2006-02-02 / Direct Answers

Answers From the Teacher

My daughter should be reading for thirty minutes and practicing her multiplication tables each night. She works only half-heartedly at each task, often jumping up for snacks or a glass of water. How can I help her work for more than three minutes at a time?

Assuming that your daughter doesn’t have attention deficit disorder, and that she’s just jumping up a lot as a stalling technique, you may want to use a timer to help her settle down. Chances are your daughter’s teacher isn’t requiring that your daughter read twenty minutes in a row, but twenty minutes total. You should try breaking the task down in smaller increments, perhaps seven minutes to start. Only then she can get a drink or a snack. After seven minutes more of reading, she might stop and doodle, or maybe walk around for a few moments. After six minutes of more reading, she’s done.

Practicing multiplication tables can be a less than exciting chore. Can you help make it more interesting by timing her? If she’s using flash cards, settle on a number of cards, say twenty or thirty and set a goal to find out how many problems she can answer correctly in one minute. Set aside the ones she doesn’t know right away for more study; then add those to the next group of cards and try again.

Of course, you’re trying to support your daughter on her way to becoming an independent student. You shouldn’t always be working with her and coaching her every step of the way. But you can continue to be supportive of her and her attempts to learn new material by not letting her slide into bad study habits. Help her keep learning fun and interesting things by offering suggestions that help keep her engaged in the material.

My middle school son spends a long time on his homework before coming to me to say he doesn’t understand how to do something. Some-times it’s too late in the evening to do anything about it. Once or twice I’ve written a note to the teacher explaining the situation, but I don’t want to get into that habit. Is there another way to handle his situation?

First, be sure that your son is listening carefully when the assignments are given. Sometimes teachers give explicit directions that students don’t tune into, perhaps because these directions may be given at the very end of class when a student’s attention has dropped a bit.

Start your son on his homework earlier in the evening. That way, he may be able to solve some homework problems and ask for help with others well before he should be in bed.

Try previewing his homework with him before he begins. Look over the assignments in each subject, but let your son tell you what he thinks he is supposed to do. If he’s not clear about his task, read the directions with him or help him by giving him examples similar to those in the assignment.

Also, encourage him to connect with another student in each class and get that student’s phone number. That way, your son can call and discuss homework difficulties with a student who has the same assignment. En-courage him to make every attempt to always go to school with completed assignments. It’s his responsibility to try his best in school, including his homework.

Send questions to: Answers from the Teacher, PO Box 54, South Egremont, MA 01258. or e-mail to an-swersfromtheteacher@adelphia.net.

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