As we have discussed previously, the onset of homework portals or websites have solved a lot of old problems. But, like any new technology, it has created a few new challenges in its wake.
To briefly summarize, a homework website is a place that teachers post information about what the homework is, when it is due, and what is expected. One major benefit is that it takes some of the responsibility off the student. The student can check the site and know they are getting reliable information because it is coming from the teacher. Plus, parents and tutors can check the site as well and be informed.
Unfortunately, sometimes these websites can be clumsy, hard to navigate, only used by some teachers, and in many cases students might have to check multiples sources to get the full list of homework for the night.
How do we help students use these resources for all they’re worth, but help them avoid common pitfalls in the process?
Three Major Components
There are three major components to using a homework website effectively.
1. Navigate the website(s) accurately
This means knowing where to go, how to find things, and when you’ve officially checked all of the places.
Despite their obsession with all things tech, many students don’t actually have great problem solving skills when it comes to using it. Accustomed to instant answers, they often do not have systematic approaches for navigating through a website in a thorough way. Throw in any executive functioning deficit and it’s extra hard!
2. Create a list for execution
This step can be a hard sell, but is definitely the most critical. Often these websites, and always if there are more than one, do not have a feature that creates a comprehensive to-do list. And, if they do, there is typically no way to create a personalized list that can include subtasks or break a project up over the course of the week. Not to mention the many hidden steps included in assignments.
As such, creating a “master” list that has everything that needs to be done, pulled from all sources, allows for a one-stop-shop when it comes to executing the homework.
Additionally, this master list serves as a way for the student to really process all that needs to be done. Scanning through pages of assignments and creating a mental list rarely holds the same weight as writing (or typing) each thing down. By transferring each assignment to a master list (physical or digital) the student has to briefly sit with each assignment, allowing for a deeper level of processing of what actually needs to be done. This makes them less likely to forget an assignment and more likely to have a sense of the amount of time they will need for the evening.
3. Checking Things Off
The most important, and most satisfying, part of having a list of things to do, is checking them off as they are completed. Checking items off, and making sure everything has been checked, is another step that often gets overlooked when using a homework website. Instead, the student makes a mental list (or even a physical one) but does not go back to ask, “did I do it all?”
Creating A System
When creating a new system, we want it to be as structured and predictable as possible, so that it is more likely to become a habit. Essentially, we want to do it the same way, every day.
The student should expect that the first 10 minutes of “homework time” will be spent going through their homework website and creating their list.
- If there are multiple sites or pages to check, make sure each one is bookmarked in their browser
- Create a list of classes or pages that have to be checked and keep it next to the computer. They should go through these in the same order, every time.
- A list of questions or prompts may also be helpful for guiding this process
- Write down the assignments from the calendar
- Look at the “announcements” page and read any new announcements
- On Fridays, scan through each progress report and see if there are any zeros for any class
While navigating the website, each encountered task should then be transferred to the list of choice. This list can be on paper or on a task manager but should be separate from the homework website.
- Create a clear template for the list
- If it is on paper, have spaces for each subject and extra spaces for other items
- If it is on a task manager, build in categories for each subject
- Include a space to put the due date
- BE SPECIFIC
- Break tasks down into chunks
- Be clear about what actually needs to be done
- Read pg. 10-43 in TKAM — not, “Read”
- Be able to check things off as they are done
- Students can also use the list to prioritize or order assignments
Once the list is made, the student will use this to manage their homework time. If more details are needed, they can always go back to the homework website (that’s the beauty of them!) but when it comes to the specific tasks, the list is their master sheet.
As things are completed, check them off. Once homework is deemed “complete,” students should check back over their list and make sure everything is checked off. If not, it needs to be moved to tomorrow’s list.
This system feels cumbersome at first, but truly can be an absolute lifesaver in the homework process once it becomes a habit. Stay tuned for the next post on how adults are necessary to support this new process, and how to slowly remove those supports over time.