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Stay Focused: End of the School Year Tips for Students

Orinda-based academic coach offers some pragmatic advice for keeping students focused as the school year winds down.

March is here, and the days are starting to get a little longer again, the sun a bit warmer, and on most mornings the birds are out chirping in full-force. Hints of spring are everywhere. But is your little Suzy dragging her feet in the schoolwork arena? Do you know she could do better than the coasting through class she seems to be exhibiting?

Perhaps your youngster’s lack of initiative is more than just a case of spring fever. This is a difficult time of year for some students, as they are past the excitement of the holiday season, losing steam because they are two-thirds done with the school year, and feeling a little disenchanted until summer break draws nearer. Many feel bogged down by what feels like a never-ending steam of homework. Click here to read Diablo's September 2008 feature about homework overload.

While you may not be able to alter the syllabus, there are simple measures you can take to help your student in the academic arena. Nancy Chin, Orinda resident and mother of two teens, has heard all about the homework-blues. As a personal academic coach though, Chin has helped students from 1st grade all the way through seniors in high school overcome such roadblocks. She has graciously provided the following easy pointers to help your student get on-track to achieve his or her full potential, all while getting to bed at a reasonable hour. 

1. Get Organized
Most students—from 1st graders to seniors in high school—will perform better if they are organized. The earlier he/she recognizes this, the better. Begin with the backpack, help make sure that everything has a place and there is no excess. So, while school supply shopping is the highlight of back-to-school time for many children, don’t let little Bobby go overboard. Allow children to have two or three pens or pencils at a time, not 47. Fewer pens are easier to keep track of, and your child will learn about being responsible and keeping things in order. Have a folder for each class and keep notes or handouts in one pocket, and homework or assignments to be turned-in on the other side, so your student will know where exactly to find an assignment and won’t spend the entire homework session rifling through a blizzard of crinkled papers ranging from math worksheets to social studies handouts.

2. Set the Schedule
Next, set up a homework schedule and be firm about it. Ten minutes of homework time per-grade is a fair benchmark (a first grader will have 10 minutes of homework, a sixth grader an hour), but be sure to talk with the teacher to get accurate estimations of what is expected of your student. Remember, homework time means homework time. Do not allow your student to have distractions such as friends, T.V. computers, snacks strewn about, internet browsers open or music blaring in the background. While some might claim these added elements help them concentrate, these distractions will impede efficiency and might keep your child busy with “homework” for hours more than is necessary. Let him/her get squared away with a snack, some after school playtime—whatever. But then get serious and enforce quality homework time at a designated homework spot, like a desk or the cleared-off kitchen table.

3. Be Consistent
By knowing what needs to happen, where, and how; students begin to develop routines and schedules. Organization in one area of their lives will spill over into other areas for later on in life as well. As a synthesis between organization and scheduling, make sure your child has some consistency and routine in his/her life. Upon arriving home, have him or her empty out the backpack. Take out the lunch box (that is, if it made it home in the first place…), and put books and folders at a designated homework spot. Don’t let the child read or do homework on the bed or a couch, because he or she will inevitably get a little sleepy, want to play with stuffed animals, etc. Remember, you are trying to make sure your student gets on-task and done with work as quickly as possible!

By helping your student get organized and develop strong study skills now (the earlier the better) he or she will better be able to juggle whatever life has to throw at them later on down the road. It will also allow your child to have much more time doing the fun things and just being a kid, because all the of extra time spent procrastinating or being distracted/ sidetracked will be eliminated. While it is your child’s “job” to be a student right now, he or she should not be a jaded employee just yet. 

Tips provided by Nancy Chin, a personal academic coach from “Step-by-Step.” She is an Orinda mother of two teens. www.stepbystep4success.com