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Ask the Teacher

Homework overload, vocabulary woes and vacation disruptions

December 2013

Question: I cannot believe the amount of homework that my second grader has. It seems to go on forever. I am constantly having to prod her to get it done. Isn't second grade too young for hours of homework each evening?

To find a reasonable solution to this issue, you must determine if your child is struggling academically or not managing her time well, or if her teacher makes these assignments as work to be completed at home. First collect some data to determine exactly how much homework your child has and in what academic areas. Every night for one week, make a list of the homework tasks your child is responsible for. Write down the subject area and the number of questions your child has to answer. Indicate the type of questions on the assignments (computation, problem solving, short answer, paragraph writing, etc.). Next to every task, record how much time each takes for your child to complete.

At the end of the week, review the information you have collected. Determine how much time was spent on homework each evening and whether or not a particular subject area seemed to require more time than others. Look for trends. This information gives you a sound basis for a discussion with the teacher.

Set up a meeting with the teacher, but refrain from starting with a judgment statement like, "I think second grade is way too young for two hours of homework every evening." Instead, explain what you have observed. Ask the Teacher if your child is struggling in a particular area or if managing time well at school is a challenge for your child. If either one of these issues is the explanation for the lengthy homework sessions, work with the teacher to develop some strategies to put in place. If, however, the teacher believes this homework load is a necessary component of second grade success, work with him or her and your child to develop a plan that will help your child achieve the desired output as efficiently as possible.

Question: My third grade son has weekly vocabulary tests that he refuses to study for. Even though his grades on these quizzes are terrible, he just will not work on learning the words. What can I do?

The key to your son's success on vocabulary tests is to find a way for him to study that is effective for him. The traditional way of studying vocabulary by putting words and their definitions on index cards still works for some students; for others it is just a frustration.

Free websites like quizlet.com or SpellingCity.com provide an easy way to turn vocabulary study into a game or challenge. Puzzlemaker.com allows you to build crossword puzzles, word searches and other games to make study time fun. You can create these, or your child can create them himself. Be sure to proofread his work before submitting the word lists and definitions so that your child is not studying incorrect information!

Research shows that the brain retains new words best when associated with a picture. Have your child make a poster or draw pictures that illustrate the words on his vocabulary list. Or, try playing a game of Pictionary with your son, challenging him to guess the words you draw.

Question: Our Christmas vacation is always hectic. We want to make the most of every minute, so we travel up until the last possible moment. Should I alert the teacher so that she can adjust the workload for the first few days after the students return to school?

We all love school vacation times, and we are usually ready for a break by the time it rolls around. With the busy schedules of today's children, it is important that they have sufficient downtime occasionally so they can regroup and feel refreshed. If vacation is so busy that children return to school exhausted and so far removed from their normal routine that the re-start of school becomes a huge struggle, you are doing your child a serious disservice.

When you spend the first few days after vacation with a crabby, stressed out child, you have defeated the original purpose of the vacation. Rather than getting your child off to a fresh start, you have sabotaged the beginning of the second semester by disrupting their routine and impeding their coping strategies by not having them well-rested for their return to school.

Get the second half of the year off to a good start by ending traveling vacations a few days prior to school resuming. Give your child the chance to rest before getting school underway. If it is simply not possible to return earlier, implement a routine of bedtimes and wake-up times during break that are as close to the schedule of a school day as possible. Having your child readjusted to their normal routine will help minimize the damage of a last-minute return home following vacation.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at asktheteacher@indyschild.com

Tags: Ask the Teacher, Education, In This Issue

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