The weather in DC over the past couple of weeks has been beautiful. The cherry trees are in bloom, the daffodils are out and temperatures have soared into the 80s. All of this is a recipe for Spring Fever – diagnosed as having trouble focusing on schoolwork, being distracted, and a strong urge to be outside vs. inside hitting the books.
The trouble with catching Spring Fever is that school is still in session and it is important to really work the books to get strong grades in the last quarter or semester, depending on your school. So whether you are in elementary, middle or high school – or even if you are a parent who has been distracted by the warm temperatures or college hoops, here are some tips to help you “spring” into action and keep your eye on the ball:
1. Before sitting down to study or work, make sure you get some physical exercise first. Experts recommend that you try to get at least 60 minutes a day – so pull out the bike, your running shoes or a Frisbee and the dog and get a daily dose of Vitamin D from the beautiful sunshine. You’ll be able to sit still better after you’ve taken some time outside.
2. Start by making a list. Put down all the homework and other tasks you want to accomplish. Prioritize the list and make time estimates for how long each task will take. Make sure you do the top priority items first – not necessarily the items that take the least amount of time. If you have a big project – break it into smaller chunks. It will be easier to tackle this way.
3. Next, get rid of distractions! Find a quiet place to study and turn off other electronics. Turn off your cell phone and the television – and if using a computer to do homework, close applications like Facebook that can be tempting and take you away from your work.
4. Work on one project or task at a time and when you have it completed; enjoy the satisfaction of crossing it off your list!
5. Schedule short breaks every 20-30 minutes. It’s hard for anyone to stay focused for a long time. Reward yourself with a short break after completing 30 minutes of hard work. Working with a small clock and setting an alarm will help remind you it’s time to get up and stretch.
6. Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff! Do the best you can do – and if you don’t get everything done, put it at the top of the list the next day. You don’t have to do everything perfectly – but, be satisfied that you’ve done the best that you can.
One of the best remedies for Spring Fever is the corresponding Spring Break – so make sure you really enjoy this time off. Take time to smell the flowers and you’ll come back relaxed and refreshed and ready to make that last push to the end of the school year.
Everyone is familiar with the popular lament “My dog ate my homework!” It seems this problem is reaching epic proportions – even with families who don’t own a dog. That’s right – a common issue is students not completing and/or turning in their homework. The fact I find fascinating is the high number of students who do their homework, they just fail to turn it in when they return to school the next day. Sound familiar?Use tools like time organizers or study forms to track when homework is being done
Use watches with alarms to set reminders for bringing homework to school, and for turning the homework in during class
Use sticky notes as another great way to remind students of important things – place these on a mirror where they will see it when brushing their teeth, by the front door or on a book bag
Create checklists and to do lists (estimating how long tasks will take can help develop a better understanding of homework time requirements)
Put completed homework in a separate homework folder – and put that folder with items a student is not likely to forget (e.g., shoes, cell phone)
Reduce the amount of clutter and schedule time each week to filing and organizing the study work space
Ask teachers to help support your child by asking for homework assignments and alerting you to the problem before it affects your child’s grade.
Despite this growing trend, experts don’t agree on what might be the underlying problem. Some feel this is an executive function problem in the brain. The executive functioning portion of the brain is responsible for performing activities such as planning, organizing and paying attention to and remembering details. Others suggest this might be an issue of students trying to win a power struggle with adults, as in “no one is going to tell me when to do my homework.” Other reasons might include issues with perfectionism (e.g., “My homework is done, but not to the level I want.”), children seeking attention (even if it is negative attention), or an overall lack of motivation.
Depending on the underlying reason for not turning in homework, there are things parents can do to help reduce or eliminate this problem, especially if the problem is related to trouble with executive function. Here are some tips:
Some teachers have found that it helps if students take personal responsibility for not turning in their homework. Barbara De Santis, a fifth-grade teacher in New Jersey has students not turning in their homework fill out a form (Pink Slip) that explains why they are missing their homework. Teachers like De Santis using this form have a higher percentage homework turn in rate than teachers who don’t use this approach.
Each child is different, and it takes some detective work to understand why your child may not be completing or turning in their homework. But while gathering clues, take a look at your veterinary bill. If your dog has been free of stomach ailments, chances are, the dog didn’t eat it.