More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
How to Make Homework Less Work
Do algebra problems 15 through 25. Conjugate the French verbs on page 50 of your French workbook. Read pages 12 through 20 of the Shakespeare play, and when you're finished with that, don't forget to fill in the missing chemical symbols on the Periodic Table of Elements worksheet.

Sound like a roster of your homework for the next few nights - or maybe even just for tonight? Fortunately, there are ways to make it easier, from having a good work space to using tutors. Learn more about how to make homework less stressful below.

Making Your Work Space a Chill Place
When you settle down to do homework or to study, where do you do it? Flopped on your bed, surrounded by pillows? In the kitchen, with the sound of dishes being cleared and your brothers and sisters fighting?

Even though both these places might seem like they're OK study spaces, they're not. Your bed is comfy - sometimes too comfy, which can make you want to take a little nap instead of studying. This is especially true if you're like most teens and you're not getting as much sleep as you need. And when you were younger, it may have worked to do your studying in the kitchen, where an adult could help you out and keep an eye on you at the same time. But now that you're older and have more complex assignments, the kitchen probably isn't the best place.

So where is the best place? Your bedroom or a study, or any other room where you can get away from noise and distractions is usually the best place to get homework done. You should have a desk or table that's comfortable to work at. It doesn't need to be large - just big enough to spread out your stuff. You'll also need a chair that's comfortable: it should support your lower back and allow you to keep both feet on the floor in front of you. The chair should also be the correct height so that you don't have to hunch over to read or write.

To make studying less of a strain on your eyes, make sure you have enough light. The overhead light in the room may be enough, or you may want to get a small desk lamp. Other helpful desktop accessories include a calendar, a blotter, a pen and pencil caddy or holder, and a small clock. None of these things are necessary to get homework done, but each can be helpful in staying organized while you work.

Finally, make sure the room you're in is comfortable. This sounds like a basic tip, but if you're too hot, too cold, or distracted by your pet hamster spinning in his wheel, you won't be able to do homework as effectively. Homework is much less work when your environment is calm.

Creating a Homework Plan
Homework is a major part of going to school: it's your teachers' way of evaluating how much you understand of what's going on in class. Unfortunately, it has to be done outside of class - during times when you'd probably much rather be doing something else.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to make homework less work. First, be sure you understand the assignment. Write it down in your notebook or day planner if you need to, and don't be afraid to ask questions about what's expected. It's much easier for you to take a minute to ask the teacher during or after class whether he or she said geometry problems 10 through 30, than struggling to remember later that night! If you want, you can also ask how long the particular homework assignment should take to complete - this will help you budget your time.

Second, use any extra time you have in school to work on your homework. This doesn't mean propping your book up on the volleyball net in gym class. Many schools have study halls that are specifically designed to allow students to study or get homework done. Some teachers structure classes so that the second half of the period can be devoted to doing homework. If you have a study hall or a teacher who gives you this opportunity, be sure to take advantage of it. It can be tempting to talk to your friend, write a note, or just daydream when you have unstructured time like this, but the more work you can get done in school means less to do that night.

What if you don't have time in school to get homework done? You'll need to think about how much homework you have for a given night and what else is going on that day, and then budget your time. Most high school students have between 1 and 3 hours of homework a night. If it's a heavy homework day and it seems like you got an assignment in every subject but gym and lunch, you'll need to devote more time to homework. It's a good idea to come up with some kind of homework schedule, especially if you are involved in sports or activities or have an after-school job.

Getting Down to Work
When you start your homework, tackle the hardest assignments first. It's tempting to do the easy stuff first to get it out of the way, but try not to do this. You have the most energy when you begin, so it's best to use this mental power on the tough homework. Later, when you're more tired, you can focus on the simpler things.

If you get tripped up on something, try to figure it out as best you can - but don't obsess and spend too much time on it because this can mess up your homework schedule for the rest of the night. If you need to, ask an adult or older sibling for help or call a classmate - as long as you can trust yourself not to stay on the phone for too long. If you know that calling means that you'll be on the phone for awhile, don't even lift the receiver! Instead, answer it the best you can or try to move on to the next problem.

Because most people's attention spans aren't all that long, you'll also need to take some breaks while doing your homework. Sitting for too long without stretching or relaxing will make you less productive than if you stop every so often. Taking a 15-minute break every hour is a good idea for most people. (But if you're really concentrating, you can wait until it's a good time to stop.)

When you're on your break, get a change of scenery by leaving the room you've been working in. Do some stretches if you've been leaning over and do something to clear your head, like listening to the radio for a few minutes, helping with something around the house, or talking to someone in your family. Don't try to catch 15 minutes of a TV show unless it's the last 15 minutes and you know you won't want to watch the show that comes on after it - TV has a way of pulling you away from homework. And the same goes for the phone: don't call someone unless you know that you can hang up after 15 minutes.

Once your homework is done, you can check over it if you have extra time. Be sure to put it away in a safe place - there's nothing worse than having a completed assignment that you can't find the next morning or that gets ruined by a careless brother or sister. Then the best part of the homework assignment comes: the part when you know it's all done, and you're free to hang out.

Finding Extra Help
Sometimes even though you're paying attention in class, studying for tests, and doing your homework, some classes might seem too hard. Although you may hope that things will get easier or that the explanation to the geometry theorems will magically appear in your dreams, most of the time this doesn't happen.

What does happen is that you work harder and harder as you fall further and further behind. Naturally, this makes you hate the class and everything to do with it.

If you need extra help, the most important thing to know is that there's nothing weird or embarrassing about it. No one is expected to understand everything, and each person has very different learning styles.

The first place to turn for help is your teacher. He or she may be able to work with you before or after school and explain things more clearly. But what if you don't get along with your teacher? If you're in a big enough school, there may be other teachers who teach the same subject. Speak to a guidance counselor or to the other teacher directly and you may be in luck.

You may also be able to get some help from another student. If there's someone you like who's a good student, think about asking that person if you can study together. This might help because you'll be hearing the information from the perspective of one of your peers. However, keep in mind that this might not get you the results you need. Some people might understand something perfectly without being able to explain it. Also, don't pick somebody you like too much, unless you're really disciplined because you'll want to hang out and talk more than you'll want to study.

Another option for extra help is a tutor, either after school or in the evenings. You'll need to talk to an adult about this because it costs money to hire a tutor. Tutors sometimes come to your home and there are tutoring centers across the country. A tutor may have broad knowledge of many things, or he or she may be trained in just one subject. Tutors work with you one-on-one, helping review and further explain things taught in the classroom. The advantage of having a tutor is it gives you the opportunity to ask questions directly and work at your own pace.

If you're interested in a tutor, you can look in the yellow pages of your phone book. Or you might get a referral from a friend or classmate who has a tutor. And if you live in or near a town or city with a college or university, you may find tutors there. Often graduate students will tutor high school students in their areas of study to help with the costs of graduate school.
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.