Towards the end of last year, my son started to have problems with his homework. The issue was not the assignment themselves. He would complete the assignments on time, but then he would frequently forget to turn them in, which would result in reduced grades. As a parent, this was more frustrating to us than not doing the assignment itself.
We didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that our son was a scatterbrain, forgetful or even he didn’t care. We’ve tried to determine the factors causing this issue. We asked him questions every time when he forgot to turn in his homework:
- Was there a dropbox or bin that he should have turned the assignment in?
- Did the teacher ask them to bring their assignments?
- Did the teacher make announcements when they collect them?
- Did the teacher assign a student to pick the completed homework up?
- Did he notice other kids hand their assignments in at all?
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that the situation was a combination of “lack of organizing”, “varying methods of collecting the assignments by teachers” and “forgetfulness”. We started with “lack of organizing” and “forgetfulness”. We offered few alternative options of solutions he could use and he picked whatever he thought would work for him. The keyword is “simplify”. Kids have so many responsibilities and so many distractions these days, picking a suitable solution for oneself is essential. Simple solutions are the best.
Organizing is about being aware of what one has in their environment. It can be their backpack, desk or locker etc. I wasn’t the most organized student myself either. So I can relate. When you are not an inherently organized person, you need to be taught methods and given tools to function. If you or your children have “scatterbrain” or “forgetfulness” problem, organizing by sorting, grouping, ordering, and labeling is your remedy. I highly recommend you to take a look at the 5S Methodology.
Expandable Folder: My son uses his expandable folder to keep track of his paper based homework. He organized his folder by labeling them for a specific purpose, such as “new homework“, “homework to turn in“, “work in progress” and “graded homework” etc. The important point though is for the student to open the folder up every day at school and at home and go through it, check appropriate sections and take action on it.
At my kids’ school, homework is posted online on Google classroom. All homework have deadlines. They needed to track when each assignment is due, not only to remember the time to turn them in but also prioritize and plan their time to do their homework on time.
Planners: Their school provides a school year planner notebook at the beginning of the year. He writes some of his assignments down but mostly teachers post the details of the assignments along with deadlines on Google Classroom. The student can use planner, however, it is crucial to use one and only one planning and tracking system, otherwise, it defeats the whole purpose of simplifying. One year, each teacher was using a different platform, both online and offline, to assign homework and it was a nightmare. Thankfully, this year every grade uses one standard platform for all teachers.
Whiteboard: This semester both kids started using our new DIY dry-erase whiteboard wall to schedule their weekly assignments and track their due dates. They see everything in one place so that they can prioritize, plan their week. This wall is also helpful for us to monitor what’s going on and support them if they need it.
Online Calendars: It’s forbidden to use cell phones at their school but laptops are widely used. We use online Google calendars for all of our scheduling but in my humble opinion, excessive use of electronics and online resources for school work cause more distraction for students. Especially, if your kids are having hard time focus as is. There is already so much use of the internet, whether it is classroom portals, online learning websites, e-mailing and messaging for classroom projects. It’s healthier to keep some of the efforts offline.
Wristbands: My son uses these adhesive colorful wristbands to remind himself to turn in his homework. Each color represents a different subject. Whenever he has an assignment to turn in, he puts on the corresponding wristband in the morning. He rips them off once the homework is turned in. Awareness is the key for the wristband to trigger an action. At the beginning of each class, he can check his wrist to see if he has a wristband.
Post it notes: You can use post-it notes on a pencil box, folder or another item that student definitely takes out of their backpacks every day. Post-it note should trigger action to turn the homework in.
Locker checklist: If the student has a locker at school, they can create a reminder note, laminate and put it up visibly in their locker. Every time, they visit their locker, they’ll see the note and make sure all their assignments handed in and all their new homework material is put in their backpack.
Final check before school dismissal: Getting into the habit of going through a checklist at the time when they are packing their backpacks before going home is a great way to work the executive functioning part of those growing brains. This can be with the help of an exact same note as the locker checklist, or merely a mental checklist:
- Did I turn in all my assignments?
- Did I put in all new assignments in my folder?
- Did I pack all necessary notebooks and books to complete my assignments?
COMMUNICATING WITH THE TEACHER
It’s also important to talk to the teachers to learn their preferred method of collecting the assignments. During the parent-teacher conferences, we talked to the teachers as well. We asked to have a standard method of turning in the assignments if they varied so that the students would know what is expected. It’s confusing for the students when one day the teachers announce to turn in the assignments, the other day they just assume the homework will be turned into a bin without making an announcement.
We also advised our son to go up to the teacher before the end of the session and ask whether he should turn in the homework if he is in doubt. It is his responsibility to let the teacher know he has completed his assignment on time and has it ready by its due date.
Online homework is rather easier with one precaution. If homework is an online lesson, the homework is considered submitted when the lesson is complete. However, if an online document needs to be submitted, that has to go on time as well. The same organizing and reminder methods can be used. Also, some portals have check marks to notify the completion of the assignment. The student should have a final review the portal daily before closing down the homework session to make sure they checked all completed assignments as DONE.
I am happy to report that he’s currently in control of turning the assignments on time using these organizing and reminder methods.
Do you have similar issues with your children? If you use any of these methods and find helpful or use other methods which work, please share them in the comments.