As children enter the fourth grade, the purpose of homework changes to some extent. In grades one to three, students are learning to read; thereafter, they are reading to learn. In fourth grade both schoolwork and homework become more challenging. Learning tasks require more organization and more sustained attention and effort.
Because of this change, homework becomes a more integral part of children's learning and is reflected more in their academic record. This shift comes at a good time, since at about the fourth grade; children are ready for and want more autonomy and responsibility and less parental hovering and interference.
Homework for older children has a number of purposes. It provides an opportunity for review and reinforcement of skills that have been mastered and encourages practicing skills that are not. Homework also is an opportunity for children to learn self-discipline and organizational skills and to take responsibility for their own learning.
Many of the same suggestions for approaching homework that were recommended for younger children apply to older children as well. Homework is best done when the child has had a chance to unwind from school or after-school activities, is rested, and is not hungry. You and your child should agree upon a regular schedule for when homework will be done, and the length of time that should be devoted to it. This schedule should provide predictability and structure but should be sufficiently flexible to respond to special situations. Some children do best if their homework time is divided into several short sessions instead of a single long one.
Usually parents can be helpful by assisting their child in getting settled and started. You can look together at each day's homework assignment and decide what parts might require help from you, a sibling, or a classmate. The most difficult parts should be done first. Reviewing for tests and rote memorization tasks also should be done early and then repeated at the end of the homework session or first thing the next morning. As is the case for younger children, homework should be done in a location with few distractions (no television, radio, telephone, video games, comics, toys, or conversation), and where all the necessary supplies and reference materials are available.
Here are some specific suggestions on how to approach homework of different types:
- Divide chapters into small units or use the author's headings as a guide.
- Find the topic sentence or the main idea for each paragraph and underline it or write it down.
- Write a section-by-section outline of the reading assignment, copying or paraphrasing the main points; leave some room to write in notes from class discussions.
- Begin by recognizing that the first draft will not be the last, and that rewriting will produce better work.
- Make a list of as many ideas as possible without worrying about whether they are good or correct.
- Organize these "brainstorm" ideas into clusters that seem reasonable, and then arrange the clusters into a logical sequence.
- Write down thoughts as to why these clusters were made and why the order makes sense.
- Use this work as an outline and write a first draft; at this stage, do not worry about spelling or punctuation.
- Revise the first draft, paying attention to detail. Check the
- Meaning: Does it make sense and meet the purpose of the assignment?
- Paragraph formation: Does each paragraph have a topic sentence and are the other sentences logically related?
- Sentence formation: Does each sentence express a complete thought? Are capitalization and punctuation correct?
- Word: Was the best word chosen? Is it spelled correctly?
- Neatness: Is the paper easy to read? Does it follow the format and style the teacher expects?
- Work toward mastering the basic facts and operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) until they become automatic. Do this work in small doses, and limit the number of facts to three to five each session. Use writing, flash cards, and oral quizzes.
- Be sure the basic concepts of computation are well understood. Do computation homework slowly and check the results, since if the facts are understood, most errors come from being careless.
- Use money examples when learning decimals.
- For fractions, use visual or concrete aids rather than oral explanations.
Studying for Tests
- Gather together homework assignments, class notes, outlines, quizzes, and handouts, and arrange them chronologically (by date).
- Four days before the test, read the information through in a general way.
- Three days before the test, look at major titles of sections in notes and books.
- Two days before the test, review the titles of sections and read the information and organize it into related clusters.
- The night before the test, repeat the process of the night before and recite as much as you can from memory.