tried right after school and at 4 pm, which is about 30 minutes after we arrive home from school. I liked the idea of some free time for Luke to unwind and a break from schoolwork that the 4 pm schedule offered. However, it hasn’t always worked out. In 30 minutes time he can get engrossed in something fun and then it’s a battle to get him to stop and do homework. I feel a little like a schoolmarm making him do homework the minute we get home, but he does his best work at that time.

Now sure we don’t always come straight home from school. Sometimes I’m working and grandma picks him up. Sometimes we have afterschool activities or just need to run to the grocery store. But Luke knows that we do homework when we return home from school, whatever time that may read on the clock. He has come to expect it.

Even Homework Needs a Home

Give homework papers and supplies a home and keep them in the same spot. When I say, “time to do homework,” Luke immediately goes to his homework spot. Well, not immediately. Even the best laid plan will not cure the typical resistance to homework. We keep Luke’s homework folder, pencils, etc. on his end of the snack bar. Up until a month or so ago, he sat there or just behind at the dining table to do his homework. We kept all needs there so he wouldn’t have the distraction of getting up to fetch something.

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Consider a Homework Toolkit: The toolkit will be some sort of box or desktop organizer, even an actual toolbox, with every single item necessary to complete homework, prepped and ready to go:

  • pencils (sharpened — sharpening pencils is a favorite procrastination technique of children),

  • pencil sharpener (in case it breaks),

  • pencil grips (if used),

  • markers,

  • colored pencils (sharpened),

  • appropriate scissors,

  • notebook paper,

  • construction paper or blank copy paper,

  • calculator,

  • ruler,

  • dictionary,

  • index cards,

  • highlighter,

  • tape,

  • glue stick,

  • post-it notes,

  • clip board (if not working at a table or desktop),

  • anything else your child may use for homework

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Now that Luke has some technological accommodations for his written expression disability, he does his spelling homework on the computer. When I announce “homework time,” he gets his folder off the snack bar and brings it to my desk to work on my computer. (I am looking for a good place in my office to create a new homework spot now that things have changed.) He’s great with technology, and typing is so much easier for him than hand writing assignments was, so this change has actually allowed me to stop standing over him, constantly nagging, during homework for the first time since he started school. It’s wonderful!

He finishes his spelling assignment and then takes his book to the sofa and I set the timer for reading. If you don’t have a timer or don’t use one with your ADHD child, I super-strongly recommend its implementation. My favorite is the Time Timer, but any household timer will work. When the timer sounds at the end of his 15 minutes, he jumps up, completes his homework log, and then puts the homework folder back in its home on the snack back (with a little prodding and a lot of reminders).

Don’t Make Them Bite Off More Than They can Chew

Homework is designed to prove to a teacher that a child has mastered the subject matter and is sometimes an exercise in repetition for knowledge retention. Every child in the class is given the same homework, regardless of their differences, unless there’s already an IEP or 504 Plan to the contrary. It’s your duty as your child’s advocate and #1 cheerleader to be sure the homework is appropriate for your child. Yes, this is negotiable, either through teamwork with the teacher or through a formal IEP or 504 Plan.

Scaling the amount of homework to your child’s differences and needs is a crucial element in the success of the homework routine. For example, Luke reads for 15 minutes each day while the original 3rd grade homework structure called for 20 minutes. There was a lot of resistance and inability to finish 20 minutes of reading but 15 minutes is just the right amount for Luke. While he is above grade level in reading, he is allowed to have me read aloud to him if that’s what it takes to get the assignment finished. I have found that he often asks me to read to him just to have time together. I agree, but on the condition that we take turns reading aloud by alternating paragraphs. He usually ends up reading most of it himself anyway, just with me alongside him.

Spelling is also a regular homework task. He has 15 words each week and his teacher suggests a list of activities from which to complete three. We alter these activities to accommodate his handwriting issues. He types all activities which means there are some that don’t apply to him (like writing each word in cursive three times). Sometimes there aren’t three on the list that can be typed so I let him pick from activities he’s done previous weeks.

Also, get creative and tailor homework to the way your child learns. Luke is a visual and tactile learner so we make homework visual and hands-on as much as we can – it was easier to do so in the younger grades. Use dried macaroni for math or even spelling. Does your child love to paint? Let them paint their spelling words or their illustration for their writing assignments. Painting letters is actually a common therapy tool for children that struggle with handwriting. What about play dough? I purchased a box of cookie cutters with all the letters and numbers for play dough play. You could do spelling and math with these. It will take longer but make homework more interesting and fun.

Luke’s teacher is perfectly content with our customization of the homework plan. Since they don’t get a grade on homework in third grade, it’s easy to make this change. Similar alterations can be made for middle school and high school homework too though. For instance, a student should be allowed to complete a percentage of the problems on a math worksheet to show they have mastered the content when the entire assignment will take too long or is overwhelming. Shortening the assignments will reduce their anxiety too, making it easier to work and study in the first place.

Don’t Forget Good Study Habits

Good study habits are even more crucial for children with ADHD and learning disabilities. There are some general ground rules that should always be followed:

  1. TV and other distractions must be turned off. However, music in the background actually helps some children focus. It is a distraction for me, but Luke and his sister both do homework better with music on, especially when listening with headphones. Experiment with this and see what is best for your child.

  2. Praise and reward often (typically more often than feels natural).

  3. Take breaks as needed. Who says you have to finish homework in one sitting? Allow your child to get up and stretch, get a snack, jump on the trampoline, etc. Just don’t allow them any screen time during breaks because you won’t likely get back to the homework amicably.

There is so much more than the few ideas I’ve covered here, especially for older children. Take a look at these other resources on the subject of homework with ADHD children:

Penny Williams is the creator and editor of {a mom’s view of ADHD}, where she writes candidly about the everyday experiences of parenting her young ADHD son. In her immersion in all things ADHD since her son’s diagnosis, Penny has published, My ADHD Story: Love Notes, Blah, Blah, Blah!, and Teachers We Love: Learning for All in ADDitude Magazine, the #1 national publication dedicated to ADHD. She has been quoted in Parenting.com’s Family Health Guide on ADHD and The High Desert Pulse, Summer/Fall 2010, When Ritalin Works.

What is it about homework that wears families out? Even newbie grade-schoolers, who love doing it at first, often lose their enthusiasm and start stalling. And after a long day, you just want your kiddo to knuckle down so you can get dinner on the table or start the bedtime routine. 

But playing cop rarely works — micromanaging and nagging only make kids feel stupid or frustrated. A better solution: Think of yourself as a coach and cheerleader. To help you get there, we asked teachers and parents to share their A+ strategies for solving the most common headaches. Their work-like-magic tips are guaranteed to bring harmony back into your homework routine, whether your child is a kindergartner or a fifth-grader, a whiner or a procrastinator!
1. Do It as Early as Possible: Best for Everyone
On days when there are no afternoon activities, give your child a time frame — say, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. — to get down to business. This gives her some control over her schedule (some kids need a longer break after school, and others need to start right away to keep the momentum going). The only rule is that 5 o’clock is the latest time to start. If you work, that means homework duties will fall to the after-school caregiver. This way, the bulk of it can get done before your kiddo’s too pooped — and you can just review and wrap things up once you get home.
2. Create a Call List: Best for Forgetters
From kindergarten on, kids need a list of three or four classmates they can call on when they forget an assignment, says Ann Dolin, M.Ed., a former teacher and author of Homework Made Simple. The study buddy can read your child the spelling words over the phone, or his mom can snap a pic of the worksheet and text it to you.
3. Build Confidence: Best for the Intimidated
When kids don’t get something right away, they may feel like they’re stupid and start to shut down, says Sigrid Grace, a second-grade teacher in Almont, MI, and a member of Scholastic Parent & Child’s advisory board. You can short-circuit negative thinking by sitting down and figuring out the first problem together. That alone can help him remember how to do the rest. Then heap on the praise: “You did a great job on that one! Try the next one now.” 
Another strategy: Have your child show you similar problems he worked on in class. That may jog his memory so he can retrace the steps. Plus, it helps you see what he’s already learned.
4. Cut It in Half: Best for the Overwhelmed
That’s right — you can make an executive decision to lighten your child’s load for a night, if:
  • She doesn’t understand the assignment.
  • The assignment is vague or touches on a topic she’s not ready for.
  • She’s exhausted from a long day of school, gymnastics, and an argument with her best friend. 
If your child is completely lost, you can excuse her entirely. In the other cases, shorten the assignment, says Cathy Vatterott, Ph.D., a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor of education and author of Rethinking Homework. What you can’t skip is informing the teacher. “Have your child write a note explaining,” says Vatterott. If she’s too young, write it yourself (with her input) and have her sign it. If you don’t hear back from the teacher in a few days, or your child is still clueless on the next assignment, follow up with an e-mail.
Most teachers will be understanding if a student does this once in a while, says Grace, but if your child frequently fails to finish her assignments, there will probably be a consequence.
5. Change the Scene: Best for Daydreamers
Something as simple as a special place to work can boost a child’s motivation and, in turn, his confidence. “I let one kid at a time use my office if they are having trouble,” says Jennifer Harrison, of Sacramento, CA, mom of a 7- and an 11-year-old. “Being in the spot where Mom does grown-up work seems to help them focus. Maybe because I tell them that it’s my place to concentrate.”
6. Keep the Positive Feedback Coming: Best for the K–2 Set
Little kids need instant feedback, so it’s okay for parents of young grade-schoolers to correct mistakes, says Grace. Then emphasize what your kid’s done well. After he’s finished, take his paper and say “Hmm, I’m looking for something . . .” After scanning it for a minute, say “Aha! Look how well you wrote your letters in this part!” or “This sentence is even better than the one you came up with yesterday!” If you praise specific improvements, your little learner will become more inclined to try to do a good job the first time around.
7. Leave the Room: Best for Whiners
“Kids who drag things out are often doing so for your attention — they’re enjoying the interaction on some level,” explains Grace. “Avoid joining in. And if you must stay in the room, have your child work in a spot that’s farther away from whatever you’re doing.”
8. Beat the Clock: Best for Procrastinators
Sometimes a pint-size foot dragger just needs a jump-start. If that’s true for yours, try Dolin’s “Five Minutes of Fury”: Set a timer for five minutes, shout “Go!” and have your child work as fast as she can until the timer goes off. At that point, she can take a short break or keep going — and many kids continue. “Racing against a timer gives kids an external sense of urgency if they don’t have an internal one,” she notes (besides, it’s fun!). But it’s not an excuse for sloppy work, so tell her to go over it before she puts it back in her folder.
9. Plan, Plan, Plan: Best for 3rd- to 5th-Graders
Many teachers will break down big projects into a series of deadlines so that children learn to budget time. If your kid’s teacher doesn’t, show your child how to “scaffold” the assignment yourself, says Dr. Vatterott. Together, divide the project into steps, then help her estimate how much time each will take. Get a weekly or monthly calendar (like Martha Stewart Home Office With Avery Dry Erase Monthly Planner; $8, Staples.com), and then write down which steps she’ll tackle when — and for how long. To get the most out of your calendar, include everything — from basketball practice on Mondays to the reading log every night so you both can plan realistically. If you know which nights are going to be a problem, “Ask for the week’s assignments at once and figure out your own schedule for completing them,” suggests Dr. Vatterott. “Teachers will often work with you on this, but most parents are afraid to ask.”
10. Let ’Em Vent: Best for Everyone
When your routine is upended — and your kid hasn’t even started his homework — ease frustration by letting him complain. Listen, empathize (“Wow, that is a lot of work”), and state his feelings back to him (“You sound upset”). Once your child feels understood, says Dolin, he’ll be more likely to accept your suggestions — and better able to focus on what needs to be done.
Plus: Your Way vs. The Teacher’s
Your child’s tearing up over a long-division worksheet and you actually remember how to get the answer. But the teacher’s instructions are different. Do you show your kid your method — so at least she’ll have the correct answer?
Hold off, says Dr. Vatterott. Your process may confuse her even more. You can help your child by talking to her about what she remembers from class and steering her to the textbook. If she’s still lost, just have her write a note to the teacher explaining that she doesn’t understand.

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