Creativity can help students keep track of assignments

November 09, 2000

Creativity can help students keep track of assignments

Teaching your child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean

A Warfordsburg, Pa., mother called recently, asking how to help her 7-year-old daughter remember to bring homework assignments home.

The mother asked not to be named because she didn't want her daughter, who's in second grade, to be embarrassed.

Her daughter's teacher requires a folder for each subject. Students are expected to bring completed assignments back to school in the appropriate folder.

Sometimes assignments aren't brought home, or they are returned in the wrong folder. Then points are marked off.

"There should be an easier way to do this," the mother said.

John Festerman, director of elementary education for Washington County public schools, suggests that children should have an assignment notebook, to keep track of what they have been assigned.

Parents should sit down with their children each night and ask them to explain what needs to be done, he suggests.


Festerman and Pattie Dell, a second-grade teacher at Lincolnshire Elementary School, make these recommendations:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Talk to the teacher about your concerns. It also might be helpful to talk to your pediatrician, a school counselor or an independent counselor. You may want your child to talk to a counselor if you feel that her self-esteem has been damaged.

"This early in the year, you don't want them to feel like a failure," Dell says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Consider pairing your child with a classmate. They can help each other remember which books and papers to bring home.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Encourage your child to make a list of her assignments. She can cross them off or put a sticker beside them as they are completed.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> See if your child can follow multiple-step instructions. At bedtime, tell her it's time to get ready for bed:

No. 1, she should put her pajamas on.

No. 2, she should brush her teeth.

No. 3, she should get in bed and you'll be back in five minutes to tuck her in.

Hold your fingers up as you're giving these instructions so your child can make a connection between your three fingers and the three things you want her to do. Ask her to repeat the instructions. If she can't, start with only one instruction and add others to that.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Set a specific time when homework is to be done.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Tell your child to get out only the materials she needs for the assignment she's working on. When that assignment is done, put away those materials and get out what's needed for the next one.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If your child seems tense or frustrated in the middle of a homework session, take a break for a snack or to talk about something that's enjoyable.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Celebrate her strengths. If she's having difficulty with a skill but her handwriting is neat, tell her how much her teacher will appreciate that. Having confidence in one area may encourage her to excel in others.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Set some consequences if the work doesn't get done and rewards if expectations are met.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Your child is watching you. Model organizational skills at home.

When I called the Warfordsburg mother to tell her some of these tips, she said she tried some things on her own:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> She had her daughter label the folders and decorate them.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Her daughter wanted a Furby. She was told she could not have it until there was an improvement in her performance.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> The labeled folders and the incentive helped. Her daughter recently made the distinguished honor roll, so she got the Furby.

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