Blog:  Teacher Tips

Teacher Tip: Switch the Homework Order

Teacher Tips blog post by The Understood Team
Mar 16, 2017

Mom helping daughter with homework

For better or worse, homework is part of school. There are some basic, universal tips to help homework go more smoothly for your child:

  • Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework.
  • Have all materials available before starting, including water/drinks and snacks.
  • Remove all electronics, like phones and tablets, unless your child needs a computer or assistive technology for the homework.
  • Start as early as possible, preferably as soon as your child gets home from school.

However, even if you follow these tips, homework can still be a challenge for struggling learners.

One reason is that many students are told to organize their homework assignments from hardest to easiest. This means they do the hardest tasks first. The thinking is that it’s best to get the hard stuff out of the way. As night wears on and kids get tired, the remaining homework will be, in theory, easier to do.

Sometimes this strategy works. But far too often—especially for the struggling learner—tackling the hard assignment first takes too much time. Before you know it, the clock strikes 12 and nothing has been completed.

This can leave your child feeling tired, disappointed and stressed. In the end he may not manage to get any of his homework completed. You may spend time arguing about getting to bed. And then, when your child does call it quits for the night, his sleep isn’t restful because he’s worried about going to school the next day without anything done.

So here’s an important tip.

Try switching the order. Have your child do the easiest, quickest assignments first. It will feel good for your child (and you!) to be able to check tasks off the “to do” list. It will also give your child a sense of accomplishment and lessen anxiety.

What if your child doesn’t get the harder assignment done?

Well, at least he’ll feel like he got something done. And if he needs more time for the harder assignment, email the teacher and ask. Most teachers are understanding and will give some leeway. They may also be open to reducing the number of items on the homework list. (It’s also less stressful to reach out to one teacher about an incomplete assignment, rather than to several teachers about several incomplete assignments.)

Finally, remind your child to put finished homework in his backpack as soon as it’s done. It’s awful to work so hard only to realize at school that the assignment is still at home!

—Robin Margent

Robin Margent is an IMSLEC and Orton–Gillingham certified reading intervention teacher. She was a classroom teacher for over 20 years.

Need more help with homework? Download a homework contract to help you and your child get organized. Get advice on how to help kids with difficult or tricky math assignments. And watch a two-minute tutorial on how to organize your child’s backpack.

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The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

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